Anna ArobasMade to Touch, singer-songwriter Anna Arrobas’ debut album, was one of the hidden treasures of the  musical landscape of Québec in the Fall of 2022. Her delicate voice, her soft and intoxicating tunes, coated with shoegaze guitars, subtly augmented by acoustic tones and studied orchestration, make it a small gem of ethereal pop. Yet the artist herself envisioned her album as “minimalist folk with country influences”!

“While I was collaborating with Pierre [Guérineau], Jesse [Osbourne-Lanthier] and Asaël [Richard-Robitaille], the album became this grandiose and cinematic thing that was radically different from what I imagined,” says Arrobas.

But before we dive into the music, let’s take a moment to study the project’s mysterious cover art. Anna poses, looking exhausted and downcast, while her face is smeared, and wounds are visible on her hands, which rest on the handle of what appears to be a shovel. She’s in the middle of a forest, dressed in what looks like vestments from a bygone era. One can imagine the scene as follows: December 1837, the day after the battle of Saint-Eustache, a defeated patriot buries her dead.

“I love how you read it!” exclaims Arrobas. “I’m really fascinated by this kind of universe. I like to imagine myself travelling in time to worlds like that” – which also evoke the gothic, supernatural decor of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999). “I did want to create something ambiguous, that would prompt people to wonder during what era the picture was taken.”

Arrobas is, first and foremost, a professional photographer, explaining the attention and care she devoted to the cover art – and if you flip the vinyl version of said sleeve, what you’ll see on the back cover is a hole in the ground. “I really like to work with images that have a cinematic dimension, and tell a story, because there’s a lot of storytelling in my lyrics,” she says. “I wanted to describe a scene where even if you don’t quite understand what’s going on, you get the pain and the severity of the moment.”

Arrobas has been writing songs since the age of 16, encouraged by her dad Jérémie, who was the keyboardist in the first incarnation of famous synth-pop band Men Without Hats. “When I’m composing, I can’t say specifically what the story or the subject of a song will be until I start writing,” says Arrobas. “It’s while I’m writing that I understand what story it’s telling, it’s internal logic, and what I experienced that inspired it. In the end, it always relates to something I’ve lived.

“I’m someone who ruminates a lot about my life and all the little decisions I’ve made,” she continues. “I accept it all, but yeah, I analyze everything that happens in my life a lot. [On Made to Touch] I talk a lot about loss, and thinking about my past, and how everything could have been different, and how I want to just bury and forget everything. I talk a lot about love, heartbreak, losing someone – even thinking about losing a lover before he’s actually left you. Take “Farther West,” for example: the song is told from the point of view of a woman whose husband has gone off to war knowing he won’t return.”

In 2019, Arrobas released a debut EP, mixed by Pierre Guérineau (Feu St-Antoine, Essaie Pas) and mastered by Jesse Osbourne-Lanthier. During the summer of 2020, the pair of musicians and producers founded the record company Éditions Appærent, a formidable pool of avant-garde musical talent that Arrobas joined while working on her debut — which was extensively fine-tuned during the pandemic, with the contribution of another partner of the label, Asaël Richard-Robitaille. Like Guérineau, they’re also a member of Marie Davidson’s band, and l’Oeil Nu.

“They’re truly talented musicians and producers,” says Arrobas. “I’m lucky I got to collaborate with them. I didn’t know them that well when we met. We talked about the music we love – we all adore Cocteau Twins, Prefab Sprout, The Jesus and Mary Chain, stuff we discovered in our youth.” The specific influence of Cocteau Twins, and the more general influence of the heyday of their label, 4AD, in the ’80s, can clearly be heard on Made to Touch.

“We mostly share interest in a wide variety of music and it was clear, while we were making the album, that we didn’t want to get pigeonholed in one style,” says Arrobas. That explains why the album also explores ambient music (particularly on “Careworn Seal”), adding a lot of texture and atmosphere to the whole thing; in fact, one of Jesse Osborne-Lanthier’s specialties is the attention to such sonic detail.

“We also found out we all love playing videogames!” says Arrobas. “We’re all fans of original videogame music, and the first time I met Jesse wasn’t even in person. We were online playing Animal Crossing!”

