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Court imposes $1.2 million fine as promoters win SABAM lawsuit

BELGIUM   -
World News
May 20, 2018

The Commercial Court in Brussel has ruled in favour of promoters who challenged a royalty rate hike imposed last year by the country’s performance rights organisation Societe d’Auteurs Belge Auteurs Maatschappij (SABAM).

Introduced on 1 January 2017 (see Audience issue 200), the widely criticised rates rise required festivals generating over €3.2 million ($3.8 million) to pay 3.5 per cent (an increase from 2.5) and events that generated more than €400,000 ($477,244) to pay 5.75 per cent, up from 4.5 per cent.

The court found SABAM “guilty of unfair commercial practices” and ordered the organisation to pay a fine of €5,000 ($5,965) for each day the new tariffs were in place, capped at €1 million ($1.2 million).

SABAM had defended the tariff increases, saying they took into consideration that revenue from sponsorship and grants had risen.

The lawsuit was brought by the country’s leading concert and festival promoters, including Live Nation Belgium, which owns Rock Werchter (cap. 87,000), Gracia Live, PSE, and Pukkelpop (60,000) in May last year (see Audience 209).

“It’s a victory for the whole business,” Herman Schueremans (pictured), head of Live Nation Belgium and founder of Rock Werchter, tells Audience. “Over the years ticket prices have increased and consequently by keeping the same rate their [SABAM] share also rises, but despite that they have tried to drive rates up further.

“It was an essential move in the normal evolution of the healthy live music business and will help everyone to become more transparent and hopefully more efficient.”

Gracia Live’s Michel Perl adds, “It’s the first victory. It’s not a final decision – they still have time to appeal. It is always good news for a promoter to have to pay less, but we are still paying more than we were three years ago.”

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