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SESAC acquires Audiam, founder criticises deal

By | Published on Friday 20 August 2021


US song rights collecting society SESAC has acquired a majority stake in mechanical rights agency Audiam from its Canadian counterpart SOCAN. Audiam’s founder Jeff Price has criticised the deal, which he claims is actually an effort to cover up failures of the Harry Fox Agency, the American mechanical rights company that is already owned by SESAC.

SOCAN, the performing rights society for Canadian songwriters and music publishers, acquired Audiam in 2016. Under this new deal SOCAN will retain a minority share in the company, which will continue to be overseen by Jamie Purpora, who has led the business since 2015.

“SESAC is acquiring Audiam with the intention of supporting the existing management team and to act as a supportive strategic partner and capital provider”, says SESAC CEO John Josephson. “We anticipate a seamless transition in ownership with no disruption to the Audiam business activities as a result of this transaction. Going forward, we believe this will position SESAC well for enhanced growth of our multi-rights, multi-territory global rights management business and continued delivery of best-in-class service to our affiliates, licensees and commercial partners”.

SOCAN CEO Jennifer Brown adds: “SOCAN is delighted to complete this agreement with SESAC. Since our acquisition of Audiam in 2016, the organisation has exceeded expectations, but the time is right for Audiam to continue its next phase with a new parent organisation. We look forward to seeing this new chapter for Audiam as the organisation benefits from new synergy with SESAC”.

Owned by private equity firm Blackstone since 2017, SESAC acquired the mechanical royalties processing company the Harry Fox Agency – which was previously owned by the US National Music Publishers Association – back in 2015.

Price, who left Audiam last year, claims that SESAC has now bought the company he created mainly to protect the interests of HFA, which has long administered the compulsory licence that covers the mechanical rights in songs in the US on behalf of numerous labels and digital services.

Some argue that HFA is at least partly to blame for all the issues that occurred with the payment of mechanical royalties by the streaming services in the US. Those issues resulted in a change to American copyright law and the creation of a more conventional mechanical rights collecting society in the country, that being the MLC. Although HFA is now selling its admin services to the MLC too.

Referencing all that, Price tells Digital Music News: “By acquiring Audiam, the Harry Fox Agency is eliminating competition and removing the sole entity that revealed HFA’s lack of payments to copyright holders as well as its role in widespread copyright infringement. The sale will also allow HFA’s parent entity to double dip on the publishing income while obscuring a significant sleight of hand”.

“It’s rather ironic but it makes sense”, he goes on. “HFA needs to stop Audiam from doing what it does. Through Audiam’s daily auditing of HFA and, more recently, the MLC, Audiam has revealed HFA’s incorrect payment amounts, underpayments and/or complete lack of payments to songwriters and music publishers globally”.

As a result of this deal, he claims, “HFA neutralises the sole entity that exposes its own actions”.

SESAC and SOCAN have not responded to Price’s claims.