Have you ever searched for song lyrics online? So have millions of other people, but only one company – with the sheer determination of its founder – figured out a way to get money into the hands of the writers of those lyrics.

It was a hard road pushing LyricFind up the mountain of legitimacy, but now, in its 10th year of business, the Toronto-based licensing service finds itself king of the hill at last. The turning point came last year when LyricFind acquired the lyric business of its principal rival, Gracenotes. Since then growth has skyrocketed, and LyricFind is now the undisputed global leader in online lyric licensing – boasting agreements with more than 3,000 music publishers.

“We’re paying out three times as much now as we were a year-and-a-half ago,” says LyricFind co-founder Darryl Ballantyne.

“We monetized an industry that was entirely illegal,” he adds proudly. “The only people making any money were lyric websites that were selling a ton of ads and not paying any royalties at all. That made it a little easier to get the initial deals done, because it was found money for the music publishers.” Online lyric display also drives music discovery and sales, which makes additional money for artist-songwriters.

It may be based in Toronto, but LyricFind has been tilting towards the U.S. almost from the beginning. Its North American royalties are distributed through the Harry Fox Agency, and one of its biggest champions has been the National Music Publishers’ Association, which sued lyrics site LiveUniverse in 2012, winning a major $6.6 million settlement.

LyricFind now has deals with reproduction rights and performance rights societies in 30 territories around the world.

“As we’re expanding globally, we’re doing more and more deals with societies,” says Ballantyne. “To us it doesn’t really matter whether the society is mechanical or performance, what matters is the connection to the publishers and the society’s ability to get us the correct ownership/split data.”

LyricFind licenses a wide range of lyric users – websites, digital music download services, mobile phone makers, etc. The company negotiates individual royalty rates depending on the revenue model of the user’s business, be it a percentage of ad revenue or a per-unit fee for device sales.

“Lyric websites were selling a ton of ads and not paying any royalties at all.”

“We pool all of that across the various different revenue models and we end up with an average we’re paying the publishers of around one-tenth of a cent per display,” explains Ballantyne. These small micro-payments add up.

“It’s very much a hits-driven business,” explains Ballantyne, “so the majors see a significant amount of money from us every quarter.”

Ballantyne founded LyricFind in 2004 with partners Mohamed Moutadayne and Chris Brock who met as students at the University of Waterloo. “It’s a lot of fun now, but early on it was very much a slog,” remembers Ballantyne. “We freeloaded off parents and ex-girlfriends… It was a lot of long hours and no real money. But we always believed there was a market there and eventually it proved right.”

Her parents had decided to move the family to the middle of nowhere to make sure that she, her sisters and their brother wouldn’t get into any trouble. But even tucked away in the Southern Manitoba rural town of Aubigny, marijosée (without a capital M) lost none of the impetuousness she displayed as a five-year-old. Every now and then, she would plan to run away from home, surreptitiously fill her backpack with food and head for path leading to the main road. “I inevitably turned back before reaching the road because it was so far away,” recalls the musician, whose first full-length album, Pas tout cuit dans l’bec was recently released.

Music came into marijosée’s life around that same time. Her Franco-Manitoban parents used to drag the kids to mass every Sunday. “My dad sang in the choir,” says mariejosée. “He had such a loud voice you couldn’t hear the other singers. It was embarrassing! He eventually signed me up for the choir too, because he and my mom wanted us to be able to sing in French. During long car rides, they used to make us translate our favourite English songs into French. That’s how Bill Withers’ ‘Lean On Me’ became ‘Penche-toi sur moi’,” she recalls, laughing at the literal translation. Obviously, it worked. Although perceptible in person, the singer’s English accent is almost impossible to detect on record, as if she had assimilated the peculiar musicality of the French language through osmosis.

“Every two years I would change specializations – moving from classical singing to pop to jazz and even to country,”

Then came the traditional piano lessons. Before each session, the teenager used to stick her used gum under the piano because her teacher didn’t allow chewing. After accumulating an impressive collection of multi-coloured flattened bubblegum balls, she switched to voice lessons, but her own way: “Every two years I would change specializations – moving from classical singing to pop to jazz and even to country,” she says. “This provided me with new ideas and techniques to choose from as I was trying to discover my own voice. In the end, I think that jazz was my greatest influence. I’m extremely attracted to that music style because of the freedom it allows in terms of improvisation and sudden rhythm changes. Let’s say it agrees with my borderline personality disorder,” she giggles.

Departing from the electro style of her 2011 first EP Rebondir (Bouncing Back), marijosée’s new album explores jazz influences, coloured by sometimes unpredictable, sometimes warm vocal effects and replete with standup bass lines and jumpy percussion.

“Jazz has been the other great discovery of my career,” marijosée explains. “When I switched from singing lessons to percussion lessons, my voice and my phrasing changed. I started singing more rhythmically, separating words more clearly and experimenting with sound.” She now writes her own vocal melodies from rhythms she drums on any surface she can reach. “I wrote the album’s title track from a beat that turned me on. That song tells the story of how my family encouraged me to go for food instead of for a music career.”

