Radio’s music licensing expense line is about to grow by one with the rollout of a fifth performance rights organization. Pro Music Rights enters the playing field with a collection of musical works it claims has already given it a 7.4% share of the U.S. music market. It has begun approaching radio stations, seeking licensing deals to use songs from its catalog of mostly hip-hop and R&B artists without fear of potential legal action.
Jake Noch, who previously launched the label Brazy Records and the publishing house Sosa Entertainment, has been slowly putting together the pieces of the Naples, FL-based Pro Music Rights during the past two and a half years. Noch recruited veteran music engineer and producer Paul Ring to serve as Pro Music Rights’ president and over the past several years he’s leveraged his record industry contacts to attract works from artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell, and Soulja Boy to the new performance rights organization.
Pro Music Rights also inked an alliance two months ago with the law firm Gora in Stamford, CT, which has experience in intellectual property and licensing, to begin efforts to enforce the copyrights held on more than two million musical works. It has just begun reaching out to broadcasters.
“We are coming in aggressive but reasonable and pragmatic,” attorney Richard Gora said. “We don’t want to sue everyone. We don’t want to have that reputation. We want to have good and fair business practices and we want to enter in license agreements. That’s really what we want to do to protect our artists.”
Pro Music Rights’ legal team has already begun contacting digital service providers and some radio stations, including one of the biggest hip-hop stations in the country: Emmis-owned “Hot 97” WQHT New York. No deals have been struck so far with any radio operator, however. “We modeled our licensing agreement off of BMI’s and I think what I can say is we’re a little less [money] than what they’re offering. We certainly want to be reasonable,” Gora said.
But knocking quietly doesn’t always work. One reason Pro Music Rights recruited Gora’s team is that its previous law firm was rebuffed by music users, including Spotify when it approached the streaming audio service in an attempt to secure licensing arrangements. Yet Gora said the company is also trying to steer clear of the bad introduction that led the radio industry to take legal action against the last performance rights organization to launch, Global Music Rights. “We are the new kids on the block and we do need to do things the right way,” he said. “But we’re trying to seek licenses from them and if they’re not going to cooperate then we’re going to have to sue them.”
There is no official data source of how much share each of the performance rights organizations controls. It’s one of the issues that led to the current standoff between radio and BMI. But Pro Music Rights said it believes its catalog of two million works has already given it control of more than four-times as many tracks as SESAC, trailing only BMI and ASCAP. “We went through some publicly available data from BMI and ASCAP and compared the numbers,” Gora said. “Jake Noch has done a great job of getting artists, composers, and writers onboard. The numbers are there and there are contracts behind every single one of them.”
In a step toward transparency, it has posted a downloadable spreadsheet of all the works in its repertoire on its website. Size may not really matter though, since a single copyright infringement claim could prove costly for radio stations.
While Pro Music Rights has reached out to a few radio stations, the industry trade group Radio Music License Committee said it has so far not had any conversations with the newest player on the field.