Jean Anfossi is the little music publisher who could. Against all odds, he’s succeeded in building an impressive Canadian stock music library amid a landscape of rapidly, disruptively changing technology, shrinking royalties and bruising competition.

Anfossi recently re-branded his 11-year-old company, MFP (Music for Productions), and has taken on new staff in Toronto and Montréal in an effort to re-focus on the Québec market, and push harder into the music for film and TV business.

Anfossi started his career with Warner/Chappell Music Publishing Canada. When the company’s administrative services moved south to the U.S., he went to work for, and was mentored by, Mark Altman at Morning Music. It was there that Anfossi got his first taste of production music libraries, as he worked with Altman to build Morning Music’s first collections.

Anfossi knew the digital wave was unstoppable, so when he founded MFP in 2005, he built one of the first one-stop, online music licensing portals in Canada, where clients could sample, stream and buy digital tracks.

The landscape has been shifting ever since. Much bigger publishers like ole started acquiring major music libraries and ramping up their technology.

MFP was a small fish in an increasingly hostile pond, but scrappy Anfossi stayed in the game by mastering search engine optimization (SEO) and leveraging Google Adwords to his advantage. But even those tactics are seeing diminishing returns as the digital world morphs and evolves.

“I always stress that composers should be paid for the work they do, not just in terms of performance royalties.”

Jean Anfossi

Photo by Jacqueline Grossman

The stock music business has also seen a raft of new players enter the marketplace with new licensing methods. Royalty-free image giants like Getty and Shutterstock have expanded their service offering to include royalty-free music, an advent that Anfossi says is hurting traditional music publishers.

“Royalty-free is driving down the value of music by eliminating synch royalties,” he says. “The publishers are satisfied with a small up-front payment and back-end performance royalties from performing rights organizations like SOCAN. But composers and publishers who relied on synch earnings to help them make a living are finding it harder and harder to survive in this climate.”

For a long time, MFP’s bread was buttered by advertising and corporate video clients, but as competition has increased and rates have fallen, Anfossi was forced to pivot.

“Recently, I’ve focused on the Québec market,” he says. “I hired Pascal Brunet as the Business Manager in our Montréal office. He worked with Virgin-EMI Music for 15 years and he has lots of contacts. His experience and musical knowledge will be an asset to our company, in order to serve such a creative marketplace as the province of Québec, in terms of local and international production.”

MFP’s catalogue has grown substantially, thanks to its recent partnership with BMG/USA whose stock libraries of 50,000-plus tracks have pushed MFP’s published or sub-published offering to more than 160,000 tracks.

“We’re now in a position to offer the TV, film, advertising, corporate and multi-media industries an amazing selection of quality music,” says Anfossi.

BMG/USA’s Darrel Shirk, Director of Operations, says, “The synergy with MFP is undeniable. With their track record for distribution and our extensive music offering, we know the possibilities are endless.”

Anfossi constantly advocates with his clients for composer and publisher rights.

“I always stress that composers should be paid for the work they do, not just in terms of performance royalties,” he says. “Too many composers are giving their music away because they’re struggling to survive. I don’t accept composers on my site who are also in royalty-free libraries. In a few cases I’ve allowed those composers in under pseudonyms.”

Anfossi has another arrow in his quiver, a newer venture called,  specializing in indie/alternative music for film and TV; ReelSongs is the repository for BMG’s Fieldhouse Music, among other catalogues.

“I love what I do,” says Anfossi. “I’m not in a hurry to sell my business. I’m going to keep building my library with more Canadian content. I just got 15 tracks from a composer in Québec who’s doing Québec folklore. It’s a unique offering, because nobody can write or play music like that unless they’re from Québec. I think deals like that make my library more valuable, because I have exclusive material that’s hard to find in other libraries.”

Rosie Valland

Photo by Philippe Sanfacon

Two EPs, an album, countless concerts, the semi-finals of Francouvertes 2015, opening for Ariane Moffatt, a few songs placed in the TV series Nouvelle adresse, a finalist spot in the Prix de la chanson SOCAN 2016: needless to say, Rosie Valland has just experienced two eventful years. Ever since releasing her first EP in April 2014, she’s been learning the business. “I’m learning to lead a project,” she says. “These are formative and creative times.”

Many discovered her with last year’s Partir avant, an album inspired by a breakup that was plainly difficult. But her latest, launched in the spring, takes the listener on a different trip: “Both albums came out in rapid succession, almost back to back, “ she says, “but one of them brewed for two years while the other one’s more spontaneous and reflects much more where I’m at now. Nord-Est is a beacon. It’s not necessarily happy, but it’s definitely more nostalgia than pain.”

Her work is reminiscent of the œuvres of Salomé Leclerc and Cat Power, but her slight pop tinge and soft voice are closer to that of Feist, especially on a song like “Nos guerres” (“Our Wars”). “Singing is my main instrument,” says Valland. “I let my voice take the lead and Feist is a great influence in that regard. Over the past year, I listened to Justin Bieber as much as I did Suuns. All influences converge in my music; I consciously try not to limit myself to a single direction.”

