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Country writer takes ASCAP to arbitration over $1.3 million of ‘premium’ payments

By | Published on Friday 16 March 2018

Shane McAnally

Country songwriter Shane McAnally is taking US collecting society ASCAP to arbitration in a dispute over $1.3 million of premium payments that he says should have been paid for his top performing songs.

McAnally used to be a member of ASCAP, but switched his allegiances to rival song rights society Global Music Rights when it was set up by veteran artist manager Irving Azoff in 2013. However, although McAnally pulled his songs out of ASCAP, under the society’s rules it continued to license those works to radio until its then current agreements with the broadcasters expired. The disputed payments stem from that period.

The row relates to so called premium credits. These are paid to writers by ASCAP in addition to other royalties where certain “threshold numbers” are reached in any one quarter. McAnally claims that once he was in the process of pulling his rights from ASCAP he no longer received the same premiums as his co-writers on certain songs that topped the country radio charts.

McAnally’s complaint over allegedly unpaid or underpaid premiums was initially heard by the collecting society’s ‘board of review’, which ruled that the organisation had applied its royalty payment rules correctly. But the writer, his legal rep and GMR chief Azoff all disagree, which is why McAnally is now taking the matter to arbitration.

Azoff told reporters: “Despite his repeated requests for information related to his distributions, ASCAP never once explained [them] to him, nor could they point to any of their governing documents that justified his treatment”. Meanwhile McAnally himself is quoted by The Tennessean as declaring of ASCAP that: “they lied, they cheated, they stole”.

Fellow songwriter Paul Williams, in his role as ASCAP President, insists the society acted appropriately. He told reporters that the society’s board cares “deeply for all our songwriters and we act for the greatest good of all concerned, whether hugely successful or just starting out”, but that “Shane was paid all of the money he was owed after he left ASCAP and went to GMR”.

It remains to be seen whether the independent arbitrators concur.