“Pas tout cuit dans l’bec,” is not the only selection addressing marijosée’s career as a singer-songwriter. “Promesse de la fontaine” (“Fountain’s Promise”) contains the answer to those who encouraged her to move to Quebec for the sake of her career. “It’s not that I refuse to leave Manitoba because, in a way, we don’t have all the tools we need here,” she says. “Grants are fine, but I don’t have a record or management company at my disposal. At the same time, I don’t want to move just to try my luck in Quebec. If I were to receive a concrete offer, I might change my mind, but re-locating to Montreal to keep my fingers crossed and stand on a street corner with my hat and my guitar… That’s not my bag.”

And if most of the other tracks of her album deal with the complex relationships that exist between marijosée and men, the reason simply is that she thinks that all the men she’s met since breaking up with her former husband were “stupid idiots.” But that’s another story. “Stay tuned, and when you listen to my upcoming second album, you’ll find out if I’ve finally met the right guy,” she jokes. At press time, marijosée was scheduled to perform across Canada with dates in France and Switzerland in the summer months.

Three years after winning the Petite-Vallée Song Festival competition in 2003, actor and singer-songwriter Viviane Audet released Le long jeu (The Long Play), a well-crafted debut album whose theatrical statements sometimes didn’t do justice to her genuine personality and musical talent. Almost eight years later, her second album, Le couloir des ouragans (Tornado Alley), finally reveals a delicate folk-pop artist with a more intimate, luminous and melodious style.

Audet’s new direction is indicated right from the jacket of her new CD, which shows a woman who appears to be running away. “That image was chosen for a purpose,” Audet confirms. “I wanted to leave my first album behind. I needed something more suggestive and less aggressive. I performed my first album as if it were going to be my last. I gave it my all! Bori said to me, ‘It’s strange, but after listening to your songs, we still don’t know you. There’s a veil in front of your songs.’ I took it wrong at the time because I didn’t know what he meant.

“Creating is a truly intimate experience. It’s not something I could share with anyone.”

“Then, I turned 30, and was able to take off my actor’s mask for this recording, which I wanted to be more personal and more restrained. During my last years as a film and television actor, directors used to tell me, ‘Try not to overact – the camera will catch your eyes and facial expression.’ I probably learned from that,” the 32-year-old Gaspé region native now admits.

The reasons Audet took so long to release a second album were her increased activities as a stage and television performer and, on the music side, her need to change record and production companies, create a new repertoire and build a new team. “I took voice lessons and got involved in projects that helped me morph into a musician, such as scoring Rafaël Ouellet’s Camion [with boyfriend Robin-Joël Cool and Erik West-Millette]. I opened my horizons while freeing myself from residual influences. I developed a taste for folk songs in their purest essence. I became interested in seeking the cleanest possible arrangements. I’d be lying if I said giving birth to this new album was easy, but I’m glad I didn’t give up, because this is the creative project I’m the proudest of,” the multi-instrumentalist musician sums up.

And rightly so. Audet wisely surrounded herself with talented people for her new recording venture: the Acadian poet Georgette LeBlanc and authors Baptiste and Émile Proulx on the lyrics side, and, on the production side, Philippe Brault (Pierre Lapointe), whose well-crafted and subtle arrangements enhance the album’s songs. “Composing is candy compared to the pains of finding the right words,” Audet explains. “I do my composing work alone at home in the morning. That way I feel that, as I just came out of sleep, my mind hasn’t been contaminated yet by the outside world. It’s my blank page. I put my hands on the keyboard, press the record button on my iPhone, and start the process. First, I look for a theme. I’m really shy. I can’t work if there is anyone next to me or even in the same room. Creating is a truly intimate experience. It’s not something I could share with anyone.”

After a pause, she adds: “I suffer from the syndrome of not liking anything I write. A couple months later, though, I can look at what I did and not find it quite as bad! I never throw anything out because I know I will see it in a different light later on. I truly have a love-hate relationship with writing, a problem with looking at myself objectively. That’s the reason why I love surrounding myself with authors. It helps me breathe easier. Plus, I love teamwork,” she explains.

Asked to name her main musical influences, Audet lists Patrice Desbiens, Thomas Fersen, Barbara, Chloé Ste-Marie, Gilles Bélanger, Yann Perreau, Juliette Gréco, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. “And I should also mention Richard Desjardins, this amazing poet of everyday life with frequently four-dimensional lyrics. This kind of songwriting inspires me,” she says.

Besides scoring Rafaël Ouellet’s next film (Gurov et Anna) with her partner Robin-Joël Cool, Audet is scheduled to perform opening slots for Louis-Jean Cormier and Isabelle Boulay during the next FrancoFolies de Montréal festival. This will be followed in the fall with a Montreal concert and the release of the first EP from her Anglophone folk project Mentana (with Cool). “I see myself as a communicator first and foremost, whether it is through a song, a character, a story or a feeling,” she says. “I need to communicate vocally, to be onstage. This goes all the way back to my childhood. I’m comfortable with that today, and I enjoy performing as part of any kind of project. I hope I’ll be able to do this for many years to come.”