Nearly everyone who walks into Fiore Botanica remarks on the same thing: the mesmerizing smell. “The first thing they do when they walk into the store is say ‘Oh my God, this smells amazing,’” says Kathleen Quinlan, a certified aromatherapist who runs the natural skincare and homecare company with her business partner, Phaedra Charlton-Huskins, in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

But while lingering over the royal blue bottles of handmade creams and potions that adorn the shelves of their well-kept shop, many visitors also start tuning in to what they’re hearing, Quinlan says.

“For the shopping experience of our clients, music is extremely important”, she explains. “Everyone comments on it. It’s rare that someone doesn’t say ‘I loved the music. I loved shopping here.’”

That’s why Fiore Botanica boasts a Licensed to Play (L2P) sticker in their front window, letting patrons and passersby alike know that they are among the more than 30,000 stores, bars and restaurants across the country who support Canadian music creators.

“For the shopping experience of our clients, music is extremely important.”

“It’s something that’s really important for us,” says Quinlan. “And when other retailers have asked me what it is, I proudly explain it to them. Some have said ‘Well, is it really that important?” I break it down for them with, ‘Well, is it important for you to get paid when someone buys something in your store?’”

While Quinlan, who makes all of Fiore Botanica’s merchandise herself on the premises, started creating her products in 1997 after receiving her accreditation as an aromatherapist, it took her until 2009 before she began selling them publicly – and even then it was online (Quinlan was then based in Montréal), rather than in a bricks-and-mortar shop.

“I know the process I had to go through for many years to figure out how to make a product,” says Quinlan. “I know all the hours it took.”

That’s why she is so passionate about supporting music creators, who she sees as exercising their own creativity. “I think of the process that someone goes through when they are creating music or writing a lyric,” Quinlan explains. “I appreciate and need to be paid for what I create, and I think it’s very important that if we’re using music, that we pay for it.”

Quinlan credits her own upbringing, as well as her musical relatives – the members of The Good Brothers are her cousins, as are Dallas and Travis Good of The Sadies –for her love of music and her support for musicians. She grew up in Douro, a small Ontario village not far from Peterborough, where nearly everyone played an instrument. Quinlan herself played fiddle in a family band, along with her siblings. “In our family there were always lots of instruments around,” she recalls. “And if you didn’t have them, you borrowed from your neighbour.”

It’s one of the reasons she’s taken such a liking to Lunenburg, a town with a healthy artistic and musical community. In a turquoise-fronted shop on the main drag, Quinlan and Charlton-Huskins opened for business in 2015, after a two-year stint in Liverpool, on Nova Scotia’s south shore.

And things are busy at Fiore Botanica: as well as recently scoring some hotel amenity contracts, Quinlan is proud of the fact that her products were included in gift bags given to the stars at the 2016 Golden Globe awards (where they also graced the celebrity gift lounge), and at the MTV Movie Awards. The company’s line of baby products was also recently gifted to 21 celebrity mothers, including Alanis Morissette, in Los Angeles. “That was very exciting!” she laughs.

As well as proudly displaying their Licensed to Play sticker, both Quinlan and Charlton-Huskins are doing what they can to support SOCAN members in other ways, too. Fiore Botanica provided products for those artists participating in the second annual Kenekt Song Camp, held at Nova Scotia’s Shobac Cottages in May of 2016. “We were proud to do that,” Quinlan says. “We would continue to do anything like that, that would support the creation of music.”

After all, for Quinlan music is a critical part of her life, and has been vital to Fiore Botanica’s success with customers. “We’re never in the store without the music on,” she says simply. “It’s an intrinsic part of everyone’s experience in our store.”

That’s why she’s so passionate that other business owners also secure their SOCAN licenses. “I hope every retailer who turns on a radio has one,” she says, “because if you’re using music to enhance your business, you should have your SOCAN License to Play sticker.”

In trying to trace her own professional track record, publisher Diane Pinet – the founder of Bloc-Notes Music Publishing – acknowledges that such an endeavour is fraught with gaps and lapses. It’s been a long while indeed since this headstrong music impassionata started evolving in the music world.

Even in high school, she would promote concerts by Jean-Pierre Ferland to Harmonium. “Back then, I had no clue one could even earn a living doing that,” says Pinet. During a student strike at cégep Saint-Laurent, where she was a student, booker Alain Paré tapped her to work with him. She accepted immediately and kept working through her university studies on a path that that would ultimately lead her to the copyrights world, at SDE/PRO, one of SOCAN’s precursor organizations. When the day came where she toyed with the idea of changing her career to go into advertising, her musician, writer and composer friends urged her to start her own publishing company instead. And that’s what she did in 1985, creating Bloc-Notes Music Publishing.

“Back then, rights were tiny,” says Pinet. “I was frustrated with how little money the writers and composers made. Even for artists who had a number one, some were often living below the poverty line. I had a lot of difficulty with that situation. I had a very hard time dealing with that.”

Right from the start, Bloc-Notes Music Publishing stood out because of the international nature of its catalogue. Pinet spent a lot of time in France working on agreements. To gain credibility in this very masculine world, she told people she had a boss, a man. “People thought I must’ve been really efficient, since my ‘virtual’ boss was sending me on business trips so often…”  That’s when she signed a sup-publishing deal for the entire Virgin France catalogue.

This privileged link with France is still as strong now that Bloc-Notes has become the sub-publisher of the prestigious Warner Chappell France catalogue. For Pinet, the idea that a song must travel beyond it’s original territory is self-evident, even essential. “A good song knows no bounds,” she says. “I think that comes from my education. I moved to many different countries when I was young. I lived in France and the U.K. My dad worked in the Canadian Air Force. So to me, no matter where I am, there’s always something wonderful to do.”

