Shane McAnally Pursuing Dispute with ASCAP
Top Nashville songwriter, producer, and co-president of Sony’s Monument Records, Shane McAnally, is moving forward in his quest to right a wrong perpetrated by ASCAP, an organization entrusted with protecting songwriters. In 2016, Shane began his protest against ASCAP’s arbitrary decision to change their distribution methodology after he resigned from ASCAP. That post-departure decision deprived Shane of substantial monies owed to him – over $1,000,000 – for hit songs which ASCAP to continue to license to radio. Based on ASCAP’s draconian rules, writers who have an issue with ASCAP’s accountings are not able to audit or bring a claim in a proper court, instead claims must be brought in front of the self-selected Board of Review. Unable to obtain relief through the Board of Review process imposed by ASCAP on its members, McAnally is appealing to an arbitration panel in hopes of recovering the monies he has been deprived due to ASCAP’s discriminatory and retaliatory behavior. In doing so, McAnally hopes to prevent ASCAP from continuing to contort its rules to deprive other songwriters of their public performance royalties.
McAnally resigned from ASCAP in 2013 to become a client of Global Music Rights—the upstart PRO started by manager Irving Azoff and former ASCAP executive Randy Grimmett. Although McAnally wanted to move his catalog of hits from ASCAP to Global Music Rights, ASCAP’s rules prevent the removal of any songs that are subject to a current license that ASCAP has issued. As a result, ASCAP continued to derive substantial benefit from McAnally’s many hit songs, receiving the associated revenue and claiming the affiliated market share. In the case of radio, ASCAP retained rights to McAnally’s catalog for nearly two-and-a-half years after he left ASCAP. In keeping with the Board of Review’s record of confirming ASCAP’s positions,McAnally’s claim was denied by ASCAP’s self-selected internal Board of Review in 2017.
Upon his termination of his agreement with ASCAP, McAnally believes they began to retaliate with an inexplicable delay in rendering statements to him – withholding accountings and payments for over nine months. When the delayed statements finally arrived, McAnally’s royalties, including royalty payments for current hit songs such as “Take Your Time” co-written and performed by Sam Hunt, dropped precipitously. Although ASCAP continued to license eight more #1 country radio hits written by McAnally to radio after his departure, all of those hits resulted in a significantly lower payment to McAnally than to any of his ASCAP co-writers for the same songs, in the same period on the same radio stations. This discriminatory behavior violates ASCAP’s distribution rules and commitment to its writers that it will treat all writers equally. ASCAP did not apply the same distribution methodology to writers who resigned from ASCAP but did not attempt to remove their catalog from ASCAP.
Since ASCAP does not allow members to audit or to challenge them in court, the only outlet for McAnally to protest this unjustified loss of income was the ASCAP Board of Review, a self-serving forum that has ruled against writers in favor of ASCAP 40 out of 42 times since 1960. In comparing payments that he received to those of his co-writers from ASCAP for performances of their co-written works on radio, Michael Baum, President of McAnally’s publishing company, SMACKSongs, says, “We proved as much to ASCAP in a Board of Review hearing where we were able to show dollar-to-dollar comparisons of lost income.”
Despite this evidence, McAnally recently received the ASCAP Board of Review’s disappointing decision. “Not surprisingly,” says McAnally’s attorney, Jason Turner, who represents him in the matter, “they ruled against Shane. From day one, ASCAP has absolutely refused to have any conversation whatsoever about any sort of amicable resolution. In fact, they recently refused to join in mediation prior to the commencement of arbitration.”
Outspoken manager Irving Azoff, who founded GMR, said, “Shane is a world class writer fighting on behalf of all writers who may find themselves in a similar situation. Despite his repeated requests for information related to his distributions, ASCAP never once explained to him, nor could they point to any of their governing documents that justified his treatment. This is just one in a long series of self-serving “rules” they create to manipulate the system to the detriment of the songwriters they are supposed to protect.”
For his part, Baum is thrilled that Shane moved to GMR, “ASCAP’s impenetrable process and arbitrary rules motivated us initially to seek an alternative. With GMR, we now have a partner in the PRO space that treats us as respectfully and honestly and has resulted in increased royalties to Shane. GMR’s business practices are designed to reward songwriters for their creativity and to make creators feel appreciated.”
The arbitration panel is due to convene in the next few weeks.
A two-time Grammy winner and named Songwriter of the Year by the Academy of Country Music (ACM), Billboard Hot Country, Music Row, NMPA and RIAA, McAnally has written 36 #1 songs including this week’s Billboard Country Airplay chart-topper, “Marry Me” by Thomas Rhett and is currently an ACM nominee in four categories, including Songwriter of the Year.
Since its founding, GMR has catered to writers like McAnally who was joined by contemporaries such as Luke Laird, but also writers and artists including Drake, Bruno Mars, Ryan Tedder, Pharrell Williams, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon and the Eagles.