Music Licensing Deadlines and Developments

Posted on December 29th, 2016 by

If this is not already on your calendar, mark it down now. All stations streaming a signal on the internet must file their statement of use and make minimum payments of $500 per channel to SoundExchange no later than January 31, 2017. This is an annual requirement, so last year’s filing doesn’t count. You must file and pay again. Tackle this early to avoid a rush and mistakes.


A number of other developments on the music licensing front have recently been in the headlines. We’ll summarize the three big ones here.

First, noncommercial stations that owe no more than the $500 annual minimum fee to SoundExchange for streaming no longer have to report all of the sound recordings that they stream, or the number of persons listening to each sound recording. Instead, those stations – like their commercial counterparts paying no more than the same minimum fee – can simply report sound recordings for two weeks per calendar quarter and the number of overall aggregate tuning hours in a particular reporting period. You can thank the Copyright Royalty Judges, who found the heavier reporting for noncommercial stations was not warranted. A summary of noncommercial station reporting and payment obligations can be found here.

Second, the National Association of Broadcasters reached agreements with Sony Music Entertainment and the Warner Music Group on streaming waivers. Certain opt-in requirements may apply, as this NAB web page will explain. These agreements allow radio broadcasters to continue bringing Sony and Warner artists to listeners online without risking copyright liability. While opting in to these waivers does not excuse stations from having to pay SoundExchange for streaming online, they do help stations comply with various statutory obligations for streaming online (the more arcane of which many stations often neglect).

Finally, the Radio Music Licensing Committee filed a lawsuit against an aggressive new performance rights organization named Global Music Rights (GMR) that has been sending threatening letters to stations demanding licenses and payments for alleged GMR-represented songs played on stations. GMR responded with its own lawsuit. While they are bickering, the two parties agreed to an interim license agreement, and GMR has stated that it will not initiate any copyright litigation against a station before January 31, 2017 (previously, it was January 1, 2017).

GMR claims to represent certain country, pop and rap artists, as you can see in their website list of artists. Commercial stations playing songs from those artists may want to consider entering into the interim license agreement by January 31, 2017 but, apparently, stations have to contact GMR to find out what the monthly fee will be and the interim license is only good through September 30, 2017. Some of this is obviously a disclosure game so GMR can get station information and admissions that their music is being played. Stations that do not sign a license agreement by January 31, 2017 would have to stop playing GMR music to avoid copyright infringement liability.

We’re exhausted with these pesky music licensing issues, aren’t you? But don’t fret, we’ll help you navigate these tricky waters. Email or call us with your questions.