Medium Plaisir, the Québec City singer-songwriter and guitarist’s first album, has finally made it to our ears, after a long and formative journey through various competitions – such as Petite-Vallée, Cabaret Festif! de la Relève, Festival international en chanson de Granby, and a third place win during the finals of the 2020 Francouvertes (where Valence ended up the winner).

Ariane Roy“Competitions are an opportunity, but they can be insidious,” says Roy. “It screws with your ego and your confidence, like at the Francouvertes, where judges are right in front, and they’re taking notes. It’s hard, and it’s a test of humility.”

Listening to the 24-year-old musician’s dozen new songs reveals an album that feels like a huge breath of fresh air; an incarnation of pop purity before which one can only bow. Her song “Ta Main” was the Révélation Radio-Canada 2021–2022, and Roy was selected as one of SOCAN’s six artists to watch, and chosen as a finalist for the Francophone side of the SOCAN Songwriting Prize. It also won the Slaight Music Emerging Songwriter Award, presented by the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In other words, she’s well on her way to a successful career. Her management has been taken on by La Maison Fauve.

“By getting involved in the co-production (with guitarist Dominique Plante) of this project, I learned a lot and made great strides in my career,” says Roy. “On a more human aspect, being confronted with my limits, and letting go of certain aspects, is still a work in progress. Focusing on the right thing, and not asking constant questions… Sometimes we have blinders on, we become obsessed with what we’re doing, and it becomes a little alienating. It takes us away from the creative goal.”

Alexandre Martel (Anatole, Mauves), who co-produced Hubert Lenoir’s Darlène, flew in at the end of the process to impart a few pieces of advice. “He put his finger right on what worked and what didn’t,” says Roy. “Is the song still good? Is it just me who can’t stand it any longer? These songs offer extreme scrutiny of who I am. I started writing them at the beginning of the pandemic, and because there was so little going on around me, I was forced to reach deep inside myself to express urgent things. Certain passages, however, are pure fiction. Things are magnified like that, because at any given moment my life isn’t necessarily interesting enough that it makes it to my diary.

“Making an album can be exacting,” she continues. “We recorded all last summer at Le Nid studio in St-Adrien, and we refined all fall the demos at Dominique’s. We asked ourselves so many questions. We flipped songs completely, felt like dropping some to write new ones; those were five very intense days, but I loved it!”

Roy’s musical palette is quite stunning. Medium Plaisir is an album whose depth doesn’t diminish with multiple plays. It was meticulously crafted. Just as on her Avalanche EP, the modus operandi is often the same: a soft beginning, with a beefier orchestration that comes in about mid-way, and a conclusion replete with satin-soft backing vocals, and melodies that co-exist alongside frenzied cascades of guitars. “We really had a lot of fun,” she says. “I love beginning small and just building and building by adding different sounds.”

She also loves vocal harmonies and choirs, and make no bones about it. “It takes up a lot of space in my musical project,” says Roy. “I’ve always been drawn to that. Hence the presence of Lou-Adriane Cassidy and Odile Marmet-Rochefort.”

Roy has the typical spunk of people her age, and the tools to write songs with hypnotic power, or evanescent ballads composed of a few notes – as evidenced by “Automne,” “Miracle,” and “Ce n’est pas de la chance.” Or by the glittering dialogue between her riffs, and vocals that climb high to the sky, while her accompanists are entirely at her service.

“Apprendre encore,” arguably Medium Plaisir’s best song (in my humble opinion), immediately sinks its hooks in, thanks to its piano lines. It’s the type of song that could easily make it to the silver screen. “We fine-tuned it for three whole days,” says Roy. “When I came home that night, I poured a glass of wine and wondered what I was going to write for that music. For me it is a song of anger in affirmation. There’s a layer of self-deprecation and humility that’s, like, ‘This is who I am.’ It talks about the journey, and learning, and it betrays my age.”

 



The digital era may seem like the perfect time for building a career in music. Creative resources and tools for engagement on social media are endless. However, when it becomes the only chance for success, with the added weight of pandemic isolation, it can take a toll on anyone’s general well-being.

Canadian singer-songwriter noelle crafted one of her most-played songs on Spotify without being afraid to get personal. With more than 290,000 clicks, “Therapy” tackles the importance of mental health awareness. “I want people to know that they’re not alone,” says the musician. “It’s really important to just have an outlet. That’s what I wrote ‘Therapy’ about.”

The 20-year-old, raised on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Ontario, has already racked up a following of almost 95,000 subscribers on YouTube. She combines her Indigenous roots with an acquired taste for 60-year-old jazz, and everything in between. From powwow drums to Nat King Cole, to pop and R&B, noelle’s music is a collage of genres that she’s been exploring, right up to the present day.

“My dad has a recording studio in our basement,” she says. “He has a band, and makes Native wind flutes and drums in his woodshop. I think it’s really made my music tastes wide. That’s kind of affected the music I write and create today.”

