It was announced this week that SESAC’s royalties for radio for the period starting at the beginning of 2016 through the end of 2018 have been slashed – being reduced to less than half what they were in 2015. This decision came out of an arbitration process that resulted from the settlement of an antitrust lawsuit that the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) brought against SESAC (see our article here for a summary of the settlement). Yet, despite the significant reduction in the royalties for radio operators, both sides declared victory (see RMLC press release here and press reports on SESAC’s reaction here). Can both be right? While the decision of the arbitrators is not public so we can’t know for sure the reasoning behind the result, it might be that there is something to each of these claims.
For radio, the victory is clear. For commercial radio broadcasters, the royalties were significantly decreased, retroactive back to the beginning of 2016 year for stations that had elected to have RMLC represent them in this lawsuit. Some stations had been enticed by an offer made by SESAC at the beginning of 2016 offering stations a new SESAC license at rates 5% less than they were in 2015 (see our article here). Those stations may not qualify for the much greater royalty reduction available to the majority of commercial stations that opted into RMLC representation and are covered by the arbitration result. The new SESAC royalties will also cover the use of SESAC music on broadcaster’s streaming platforms and HD broadcasts, uses for which broadcasters had previously had to pay SESAC separately. Of course, stations still need to pay public performance royalties for musical compositions to ASCAP, BMI and, in many cases, GMR and public performance royalties for sound recordings, when streaming recorded music, to SoundExchange.
Continue Reading SESAC Royalties for Commercial Radio Slashed By More Than Half – Both SESAC and RMLC Claim Victory in Arbitration