It’s been just over two years since music industry veterans Michael McCarty and Rodney Murphy (both formerly SOCAN executives) founded Toronto-based Kilometre Music Group (KMG), a music creation and rights management company backed by Barometer Capital Management’s Barometer Global Music Royalty Fund. Their initial idea was to “re-patriate” Canadian music copyrights, but beyond buying revenue-generating song catalogues, KMG is also signing new songwriters.
“The investors are very happy,” says Kilometre Music Group CEO McCarty. “Some of them told us that we were their best investment in 2022, because of what happened in the marketplace and the economy. Music royalties are one of the most stable investments in turbulent economic times.”
Murphy serves as KMG’s President of A&R Acquisitions, and Melissa Cameron-Passley (also formerly of SOCAN), Director of Creative Operations, and both of them handle the day-to-day sourcing and relationships with writers. The company now has 10 catalogues, which is “about halfway to two-thirds of the way to our full portfolio,” says McCarty. And just under a year ago, KMG launched the new signing phase of the plan.
“The overriding message we want to send to the world is, we’re a real music publisher,” says McCarty. “We’re not just a catalogue acquisition company. We’re now building our roster. We always planned to have a combination of iconic catalogues, and what we call ‘future’ catalogues – which is writers making [those] of the future – and that’s been going great. We’ve got seven writers signed now, and we’ll have a couple more fairly soon, so we’re where we wanted to be.”
In September of 2022, they fortuitously found their dream office: a three-story Victorian house, opposite the Art Gallery of Ontario in downtown Toronto, already equipped with five state-of-the-art recording studios, each with its own control room and vocal booth. (They added two makeshift studios in the basement, for a total of seven.) The 8,500-square foot space also has a small kitchen, four bathrooms, a shower, three lounges, and private parking for 10 cars. That’s quite a score for downtown Toronto. They call it Kilometre House.
“It doesn’t ramp up till middle of the day, because it tends to be on artist hours, as opposed to banker’s hours,” says McCarty. “But once it gets humming, it’s usually going full-tilt, all seven rooms.
“The vision was that we wanted to have a place, almost like a creative collision center, where there would be people meeting and bumping into each other, and ending up collaborating, that probably never would’ve otherwise” he continues. “And so far, that’s working out really well. We’ve literally had an artist who’s making a record in the studio hear something coming out of the control room that they love; they go talk to the writer; next thing you know, they’re working together. Next thing, our writers are on that person’s record.”
KMG’s seven signings are
- Aaron Paris (whose credits include work with Kanye West, Drake, and DJ Khalid);
- Chris LaRocca (Bryson Tiller, Stray Kids, and LU KALA);
- Eli Brown (Drake, Chris Brown, and Jaden Smith);
- harper (Vince Spales, Sevyn Streeter, and TOBi);
- Mido (Don Tolliver and Skaiwater);
- Prince85 (The Weeknd, Lil Wayne, and 21 Savage); and
- Runway (DZL, Charmaine, Sylo).
The four biggest current stories associated with Kilometre’s roster, they say, are harper’s Waiting Room EP, which came out in late March of 2023 on Cult Nation; Chris LaRocca’s Perhaps EP, just out on Red Bull/Wonderchild; Aaron Paris, executive producer and co-writer for Atlanta-based rapper Russ’s upcoming project; and Prince85’s “Die For You,” which went to No 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the first quarter of 2023, making it “probably the number one resurgence story of a song in many, many years,” says McCarty. “It’s a six-year-old song and went viral on TikTok, which pushed it back into the Hot 100. The Weeknd released a new remix with Ariana Grande, which pushed it to No. 1. It was No. 1 at radio, No. 2 in the world for awhile, and it also dragged the album back into the charts, too. And we have, like, 12 cuts on that album.”
But in keeping with their mindset of fostering talent, the majority of the people working out of Kilometre House aren’t signed to KMG.
“It’s intended to be like a Times Square or Dundas Square of music creators, and we’re creating the culture here,” says McCarty. “Our goal is that this will become the epicenter of music creation in Canada that reaches the world market. And so, the next wave of globally successful music that comes out of Canada, we want to come through Kilometre House. And we’re convinced it will, and we’re convinced our writers will be a big part of it.”
Six of the seven signings are Canadian. But curiously, for a company which originally set out to “re-patriate, reclaim, re-assemble the rights of the great Canadian songs,” one of the signings is from Paris, France: Prince85, a writer on The Weeknd’s chart-recurring smash, “Die For You.”
“Our mission is to create a music publishing super-cluster in our area that harnesses the past and current creative power of Canadian artists, which helps take it to the world market and brings the revenue back into Canada, which creates a virtuous circle,” McCarty explains. “So the Canadian component is central to what we do, but we’re not stupid: we want to be the world center of catalogues and current music talent. We’ve got several catalogues that aren’t Canadian, and now we’ve got one writer who’s not Canadian. It helps build the entire company.”