Music Business Roundup: Pharrell Leaves ASCAP, SESAC Buys Rumblefish, and Labels Sue General Motors


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Each week on Songwriter U, Songspace recaps the top stories in the world of music business. Here’s everything you need to know from the week ending on August 1st.

Pharrell leaves ASCAP
Mega-producer, songwriter, and artist Pharrell Williams is leaving ASCAP to join Global Music Rights, a new PRO venture started by music management mogul Irving Azoff and ex-ASCAP VP Randy Grimmett. Williams’ move may mark the beginning of a new era for performance rights, especially as digital music changes the traditional performance royalty business. Global Music Rights is an exclusive, boutique PRO, presumably offering specialized services and better rates to a select group of high-profile songwriters. Williams joins One Republic frontman Ryan Tedder on the Global Music Rights roster, and we expect the company to announce a number of other high-profile signings in the coming months.

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SESAC Expands, Acquires Rumblefish
Nashville-based SESAC announced plans to expand its footprint beyond traditional performance rights in conjunction with a deal to acquire micro-licensing site Rumblefish. While terms were not disclosed, SESAC will take a majority controlling interest in the company and will integrate its technology within a broader digital strategy. According to a press release, SESAC  is seeking to offer “a simplified, multi-right, international licensing model and focus on innovative uses of technology and data services.” Venture capital firm Risvi-Traverse, which, among other high profile technology investments, made a whopping $3.8 billion on the recent Twitter IPO, purchased SESAC in early 2013 and appears to be pursuing an aggressive strategy to recalibrate the PRO as the digital rights landscape shifts.

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Labels Suing Ford & GM Over…CD ripping?
In what is easily the oddest ‘time warp’ music business story of the week, the Alliance of Artist and Recording Companies is suing Ford and General Motors over a device that allowed users to rip files from CDs and store them on their in-vehicle hard drives for future listening. The AARC claims Ford and GM refused to pay the required royalties to provide such a service as required by the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act , and filed suit only after years of failed negotiations.

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