What are the differences between song rights and master rights?

“Song” refers to rights in a song or musical composition itself – the music and the words (if any). These rights are generated in the writing of a song, before any recorded performance occurs. “Master” refers to the rights in the sound recording of the song or composition. The sound recording is what you hear on radio or streaming services – the recorded performance of the song by the artist.  Because the writer isn’t always the owner of the sound recording (whether artist or label), these two rights ensure everyone is fairly compensated for their contribution.

Songwriters, composers, lyricists, and music publishers are typically the owners of the rights of a song or composition. When a songwriter, composer, or lyricist enters into an agreement with a music publisher, the music creator and the publisher usually share ownership of the songs. The publisher then works to maximize the earning power of the songs by placing them with recording artists, in movies and TV shows, in commercials, or videogames, or any other medium or situation where the songs can earn as much in royalties as possible.

In Canada, usually the maker of a sound recording initially owns the master rights. When an artist enters into a recording agreement with a record label, the recordings they produce together are usually owned by the record label. The label then works to maximize the earning power of the sound recording by selling as many copies of it as possible, and/or licensing or distributing it as widely as possible (including in other territories).

When artists working with a record label produce a new song, the original recording will have at least two owners (or sets of owners) – the owner(s) of the songs or compositions (the song rights)  and the owner(s) of the sound recording (the master rights). For example, co-writers TOBi, Alex Goose, and Hannah Vasanth own the rights to their song “Family Matters” (there’s no publisher on the song), but RCA Records own the master rights to the recording of the song, as performed by TOBi on his album Elements Vol. 1.

Alternatively, if a song is written, performed, and also recorded by one person, without any publisher or record company, then that person gets copyright ownership to both the song (the song rights) and the sound recording of it (the master rights). For example, Julian Taylor both wrote and recorded his song “Wide Awake,” so he owns both the song rights and the master rights (though he owns the master rights through his self-owned record company, Howling Turtle).

Synchronization royalties generate income for copyright-protected music that’s paired or “synced” with visual media. Sync licenses grant the right to use songs or compositions in any visual media – films, television, commercials, videogames, online streaming, music videos, etc. Any use of copyright-protected music in a screen project will require a master license from the owner(s) of the sound recording in order to use that recording, and a sync (synchronization) license from the owner(s) of the song itself, for the use of that song, or even a portion of it. For example, you need both a master and sync license before using the latest track from Loud Luxury in a commercial video.

The song right (to the song or composition) is divided into two kinds of rights: performance and reproduction (or “mechanical”) rights.

Performance rights generate royalties when a song or musical composition that you wrote, or co-wrote, or publish, is played in public (on TV, radio, digital media, streaming media, in background music, live performance, in movies, etc.). SOCAN’s role is to collect and distribute the royalties you’ve rightfully earned when your song is played in public.

The reproduction (or “mechanical”) right, is the right to authorize the reproduction of your musical composition or song on various media, including streaming, downloads, CDs, vinyl records, cassettes, DVDs, etc. When copies of your music are made  in these media, reproduction royalties are owed to you, and SOCAN ensures that you receive the royalties you’ve earned.

SOCAN can represent both your performance rights, and your reproduction rights – the latter, on almost every type of audio, audio-visual, digital, or physical media in existence. We negotiate licensing agreements on behalf of our members and clients for the use of their works, and ensure that they’re fairly compensated for their extraordinary talent. SOCAN is essential to receiving all the royalties you’ve earned when your music is performed or reproduced around the world.

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Teenage singer-songwriter Victoria Anthony is a case study on how to capitalize on a viral moment and not have it be just “that cool thing that happened.” In 2018, American pop star P!nk handed her the mic at Rogers Arena to sing “Perfect” in front of 18,000 people, and from that point on it was full steam ahead.

“I had this wild dream at 12 years old and I decided to just pursue it. I wanted to sing with P!nk, so I asked her on social media if this was a possibility when she came to Vancouver, and it happened. I couldn’t believe it,” says Anthony, now 17, in her last year of high school. She spoke with SOCAN at 8:00 a.m., before heading off to class.

