BMI Fires Back As NACPA Appeals March Rate Ruling — ‘For Decades, the Live Concert Industry Has Fought To Keep Rates Suppressed’

BMI for profit
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BMI for profit
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Photo Credit: Broadcast Music, Inc.

Towards March’s end, a district judge handed down a ruling in a years-running rate dispute involving the North American Concert Promoters Association (NACPA) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), which touted the development as a “massive” win. Now, however, NACPA is officially appealing the decision.

The more than three-decade-old NACPA (which negotiates public performance licenses on behalf of 46 members, Live Nation and AEG chief among them) just recently filed a notice of appeal in the roughly decade-long courtroom confrontation. To recap – we previously covered the multifaceted disagreement in detail – NACPA is pushing for what’s essentially a continuation of the licensing terms established by a pact that ran from 2006 to 2013.

Despite including a few relatively minor modifications, this deal was itself based in large part upon a 1998 agreement. Meanwhile, ahead of the March decision, BMI had been seeking (among other things) a more comprehensive portion of gigs’ revenue (service fees, income from VIP packages and box suites, etc.) and a bigger piece (0.8 percent, specifically) of said revenue.

The presiding judge approved the expansion of the revenue base beyond passes’ face value but rejected the 0.8 percent rate proposal, indicating instead that a “rate of 0.5% of the expanded gross revenue base” would be “reasonable.” Nevertheless, BMI as mentioned above touted the ruling as a significant victory, claiming specifically that the new rate would be “138% higher than the historical rate.”

Bearing in mind the points, it goes without saying that the for-profit performance rights organization isn’t thrilled with NACPA’s purportedly unsurprising appeal.

“Given Live Nation, AEG and NACPA’s bizarre position throughout trial that concertgoers attend concerts for the experience of the staging, videos and lightshows,” said BMI president and CEO Mike O’Neill, “as opposed to the actual songs and music being performed, their appeal was not a surprise to BMI. For decades, 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. 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,” concluded the close to 30-year BMI exec.

Earlier this week, Live Nation shareholders voted against a $139 million compensation package for president and CEO Michael Rapino, whose company has committed to adopting “all-in” pricing beginning in September.