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“You’ve created a precarious situation:” Anthrax post open letter to Irving Azoff

Posted by on December 16, 2016

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Photo: Melinda Oswandel

Earlier this week, legendary record executive Irving Azoff filed a lawsuit against the Radio Licensing Music Committee on behalf of his own performance rights company, Global Music Rights. The suit is in response – thought not intended to be retaliatory – to an antitrust suit filed by the RLMC earlier this month. Billboard broke the entire legal situation down earlier this week; effectively, both lawsuits are similar in their makeup but opposite in intent: each group is suggesting that the other is monopolizing the market, with the RLMC accusing GMR of drastically inflating the licensing fees for their artists, thus kneecapping the station’s ability to actually play artists they represent, while GMR claims that the RLMC is deflating the market, and not paying the artists fairly.

Where things get hairy, is that Anthrax were included in Azoff’s suit without being directly represented by GMR, as noted by an open letter that the band just released regarding the suit. It’s a sketchy situation all around: Anthrax agree with the overall principle of “fair pay for fair play,” but take issue with the fact that the suit alleges that Anthrax as a whole cannot be played by radio stations without a GMR license, whereas the company only represents radio play for a single song by the band – a cover of Metallica’s “Phantom Lord” released in 1999.

Read the entire statement from Anthrax below. Ultimately, it looks like no matter which way the suit goes, there are going to be artists unfairly caught in the crossfire of some murky legal waters.

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.

With respect,

Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, Frank Bello, Joey Belladonna, Jonathan Donais
December 16, 2016

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Categorised in: Legal Woes, Uh-Oh