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Anthrax Pens Open Letter to Irving Azoff in Ongoing Music Rights Dispute

Anthrax is objecting to being included in the repertoire of Global Music Rights, the new firm engaged in a bitter rights dispute with the nation’s radio stations.

In an open letter to Irving Azoff, the founder of GMR, the band notes that it has not signed up with Azoff’s firm. Even so, Anthrax is listed on GMR’s website as being among a couple of hundred major artists whose songs are controlled by GMR. The band notes that it once performed a cover of Metallica’s “Phantom Lord,” which may be the reason Anthrax is included on the list.

But, as the band notes, it is not easy to tell from the GMR site if indeed that is the only song covered by GMR’s licenses. As a result, the band worries that radio programmers will avoid playing all of their songs in fear of violating GMR’s copyrights.

The Radio Music License Committee, which represents most radio stations, has raised similar concerns, arguing in a lawsuit that GMR is deliberately sowing confusion to enhance its bargaining position. The RMLC has sued in an effort to force GMR to accept an arbitration regime, similar to those that govern rights issues for ASCAP and BMI, the two dominant licensing groups.

GMR and the RMLC were in negotiations this fall, but the talks broke down in late November. The RMLC has expressed concern that as of Jan. 1, 2017, stations could face steep penalties for playing GMR-held songs. GMR has downplayed that deadline, saying that its artists’ rights are in fact already being infringed. GMR argues that the rates paid to artists under ASCAP and BMI are artificially suppressed due to the anti-competitive nature of the arrangement between those groups and the RMLC.

GMR’s lawsuit accuses the RMLC of running an unlawful cartel, allowing competing stations to bargain as a unified bloc, and driving down prices.

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

Update: Azoff responds on Twitter:

. @Anthrax if you want to reach me, you don’t need a press release. Just return my call. Todd – left word for you.

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