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Radio group played songs thousands of times without paying, lawsuit alleges

Steve Miller performs in 2016.
Steve Miller performs in 2016. His “Fly Like an Eagle” is one of the songs Entravision radio stations played most without paying, Global Music Rights’ lawsuit says.
(Charles Sykes / Invision / Associated Press)

Global Music Rights, a group that represents artists such as Drake and Bruce Springsteen, is suing radio station owner Entravision Communications Corp., alleging that the company played its songs without paying songwriters.

Entravision has played more than 130 of Global Music Rights’ songs a total of more than 10,000 times over the last couple of years, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles. The most played songs include Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle,” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Pearl Jam’s “Black.” Global Music Rights is seeking $150,000 for each infringement, the maximum allowed, for a total of more than $1.5 billion in damages.

Entravision did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Santa Monica company has three radio stations in Los Angeles — Spanish-language outlets KDLD-FM (103.1) Super Estrella, KLYY-FM (97.5/107.1) Jose and KSSE-FM (107.1) La Suavecita — as well as about 45 other radio stations and 55 local television stations nationwide.

Top songwriters such as Miller, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Drake signed with Global Music Rights, believing that the organization would help them secure a better rate from radio stations, restaurants and other groups that pay what’s called a performance royalty.

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Songwriters rely on radio as a primary source of earnings, especially in the streaming age. Recording artists collect the lion’s share of revenue from streaming services Spotify and Apple Music, a source of great consternation among songwriters and two types of organizations that represent them: music publishers and performing-rights organizations.

ASCAP and BMI, the two largest performing-rights organizations, are limited in their ability to fight for more. They collect royalties at a rate governed by decades-old federal statute. Global Music Rights isn’t under the same limitations.

Music manager Irving Azoff founded Global Music Rights to try to raise the rates paid to songwriters. Azoff — who manages Gwen Stefani, Harry Styles and Bon Jovi — started the Los Angeles-based company in 2013 with Randy Grimmett, who previously worked at ASCAP.

Radio stations have balked at the terms sought by Global Music Rights, prompting lawsuits between Global Music Rights and the Radio Music Licensing Committee, a body that represents U.S. radio stations. Their trial is set to go to court in Los Angeles next fall.

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Global Music Rights has offered stations an interim deal that allows them to play its songs while litigation is pending. The catalog spans thousands of tracks, including the biggest hits from Springsteen, Bruno Mars and Drake. Most of the large station groups, including IHeartMedia Inc. and Townsquare Media Inc., have agreed. But Entravision hasn’t responded to five offers from Global Music Rights, according to Azoff.

“We keep going back to them offering the license,” Azoff said. “They have ignored us. They are a sophisticated company; they have general counsels and nearly $300 million in revenue. They have made a willful decision to play our music without a license.”

Shares of Entravision tumbled last November after the company reported earnings that missed analysts’ estimates; the stock has yet to recover. The company reported sales of $297.8 million last year.


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