“To me, it’ll always be that cool thing that happened, but some of it was out of my control,” she says. “There were press outlets that I’d heard about my whole life covering me, like Disney and The Talk. I initially was caught in the whirlwind of it all, just trying to keep myself calm, and enjoy everything that I could.

“Once it did settle, I realized, ‘Okay, now I have 10,000 followers or subscribers; my video is getting millions of views a day. Now I have a platform.’ That’s when I decided to share the music I’ve been writing and playing to my YouTube and Instagram,” she says. “I think that’s a very big reason why I had the opportunity to be heard from again.”

Not even in her teens yet, Anthony – who writes on piano and also plays guitar – had never been in a recording studio at that point. Still, a month after singing on P!nk’s stage, she took her original song, “Without You,” into a session with producer Troy Samson. “We did end up changing the chord progression and a bit of the chorus melody,” she says. “It ended up being a co-write, but it was just so cool – because I never finished a song before.”

Today, Anthony has finished tons of songs, with more than six million audio streams – across Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music — and an equal number of views for her music videos, plus another four million for her other YouTube content.

Her 2020 debut album, Real Life, spawned four singles, “Sleep,” “Gotta Get Up,” the title track, and “Breathe Underwater,” and was followed in 2021-2022 with seven songs – “Should’ve Known,” “Stupid Kid,” “Kinda Into You,” “How Cute”, “Bad For Me”, “Save Me,” and “Dirty Lipstick.”

Her next single, “Another Regret,” comes out Jan. 27, 2023, with a yet-to-be-titled album in late Spring, mostly co-written with Ryan Worsley, her collaborator for the past year-and-a-half. “There’s a whole new direction that will be revealed as I release the next three singles. It’s still pop, but with a little bit of a grunge-inspired rock feel, and more honest lyricism than I’ve done in the past,” Anthony says.

“I’m releasing it purposefully in my senior year, because that to me really represents growing up — every part of it. The kind of, ‘Oh my god, who’s this new guy?’ then ‘Oh my god, everybody hates me,’ all the kinds of things that go through your head when you’re in the transition from childhood to adulthood. Just how new everything is. I’m excited for everyone to listen to this album, because I think no matter what age you are, you know the feeling of leaving something you know for something you don’t.”

In addition to Canadian media, Anthony has been covered by ET Online, MTV, Perez Hilton, Alternative Press, Ones To Watch, Consequence of Sound, Tiger Beat, and more. It’s not just because of the P!nk kick-start, or even her music, but because she’s the creative mind behind all the assets, from the album and singles art, to writing and co-directing her music videos.

“I’m the artist, of course,” she says. “Songwriting is very, very important to me; it all starts with a song. But then it’s, like, ‘Who’s that brand? Who’s singing the song?’ Like, what goes on top of it? The album artwork, videos, in the end, it all has my name on it.

“It’s really important to me to see a song through the finish line, because I’m the only one who really knows what it’s about, and can get into the nuance of the way it would look if you made it into a picture, and if you made it into a video.

“And so, in the end, everything that I release, it has my name on it, and I want it to really be mine, and give as much input and vision that I can into it,” says Anthony. “And what’s even more important to me than that, is that I can really make sure that I get the most out of the story, the most out of the writing, and take it all the way to its full potential.”

Ups and downs of the social media rollercoaster

“In my private life, I don’t really post that much. I actually am not a fan of social media, but it’s a very useful tool, and it’s a really nice opportunity to communicate with people who are interested in your music… that’s the one thing that keeps me going with social media.

“But overall, it’s hard. It’s a lot of vulnerability, sharing stuff that’s personal about you. And the personal stuff is the only thing that does well. It’s like, ‘Well, why do these people need to know about my life, when I’m a singer? Why can I not just focus on my craft?’ But I think the key is just to be as real as you can be, and try and make it work for you…

“I mean, Tik Tok is the only way to have a song be successful these days, and so you have to give it a shot. It doesn’t have to work out every time, because it’s never going to, but just try and do a trend. You can even just put your song out there, and if it speaks to people, it speaks to people.

“Social media is very scary, because, are you about to be absolutely harassed on TikTok? That’s a common experience, and I’ve been through it. But you just have to say, ‘Who cares? This is the one chance for me to make my song successful.’”