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Anthrax fear they could lose airplay as a result of the RMLC v GMR legal battle

By | Published on Monday 19 December 2016


Personally I think that “a dark chasm of mystery” sounds rather exciting, though I suppose when you keep banging on about how there needs to be more transparency in the music licensing process, you can’t then turn around and call for more mystery. However intriguing that dark chasm of mystery might sound.

Metallers Anthrax have hit out at Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights for including them in a list of artists whose songs are represented by the veteran artist manager’s mini performing rights organisation. Given that GMR is limbering up for an unholy legal battle with the American radio industry, Anthrax fear that by being included on the list US radio stations will stop playing their music.

As previously reported, Azoff set up Global Music Rights to represent premiere league songwriters in the performing rights licensing domain. He reckons that a boutique rights agency representing only top name writers can secure better royalty rates than the big American PROs ASCAP and BMI, and even the smaller SESAC, which are all subject to some sort of regulation or mediation when negotiating licensing deals.

The US radio industry doesn’t like the sound of paying higher royalty rates, and the Radio Music Licence Committee that negotiates such deals for American broadcasters has now gone legal accusing GMR of creating and exploiting a monopoly. Meanwhile GMR is suing the RMLC, arguing that given the size of the repertoire it represents it doesn’t have anything like a monopoly, but by insisting it speak for the entire radio industry as one, the RMLC is definitely monopolistic.

If no settlement can be reached, the dispute could result in US radio stations at least temporarily pulling any songs in which GMR writers have a stake from their output. Azoff may insist on such a move in order to put pressure on the stations, or the stations might instigate the songs-pull themselves in order to put pressure on Azoff. Or the broadcasters’ lawyers might say playing GMR-repped songs without licence could result in a copyright infringement action.

Which is why Anthrax don’t like being on the list of artists whose music is repped by GMR. Because, say they, no member of Anthrax is affiliated with GMR in any way. Rather, they assume they have made it to the list because of an old cover of Metallica track ‘Phantom Lord’, the latter metal outfit being part of the GMR party.

In an open letter Anthrax write: “The credited composers for ‘Phantom Lord’ are our good friends James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and then-Metallica member Dave Mustaine. As you included Metallica and Megadeth on your GMR rights list, we believe our having recorded that one song some seventeen years ago may be the only reason we are included on your list”. That’s a bit misleading, they reckon.

“Mr Azoff”, they continue, “you and the songwriters you represent have every right to fight for fair compensation, and we would completely understand if you were to inform the more than 10,000 US-based radio stations that they cannot programme the Anthrax cover of ‘Phantom Lord’ unless they agree to the GMR licensing terms”.

“But you don’t provide that information, you’ve merely listed ‘Anthrax'”, they add. “Which does nothing other than create a dark chasm of mystery for radio programmers. Without offering responsible specificity for the programmers, such as the actual title of the song that we recorded, written by the particular GMR client, you’ve created a precarious situation”.

Ah, dark chasms and precarious situations. What a time to be alive! Team Anthrax go to great lengths to insist that they “appreciate anyone’s efforts to see that [musicians and songwriters] are paid a fair wage for the use of our music”, but they say that Azoff’s misleading list “could be very damaging to us and to our fellow performers who may find themselves in a similar situation”.

They conclude: “Please do the right thing, not just for Anthrax, but for all of the artists you’ve listed on your GMR site – provide specific information to radio about what songs are affected and cannot be programmed without the required GMR licence”.

For his part Azoff responded via Twitter to suggest Anthax take some time off press releasing open letters and get on the phone. He tweeted at the band: “If you want to reach me, you don’t need a press release. Just return my call”.