It was just over a year ago, at the height of last winter’s pandemic lockdown, that a golden opportunity landed in the lap of Ashley Jane. “All of a sudden this is, like, ‘Oh, this is what you hear about when people talk about having a lucky break,’” she says. Working under a drop-dead, two-day deadline, the end result was the song “How Lucky Am I?” which will appear in the soon-to-be released feature film Press Play starring Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), Lewis Pullman (Top Gun: Maverick), and Matt Walsh (Veep).

It wasn’t her first foray into soundtrack music. “After [my band] In the City released our first EP Changing Times, we found a lot of success with getting placements,” says Jane, whose songs have been featured on TV series such as Workin’ Moms, Heartland, Kim’s Convenience, and more.

It was no accident, though, that Jane was in the right place at the right time. It was because she’d established a successful songwriting partnership with Stephen Krecklo, who was initially approached by the filmmaker. As a result of the pandemic, Krecklo – who Jane had met at the Canadian Film Centre (where she and her In The City partner Timon Wientzek were the first songwriting duo to be accepted into the prestigious Slaight Family Music Residency) – found himself killing time on Twitch, the live streaming service that, though mainly for gaming, also offers music broadcasts and creative content “in real life” streams.

“All you can do is do your best”

Jane’s tips to get your song synched

  1. “Educate yourself on the role and job of a music supervisor before reaching out. Do your homework on outreach etiquette, and check out conferences and talks on music supervision – The Canadian Guild of Music Supervisors is a great resource for this.”
  2. “Be organized. Make sure all of your music is tagged with the right metadata, such as artist and songwriter, contact information, genre, performing rights organization (PRO), and more. Also, be sure to respond promptly to any requests, as timelines are often tight!”
  3.  “Write music you love, and the rest will follow. People can sometimes view writing for synch as its own artform, but I think if you try to write the best song you can, everything else will fall into place.”

Jane explains, “Stephen found himself in a like-minded community and, from time to time, he’d show some music that he had created. One day someone slipped into his messages, ‘I’m a director in L.A. working on a feature, and I’ve heard some of your music. I was wondering if you have a couple of songs that you could send to hit certain moments in our film?’ He called me and gave me a breakdown of what they were looking for. We didn’t know who this person was, it could have been anybody, but, lo and behold, it [was] in fact a director making a Hollywood film with some heavy-hitter names.”

They were given a two-day deadline.

“We’d worked together quite a bit for the last couple of years, but we’d never worked remotely before,” says Jane. “We’d always worked together in a room. It was an interesting experience having one of the biggest opportunities in our careers presented to us in the moment we weren’t allowed to leave our homes.”

The two went to work and submitted a track that, though a top three contender, didn’t make the final cut. The pair weren’t disheartened; in fact, they were thrilled. “When it comes to this sort of stuff,” says Jane, “all you can do is do your best. We felt that we’d done a good job, and  pulled this off over Zoom, having never written like that before. The fact that they thought it was a good song was enough for us.”

But it wasn’t enough for the filmmakers. A week later the director called again. Another song needed, and only two days to turn it around. This time they scored. “How Lucky Am I?” indeed.

It’s the personal relationships, which Jane has nurtured, that keep her busy. “I’m in a really unique position where, in Canada, I have great relationships with music supervisors,” she says. “After the initial placement, if they can see that you’re prompt and you’re reliable, the trust just builds, and builds, and builds from there. Every placement I’ve had has been an opportunity that has been presented to me by a director, or a producer, or a music supervisor, or another collaborator musically. For me, having a direct line both ways has been so beneficial. It’s just a quick way to build trust on both ends.”



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.



After making his mark with a solo piano project and a subsequent foray in electro territory, composer Jean-Michel Blais is now exploring the world of orchestral music, presenting Aubades – an album recorded with 12 musicians, led by conductor Nicolas Ellis.

Jean-Michel Blais One could easily say that Jean-Michel Blais is addicted to risk-taking. He’d never composed for an orchestra before embarking on the creation of Aubades (out Feb. 4, 2022), a flourishing one-hour opus that’s nothing short of a symphony. As it turns out, it was a colossal project that pushed him to his limits.

“At some point, I came this close to just giving everything to an arranger,” he admits. “I felt like I bit off way more than I could chew, and then Nico Ellis would say, ‘You know, Jean-Mich, it’s the first time you’ve tried arranging, it’s the first time you write [the music out in notation], you have 100 pages, your score is 100 pages long, for a total of one hour of music, for 12 musicians.’ And it’s true that I put a lot on my shoulders… Would I do it all over again? No doubt, but not right away!” he says in a burst of laughter. “It’s quite intense. You get to a point where your brain hurts. it’s not easy to imagine 12 different voices at once.”

And yet, the newcomer to arranging took up the challenge without getting lost in it, carried by his unique chord combinations, and his characteristic harmonic progressions. In the end, it’s like his essence, his entire style, has been multiplied tenfold.

But even though he’ll likely gain new fans among various types of music lovers, Blais is worried he might lose some of his earlier fans in the twists and turns of his experimentation. “I know it’s not the smartest move, industry-wise,” he says. “When you hit, it’s always better to stick to what you know, cater to your target audience, and make money. The thing is, I’m afraid I’ll die a slow death doing the opposite.”

 An Extended Hand

One of Blais’ goals with Aubades was to bring “savant” music to the masses, to strip away the haughty, even aristocratic veneer that comes with his kind of grand orchestral flights-of-fancy. At least historically. “I’m not a revolutionary, I’m a popularizer, maybe,” says Blais. “A ‘democratizer,’ even though I know that’s not a word. That’s how I see myself.”

To achieve his goals, the pianist has taken the gamble of placing his collaborators at the very heart of the project, as if to remind us that it’s not robots who perfectly play his compositions. “What I was interested in was the life of those musicians, hearing them breathe, hearing their instruments creak, hearing them whisper,” he says. “It’s crucial for me to feel the humans behind the notes scribbled on paper. The studio is full of life… When you mic each individual, you start feeling their humanity. I think next time I’ll even mic [conductor] Nicolas Ellis, so we can hear his baton swingin’!”

Blais promises that he’s circling back to his first love after this ensemble work cycle. “I’m already pining to make a solo piano album,” he says adamantly, and stops short of proffering a release date.

Meanwhile, he flutters about from one style to the next, allowing himself the freedom to enrich his roadmap. The new assets he realizes will inevitably reflect on his more minimalist, but never stripped-down, musical offerings.

“I don’t want to do background music, you know, the kind of mezzo piano pieces that are so banal, you don’t even know who you’re dealing with anymore,” he says. “I’ve always been motivated by awakening people’s ability to really dig music, instead of just consuming it as a product or a sonic decor like Satie, or any Spotify list that you play in the background, like wallpaper. I believe that everyone can get into instrumental music for more than five minutes.”

And it’s all the easier to do when – flanked by brilliant musicians – Blais transports us to a universe as cinematic and enveloping as the one on Aubades.