More than a year after its launch, the upstart performance rights organization Pro Music Rights has been given the cold shoulder by music users – including radio. To date, PMR says not a single radio station, television station or music streaming service has entered into a licensing agreement to use the work in its repertoire. On Monday it filed a sweeping federal lawsuit against an array of music users, alleging they violated antitrust laws by rejecting its overtures.
PMR says broadcasters and streaming services have “shut PMR out of the market” in order to “fix prices” and maintain “the conspiracy in the buy-side of the market” to the detriment of songwriters. “They have choreographed a refusal, and continuous refusal, to deal with PMR,” said the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut. It said music users have used “nearly verbatim excuses and language” in an across-the-board refusal to deal with the company.
PMR was created by Jake Noch, who previously launched the label Brazy Records and the publishing house Sosa Entertainment. Through a series of deals, he’s leveraged a content list during the past few years to amass what PMR claims is a 7.4% share of the U.S. music market. Its catalog includes works by such artists as A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell, Young Jeezy, Juelz Santana, Lil Yachty, Soulja Boy, Nipsey Hussle, 2 Chainz, Migos, Gucci Mane and Fall Out Boy, among others.
As Inside Radio first reported in October 2018, PMR signed an alliance with the law firm Gora in Stamford, CT, to reach out to music users and begin efforts to enforce the copyrights held on more than two million musical works.
“Litigation was not our first choice, but something had to be done to stop the buyers from bullying PMR out of the market in flagrant violation of antitrust laws,” Noch said in a statement. He explained, “We kept going back to the buyers to offer them a public performance license. Radio, TV, music steaming services – they all collectively and uniformly ignored us in a group boycott for the past two years.”
Among those named in the lawsuit are the Radio Music License Committee; National Religious Broadcasters Music License Committee; the Television Music License Committee; specific broadcasters like iHeartMedia and Connoisseur Media; streaming services including Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer; tech giants such as Google and Apple; and even the National Association of American Wineries, whose members play music at their vineyard shops.
“We decided that enough was enough when the buyers continued to play our songwriters’ music even after we had placed them on notice of their copyright theft. We had wanted to work things out, but their brazenness was a slap in the face,” said Noch. He is hoping to convince the federal courts to “disband” what he views as a “buyer’s cartel” among music users. “There is no such thing as free market competition among buyers in the purchase of public performance licenses and that reality directly harms songwriters,” Noch said.
Third Suit Filed By PMR
The antitrust claim field Monday is the third suit brought by PMR against the music user community. In November it filed a billion-dollar lawsuit against Spotify in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, alleging copyright infringement in connection with Spotify’s failure to pay royalties on more than 550 million musical streams. Noch said PMR is trying to secure licensing agreements for a full penny per usage, instead of the fraction of a penny the other PROs pay.
Then in December, PMR followed that up with ten separate copyright lawsuits against a group of music streaming services. Filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the bundle of lawsuits named Apple, Google, YouTube, Amazon, SoundCloud, Pandora, Deezer, 7digital, iHeartRadio and Rhapsody as defendants.
“By filing these actions, Pro Music Rights is standing up for songwriters whose creative works bring great value to all streaming services who publicly perform their music,” said Noch. “Pro Music Rights will not give up the fight, no matter how long it wages,” he vowed.