Valland, now 24, started singing in the choir of Saint-Césaire, a small village in the Montérégie region of Québec, about 45 minutes east of Montréal. There was a piano in her house, and she tamed the beast on her own. “I grew up with Star Académie and Mixmania [two popular singing contest TV shows in Québec in the 2000s],” she says. “In my mind, being a singer meant singing other people’s songs.” In her late teens, while living in Granby, the young artist became acquainted with the trade of songwriting when she saw many of her peers signing up to the École nationale de la chanson. “I started writing the second it dawned on me that I could write my own songs,” she says. “The next year, I too signed up to the École, and from that point on, everything went super fast.”

“Women still instinctively seek the approval of others on their musical ideas.”

During those formative years, Valland left the piano behind in favour of the six-string. “I judge myself very harshly when I play the piano, it’s less intuitive,” she says. “The guitar came into my life naturally in 2012, and the transition from one instrument to the other was very smooth. When I play guitar, I’m mostly following my instinct.”

Her apprenticeship on the instrument kicked into high gear when she met a talented and inspiring musician named Jesse Mac Cormack. They met at the Festival international de la chanson de Granby, and Jesse immediately became one of Rosie’s main musical partners in crime. “That was a crucial meeting for my career,” says Valland. “Jesse is very demanding and will only accept the best I can give. Working with him is the best, most intene school there is.”

Valland is increasingly assuming her role as the leader of a solo project. “Whether I’m in a duo, a trio or on my own, I’m learning to assume that the project will bear my name,” she says, “and that, no matter who I play with, its value doesn’t decrease. I don’t depend on anyone but myself, and I’ve discovered that this freedom is a strength.”


A few weeks ago, the young artist was nominated as one of the finalists in the Prix de la chanson SOCAN thanks to her song “Olympe,” a subtle homage to literary woman and feminist pioneer Olympe de Gouges, who was guillotined in Paris in 1793. “People often compliment me for my singing and then turn to Jesse to congratulate him on the music,” she says. “But they’re my songs! Women still instinctively seek the approval of others on their musical ideas; I think that’s partly why there are so few female producers. We have to boldly forge on, make a place for ourselves, become the woman who inspires us, and who we want to be. There are details left to fine-tune, but we’re on the right path.”

Kevin Figs

As a little boy, Kevin Figs wasn’t planning on being a music creator, in spite of the fact that everything seemed to be pointing that way. Born in Toronto and raised in downtown Montréal, in a musical family, all the stars seemed to be lined up. His father taught him to play guitar, bass and drums soon after he took his first steps and, at the ripe old age of six(!) he became the drummer of a church in Toronto’s High Park area – where he still occasionally performs today when his schedule allows.

Now in his mid-20s – and the veteran of an impressive eight-year career that took him from Toronto to Los Angeles through his hometown of Montreal – Figs is one of the most in-demand songwriters and producers of his generation. But while he’s shared the limelight for a time in the past as part of the401, he has no desire at this time to come out of the shadows: “Creating music was not something I was planning on doing when I was a kid,” he says, “so everything I create now is necessarily for someone else. I have no ambition as a performer, but this has definitely become my all-consuming passion, so I do it for myself and for others. My greatest ambition right now probably is to develop and apply a rock-solid work ethic for myself.”

Having co-created a number of global hit songs for the likes of Jeremih, Shawn Desman, Virginia to Vegas and Alyssa Reid, to name but a few – besides re-visiting major hits here and there on an ad hoc basis – the young creator has followed a more than enviable career path so far, and picked up kudos from Henry “Cirkut” Walter and a few other big industry names along the way.

Along with his great friend and collaborator O C, with whom he works most of the time and of whom he thinks the world – “he’s one of my greatest inspirations” – Figs co-wrote “We Are Stars,” performed by the aforementioned Virginia to Vegas feat. Alyssa Reid, winner of a 2015 SOCAN Pop/Rock Music Award. “The song’s instrumental part was first created in one night with O C, but we couldn’t even finish it because we locked ourselves out of my own studio!” he says. “We were already quite excited by that song before it landed in the hands of Alyssa Reid’s people. Our manager at the time essentially told them ‘This one’s the one,’ and everything just fell into place.”

It all happened so fast that Figs could hardly believe it. “Writing songs is what I do practically every day,” he says, “so I was also working on a handful of other songs at the same time, but seeing one of our creations get such massive airplay was an incredible feeling!”

Figs’s achievements as a songwriter have provided him with an industry profile that makes it possible for him to anticipate new collaborations. “Of course, there are times when I think of a specific voice when I’m writing,” he says. “Jeremih was definitely one. The first time I heard “Birthday Sex,” I fell captive to the charm of his voice.” Figs and O C went on to work on Late Nights, the artist’s most recent studio album.

Reiterating that he has no use for the more glamorous aspects of pop stardom, Figs insists that his main concern is to keep up the hard work. “I’m extremely grateful for being able to make music each day of my life, but it’s not all fun and games either,” he says. “It can come at the expense of other aspects of my life such as my social network, my family…  Over time, I’ve learned to become much more versatile, to be able to write in places where there is sometimes not even a table or a chair that I can use, and with 10 pairs of eyes eagerly watching me and waiting for a song.”

Clearly, Kevin Figs’ gamble is paying off.