ANTHRAX has released an open letter to veteran manager Irving Azoff, whose Global Music Rights and the Radio Music Licensing Committee have filed dueling lawsuits over radio rates for songwriters.
Azoff formed Global Music Rights three years ago to compete with the established licensing companies, ASCAP and BMI, which together control approximately 95% of music copyrights. ASCAP and BMI have longstanding agreements with radio stations, which are represented by the trade group Radio Music Licensing Committee, that set rates for airplay.
According to Variety, Azoff's firm holds the rights for 71 clients, including songwriters behind hits by John Lennon, Drake, Justin Bieber and others. GMR has sought to collect rights that are essential to radio stations, and then license those rights for substantially more than the songwriters could get through ASCAP or BMI.
ASCAP and BMI are both not-for-profit performance rights organizations.
Global Music Rights claims that radio stations currently pay only about 4% of their revenue to songwriters and music publishers.
The lawsuit involves only traditional radio stations, excluding companies like SiriusXM or Pandora that are part of a different rate-setting process (and one that Azoff praises as more reasonable for songwriters).
ANTHRAX's open letter to Azoff is the band's attempt to distance itself from the dispute between Global Music Rights and the Radio Music Licensing Committee by clarifying why the group was included on GMR's list of artists it represents. It reads as follows:
"Dear Mr. Azoff:
"As artists and songwriters, we certainly appreciate anyone's efforts to see that we are paid a fair wage for the use of our music, 'fair pay for fair play,' as your lawsuit against the Radio Music License Committee states. As a result of your suit, our understanding is that as of January 1, 2017, more than 10,000 U.S.-based radio stations could be fined if they program songs written by a songwriter represented by your company, Global Music Rights, without first obtaining the proper license. We certainly understand and respect that.
"However, you've included ANTHRAX on your 'What Songs are in the Global Music Rights repertoire' and that mere inclusion presents a skewed and unjust misrepresentation of the complete facts. This could be very damaging to us and to our fellow performers who may find themselves in a similar situation.
"With no disrespect, none of the members of ANTHRAX are affiliated with GMR so the songs we've written would not be included or affected; however, way back in 1999, ANTHRAX did record a cover of the METALLICA song 'Phantom Lord' that was released on a limited-edition ANTHRAX EP. 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 17 years ago may be the only reason we are included on your list.
"Mr. Azoff, 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 U.S.-based radio stations that as of January 1, 2017, they cannot program 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' 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.
"ANTHRAX has recorded and released more than 150 songs over our 35-year career and we don't want radio programmers to think that they cannot play any of those other songs. With the release of our most recent album, ANTHRAX has had two Top 40 tracks at rock radio and our label will be working another song at this format in early 2017. We would ask that you recognize the fact that radio stations are short staffed so likely would not have the time necessary to use your search tool to locate the ANTHRAX song — and there is JUST ONE — that was written by one of your GMR artists.
"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 license."