Michael McCarty is leaving SOCAN on Nov. 30, 2020, after seven years as our Chief Membership & Business Development Officer, which included such huge accomplishments as bringing Drake and Joni Mitchell back as members; re-branding membership recruitment staff as the cooler, more talent-friendly “A&R”; and making some tech decisions that helped bring more royalties to creators, more quickly and accurately. McCarty will be providing consulting services until April 2021, to help transition to what’s next.
“I started looking back on what my job was when I came in, which was to re-build the membership, and get all the people back that we’d lost, [and] make sure we keep the next generation of top creators and publishers. When you look at it from that point of view, it’s mission accomplished,” says McCarty, who was inducted into the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame in 2019 after more than 40 years in the business.
McCarty comes from a creative background. A drummer himself, he started his career in the 1970s as a recording engineer and producer working for the late Jack Richardson (The Guess Who) and Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel) in Toronto. His first industry job was as creative manager at ATV Music Group Canada, then on to CBS/SBK and SBK Records and Publishing in Los Angeles. He made his biggest mark as President of EMI Music Publishing Canada for 17 years, signing and developing such acts as Billy Talent, Sum 41, Three Days Grace, Alexisonfire, LEN, esthero, The Matthew Good Band, and Moist. Then, in 2009, after EMI was sold, he became the President of music publishing company ole for three years.
When SOCAN brought him in, his job was two-fold: Chief Membership Officer, responsible for recruiting, retaining, and re-patriating members (the three Rs), and Business Development Officer, helping to bring SOCAN into the 21st Century, get songwriters paid more quickly and efficiently, and make sure no potential royalties were falling through the cracks.
As the Chief Membership Officer, one of his first moves was to re-build the department and create an A&R team. “You have to have talent assessment skills,” says McCarty. “You have to have a nose for who’s going to be important. You have to have talent development skills. How does a person get from point a to point B in the industry and how can we help them do that? Or how can we, using that knowledge, know where the next stars are? And then, finally, you have to have people networking skills. So it’s A&R. It doesn’t matter what you call it.”
The department “knocked it out of the park,” he boasts. “We re-patriated virtually everybody we lost,” naming Drake, Boi-1da, Noah “40” Shebib, The Weeknd, Shawn Mendes, Alessia Cara, as well as the legendary Joni Mitchell.
As the Business Development Officer, he says, “One of the seeds that I’ve sewn that I’m most excited about is we developed this API strategy — [API stands for] application programming interface — that’s a fancy way of saying, it’s a way that one computer platform talks to another.
“I believe unshakably that in the future [of] the worldwide music industry, from creation to distribution to consumption, is going to be one giant, seamlessly integrated network. And in order to participate in that network, you have to use APIs.
“So we have APIs now for virtually every capability of our platform. For instance, registering songs or registering concerts with us,” he says, referring to the creation of SOCAN Labs, which came up with a new member portal that recommends set lists to an artist based on their previous submissions. SOCAN also partnered with Calgary’s Muzooka, a metadata-sharing app for the live music ecosystem.
“They built a connection to our APIs, so that if you’re a SOCAN member using the Muzooka app, you can get into your SOCAN account, look up your repertoire, make a set list. Then you press a button and send that set list and all the concert information to us,” McCarty says. “That’s been incredibly successful. We’re processing hundreds of concerts that way, which makes it easy for the member and more efficient for us.”
McCarty isn’t revealing yet exactly what he’ll do next, but he says it will involve re-patriating Canadian intellectual property.
“Canadian music is killing it,” he says. “The problem is that almost all the intellectual property [IP] has left the country, is owned by non-Canadian companies, and almost none of the intellectual property revenue, copyright revenue, comes back to Canada,” he says. “My passion is going to be built around re-patriating the IP, and revenue from the IP, in order to help ensure a sustainable ecosystem for future generations of Canadian creators, so that we can keep the success train rolling.”