Following a very different path from her classmates, the singer-songwriter inked her first record deal right after graduating high school, signing to Wax Records – the home of bülow, Virginia to Vegas, and Alyssa Reid. “Wax has introduced me to so many incredible writers and producers, with whom I’ve built a friendship, and continuously work, on a regular basis,” says noelle. “They’ve all helped me grow as a writer, and the producers have helped me grow as a vocalist. I’m really grateful to have met these people.”

She’s gearing up for the debut of her first EP, 30K, which demonstrates noelle’s journey to adulthood with a deep, emotional gift for storytelling – which she hopes will move people, and remind them of their first love.

“I was getting over somebody at the time that I wrote the song ‘30K,’” says noelle. “When I went into the session, I wanted to write about my feelings, but I wanted it to be a super-fun, upbeat song. We came up with the idea of, ‘How would you get over somebody if you were rich?’ And we were, like, ‘Okay, let’s go to L.A., let’s go shopping, let’s go to the club.’”

For the past three years, noelle has spent most of her days in the studio, and has recorded an impressive 100 demos. She usually sits down in front of the piano, and plays the keys until a melody comes. Then she applies her lyrics, to try to capture one memorable experience or another – typically, about the ups and downs of falling in love.

“I pull inspiration from so many different things,” she says. “Even if I watch a movie, if there’s a scenario that’s really interesting, that might inspire me to write a song about it. Or, if I hear a song from another artist that’s amazing, and I love it. But also, just, like, if there’s a cool word, or I hear some somebody say something that could be a cool song title”

Now the young artist, who began writing her own music, song by song, as a therapeutic form of self-expression, dreams of performing at the Grammy Awards. “I just want my songs to be able to reach people, so that they know that they’re not alone in the situations my songs are about,” she says.



Current broadcasting laws and regulations were designed for radio and television. While these rules have been effective, foreign digital platforms have zero obligations to support and promote Canadian creators, even to Canadian audiences. Reforming the Broadcasting Act is a necessary step to strengthening Canadian songwriters and composers’ place within Canada, and supporting Canadian music in a digital world.

SOCAN is advocating for broadcasting reform to include online undertakings under the Broadcasting Act because royalty distributions to Canadian songwriters and composers are significantly lower on unregulated digital broadcasters, which have no Canadian contribution requirements, such as promotion and funding, as opposed to regulated traditional broadcasters that do. Lower royalty distributions also means that the Canadian public is listening to less Canadian music, which has knock-on effects for Canadian culture, Canadian jobs, and Canadian identity.

The below charts demonstrate that distributions to Canadian songwriters and composers from digital broadcasters are 69% lower than distributions from traditional broadcasters:

Traditional Media Distributions to SOCAN Writers and Foreign Society Writers

Digital Media_Distributions to SOCAN Writers and Foreign Society Writers

The stark difference in distributions can be explained in part by the regulatory systems for traditional broadcasters, which include Canadian contribution requirements, compared with digital broadcasters operated by foreign companies, which do not.

Instead of a 34% share of collected royalties distributed to SOCAN songwriter and composer members on traditional media, only around 10% of royalties collected on digital media are distributed to SOCAN songwriter members. This represents a 69% decrease in distributions staying in Canada for songwriters with a song played on traditional media, versus a songwriter with a song played on digital media.

The situation is even more dire for Francophone SOCAN songwriter and composer members.

On traditional media, they receive an average of 7% of all traditional royalties collected, while on digital media, they receive an average of 2% of digital royalties collected.

Traditional Media_Distributions to SOCAN Writers by Language vs Foreign Society Writers

Digital Media_Distributions to SOCAN Writers by Language vs Foreign Society Writers

 

To an outside observer, there may be an apparent paradox: SOCAN revenues have been increasing, so how is it possible that distributions are decreasing? The answer to that paradox is understanding the difference between SOCAN’s collection of royalties and its distribution of royalties.

First, let’s look at the domestic collection of royalties.

SOCAN domestic royalty collections have increased from $203 million in 2012 to $282 million in 2020. Domestic digital collections have increased 571% since 2015 – from $15 million in 2015 to $104 million in 2020.

For SOCAN’s domestic collection of royalties, these revenues are collected from issuing licenses to organizations for all music uses, by all music creators in the world (Canadian and international), for public performances and communications within Canada.

So, when SOCAN’s domestic collection of royalties goes up, this means that more music is being used across Canada. That’s a good thing.

Now, let’s look at the domestic distribution of royalties.

For SOCAN’s domestic distribution of royalties, SOCAN analyzes the music use data we obtain from licensees for certain uses of music (or we use an analogous data set if no data is provided by the licensee) to match the musical works used to the correct rightsholders, and distribute the matched royalties to them. In this matching exercise, SOCAN matches musical works to Canadian rightsholders and international rightsholders – with royalties for international rightsholders going outside of Canada to the music rights organization representing them.

In short, for the $104 million in domestic digital collections, only 10% stays in Canada and is distributed to Canadian creators. The rest is distributed to international creators.

SOCAN’s goal is to see Canadian contribution requirements on digital broadcasters, so that more Canadian creators are paid for their work in Canada. Reform of the Broadcasting Act is the first step in figuring out how that goal can be accomplished.

Stay tuned for further articles in this series.