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US live industry appeals BMI royalty rate increase

By | Published on Thursday 22 June 2023


Live giants Live Nation and AEG, along with the North American Concert Promoters Association, have filed notice to appeal the recent ruling in the American rate courts that increased the royalties they need to pay collecting society BMI for the songs performed at concerts in the US.

Songwriters and music publishers are due royalties whenever songs they wrote or published are performed in public, and that money is usually paid through the collective licensing system.

Quite how this works differs from country to country. In the US, the two biggest song right collecting societies – BMI and ASCAP – are regulated by things called consent decrees. And they say that, whenever there is a dispute over what any one licensee or group of licensees should pay, the rate courts can intervene.

Back in March the rate court set new rates for what promoters should pay BMI. That saw the rate increase in a move which, the society said at the time, “ends decades of below-market rates for songwriters, composers and publishers in the live concert industry”.

“As a result”, it went on, “BMI affiliates will receive a rate that is 138% higher than the historical rate. And just as important, [the court] ruled that this new rate will be applied to an expanded revenue base, taking into account the way modern promoters monetise concerts. This includes tickets sold directly onto the secondary market, servicing fees received by the promoters and revenues from box suites and VIP packages”.

BMI didn’t get everything it wanted in the March ruling, but it was definitely a win for the society. Which makes the decision by the American live sector to appeal the ruling somewhat unsurprising.

Responding to the filing of the notice to appeal by Live Nation, AEG and the NACPA, BMI boss Mike O’Neill says: “Given Live Nation, AEG and NACPA’s bizarre position throughout trial that concertgoers attend concerts for the experience of the staging, videos and light shows, as opposed to the actual songs and music being performed, their appeal was not a surprise to BMI”.

“For decades”, he continues, “the live concert industry has fought to keep rates suppressed. And even now, when they are making more money than ever, in more ways than ever, they are determined to deny songwriters and composers the fair value of their work, despite the fact that without their contributions, a concert wouldn’t even be possible”.

Concluding, O’Neill adds: “BMI will continue to fight on behalf of our affiliates, the creators of the music that is the very backbone of the live concert industry, to prevent that outcome”.