It clearly served her well, as is evident through her work, and collaborations with writers, composers and singers such as Céline Dion, Luc Plamondon, Patrick Bruel, Gerry Boulet, Gipsy Kings, Cirque du Soleil (René Dupéré), and Marie-Mai, as well as with songwriters who’ve been certified Gold, Platinum and won many SOCAN No. 1 Song Awards such as Tino Izzo, Diane Cadieux, Bobby John, Fred St-Gelais, Bobby Bazini, Sally Folk and Stéphane Dufour, to name but a few.

“What I’m looking for when I listen to a song is that shiver of pleasure down my spine. You can’t be in this line of work for as long as I have without a deep love of music.”

To this day, Pinet still cultivates relationships all over the world. Just a few days before our conversation, the businesswoman had finalized an agreement with Warner Chappell U.S. after months of negotiations. “There’s no single way of doing business, but a multitude of ways,” she says. “The Québec market has nothing in common with the Canadian market. Just as the American market has nothing in common with the French or Japanese markets. And I’m not talking politics, here. Not at all. When you work on a global scale, what matters most is availability. A capacity for reacting quickly and adapting. I must be able to completely re-think a business plan in less than 24 hours. To me, such nimbleness and flexibility is where [a music publisher’s] creativity comes in.”

Whether such agreements are concluded with major players or independent ones doesn’t matter to Pinet; what drives her is the contact with the writers and composers she represents. “What I’m looking for when I listen to a song is that shiver of pleasure down my spine,” she says. “You can’t be in this line of work for as long as I have without a deep love of music. I still get a huge thrill when I hear new music, when songwriters come to my office to play a new song for me. It’s a gift.”

Her ties with songwriters are so precious that this so-called “song manager” grooms them through songwriting workshops in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. “I pushed Bobby John to participate in a songwriting camp in Toronto with 40 other creators for the Pan American games,” she recalls. “In the end, the song he wrote with Jasmine Denham and Murray Daigle, ‘Together We Are One,’  was selected as the theme song for the games. And it was Serena Ryder who sang the song, which won a SOCAN No. 1 Song Award. But in the end, the journey of a writer or composer is always unique and specific to each and every one of them. What’s good for Betty Bonifassi is not necessarily good for Fred St-Gelais.”

Pinet has seen her trade transform for better and worse, but she still sees the new challenges facing creators, producers and publishers in a positive light. She’s impatient to see the results of the 2017 Copyright Act review which, she hopes, will see the extension of the protection from 50 to 70 years for creators, as is already the case in France, Italy and Brazil.  “I also hope that the revision will give us the necessary tools so that our writers, composers, and creators are better represented with regards to the use of their work, and more urgently than ever with all the technological changes going on in our world.”

Through this turmoil, Pinet embraces the challenge as an opportunity to gather all the players in the music ecosystem – from the creators to the various associations across the country – around a common cause. “Our culture is a reflection of who we are.”

Before they can actually earn a living solely through their art, most artists go through an in-between period where, in the course of a single day, they can go from the harsh reality of a mindless job to being a star on stage. When we spoke with singer Marcie on the phone for this interview, she was exactly at that point in her life. She is taking a break from work – captioning TV shows for the hearing-impaired – to tell us about her recent adventures in France where she was opening for veterans Mickey 3D.

For the time being, she’s quite content with the in-between zone. “I’m happy because I have a flexible schedule that allows me to go on tour, so it’s very reassuring,” she says. “I like my job and I like making music; so for now, I’m quite content with it.” Since being a finalist at the 2013 Francouvertes (alongside Les Hay Babies and Dead Obies), Marcie alternates between creative periods and simply enjoying life, a time where she “accumulates the emotions that will end up nourishing my songs, which I tend to write in big batches, rather than piecemeal.”

Following her debut album in 2013, which was produced by Ludo Pin, she recently launched an EP where she explores new textures. Produced with help from Dany Placard and Louis Philippe Gingras, the four-track recording is more raw, and includes a Françoise Hardy cover (the magnificent “Ma Jeunesse Fout l’Camp”) and a stunning song,“Puisque,” where she sings that she’ll either become a pop singer or a nun, a tongue-in-cheek line that’s more of a joke than a threat.

“I’ve been listening to a lot of religious music lately, I guess it had an impact,” says Marcie. “I’m an atheist, but there’s something so pure in the emotions expressed by that music.” Besides the music of John Littleton – a Louisiana resident who popularized what used to be called “negro spirituals” in France – she’s also been deeply into the music of a 1960s Québec duo, Les Messagères de Joie (The Messengers of Joy).

“My friend Marianne found their first album in a yard sale and she just flipped on the album cover, where you see two nuns: one with a huge crucifix pendant, and the other holding a guitar,” says Marcie. “We thought we’d die laughing when we’d listen to it, but that’s not what happened; the writing was simply sublime. Sure, it talks about Jesus, but it goes beyond that… There’s something poetic about it, especially on the song ‘Je sais que tu es beau’ (‘I Know You’re Beautiful’) which moved me deeply.” Marcie was so moved that she contacted the Messagères’ songwriter, Nanette Bilodeau – known as Sister Wilfrid Marie back in the day –  to do a cover of the song. She’s even developed a friendship with the lively octogenarian, and they see each other regularly.

Although she’s not planning on going into religious music full-time, Marcie still hoping the divine inspiration won’t abandon her soon. She already has a few songs ready, and hopes to release a new album next fall, God willing. We’ll do our part and light up votive candles, in the hope\ that she doesn’t end up in a convent.