March 24, 2016 was a watershed moment for the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs. The franchise was in a youth-centric rebuild, complete with requisite experience-gaining losses.

On this night, though, there were signs of a brighter future. The Leafs would push the playoff-bound Anaheim Ducks with a dramatic 6-5 overtime victory at the Scotiabank Arena (then known as Air Canada Centre). Emerging star defender Morgan Rielly had two points, then-rookies Zach Hyman, Garret Sparks and William Nylander earned valuable time, and homegrown forward Nazeem Kadri scored two goals, including the winner.

Best, perhaps, was that the official Leafs goal song at that time – “Feeling Good” by Saskatoon rockers The Sheepdogs – blasted throughout the arena six different times.

In the strange universe where sports and the music that gets played in arenas and stadiums meet, a goal — or touchdown, or home run — hold a special spot. They bind a team’s supporters to a joyous, positive sonic experience that can often stay with fans for years, or even decades. But a “goal” song is just one of many kinds of signature music that gets played at Leafs games. An average Leafs game will have 80 or so whistle-stoppages through its 60 minutes of play, on top of 17-minute breaks between periods, and a 16-minute pre-game warmup. This makes for a lot of music to cue up for the 18,800 fans at each Leafs game, and every song is meticulously curated by team staff.

“Across all of our teams, music is so important,” says Anton Wright, Director of Game Presentation for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). “We use music to motivate the players, music engages our fans, and it connects to each and every fan. We choose music that we know our players are going to enjoy, and that motivates them, and music for each situation… we want our music to connect to the moment, each and every time.”

Anton, a full-time staff of 25, and  game day staff that can reach into the hundreds manage everything that happens in the building (besides the players playing the game), for the various MLSE teams, including the Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Argos, Toronto FC, Toronto Marlies, and Raptors 905. Central to every one of these games is music.

For Leafs games Wright, and Leafs game day DJ Cale Granton, create pools of songs which can be cued up to match specific in-game events. Besides obvious things like goal and victory songs, there are songs the Leafs use for things like referee reviews, songs to signal the end of intermissions, songs for when opponents get penalties. Throughout a season, songs will get swapped in and out of these situational playlists. If the crowd responds well to a song, it stays. If they don’t, staff look for something else in that spot.

Play-by-Play: How much does a song earn?
Payments for use of songs used at games in hockey arenas vary widely because of the sizes of the venues, the number of songs used, the number of times the song is used, and other variables. In 2017, the average annual license fees collected from 20,000-seat arenas in Canada was in the low six figures (more than $100,000), and the amount earned per work played – which is sub-divided from the fees collected, according to the total duration of each work, and various other calculations – was in the low four figures (from $1,000 to $5,000).

An ever-changing playlist of EDM, hip-hop, and uptempo pop gets played during Leafs warmups, while locals-made-good like Drake and Shawn Mendes, and stadium all-timers like Guns n’ Roses, AC/DC, Pitbull, and Eminem, usually get cued up every game. Then there are the classics. The Tragically Hip’s “Fifty Mission Cap” gets played at every Saturday Leafs game. So does Arkells’ “Saturday Night.” And at every Leafs tilt, Stompin’ Tom Connors’ “The Hockey Song.” “We play that every single game. It’s a great ritual,” says Wright of Connors’ 1973 ode.

Acts who’ve been played at Scotiabank Arena certainly know their value. Hamilton soul-rockers Arkells have had “Saturday Night,” “Knocking at the Door,” “People’s Champ,” “Oh, The Boss is Coming!,” and a number of other songs played at Leafs and Raptors games. Sports placements are never top-of-mind when trying to write songs, but they’re certainly considered afterwards.

“We’re not ever writing something with the hope that it ends up in a certain spot in culture,” says Arkells lead singer Max Kerman. “But as we’re getting towards the finish line, we’re getting jacked on the song, and we’re playing a song real loud in the studio, the first thing my mind goes to is how it’s going to feel live, and after that it’s, ‘OH! this could be somebody’s first dance song,’ or ‘This could be played at a hockey game,’ or ‘This could be on somebody’s running playlist,’ or something.”

Having a popular sports jam can also sometimes lead to moments of perfect serendipity. The same year that the Leafs were using The Sheepdogs’ “Feeling Good” as their goal song, the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team also used it as their victory song. Sheepdogs lead singer Ewan Currie attended a lot of Jays games, and got to experience some strong mic-drop moments. “I’d be sitting in the stadium, and when they’d record the final out, I’d go, ‘Hit my theme music,’ and of course the song would come on,” says Currie. “That felt pretty good.”

While those moments clearly feel good, they also have business value, not only in royalties, but exposure. “That’s been a very conscious piece of our business,” says Max Kerman. “If the song ends up in a TV show, or on the radio, or in a sports montage, or in the arena, that’s just a great opportunity for new ears, and for new people to hear you.”

USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) had their 2014 single “Yin Yang” adopted by the Edmonton Oilers, and more recently used by Sportsnet as their official NHL playoff theme song during game broadcasts. If the actual dollar value of such things remains unclear, their strategic value does.

“Placements give new life to music, and it also becomes a current talking point,” says USS DJ Jason “Human Kebab” Parsons. “You definitely notice that streaming numbers go up. Also, going into the 2019 summer festival season, we almost got this universal advertisement before we even play any shows. It definitely lends itself to some bigger opportunities.”

The business benefits are secondary to MLSE, though. Their goal is to create an entertaining experience — one with a specific outcome. “We hope that the music is motivating for our players,” says Wright. “I hope it happens every single game, where we’re doing that for our players, because that’s part of the job… motivating the guys for that big win.”



This article is the first in a series we’ll be bringing you, called “Interfacing,” about the innovative companies we’re working with here at SOCAN.  The author, Ryan Maule, oversees this work, focused on finding those companies and integrating them with our services, ensuring that SOCAN members can access the best tools the music tech industry has to offer.

About $2 billion. According to industry trade magazine Variety, that’s how much in unpaid royalties that creatives are missing out on. Do you ever wonder why so many royalties are going unpaid? The answer is as obvious as it is complex — payers don’t know who deserves to be paid. That’s right, sometimes royalties sit in a holding pattern, because contributors aren’t accurately notated within the song. SOCAN understands the pain that this causes, and we’re always trying to find ways to make submitting this information easier. That’s why we want to introduce you to a new partner of ours, Jammber.

Based out of Nashville and Chicago, Jammber is an innovative music tech company that has developed a suite of tools for every step of the songwriting process. Each tool is designed to collect all of the required data that you, and SOCAN, need in order to collect your royalties.

“Creatives care a lot about their credits and their pay, they just need better tools to manage their career. At Jammber, our mission is to ‘make way for music.’ This means working to clear the many obstacles creatives face in the music industry and empowering them to maximize their success,” says Marcus Cobb, CEO and Co-Founder of Jammber. “We spent years researching and learning about each step of the creative process, to understand how to ease pain-points for artists, songwriters and the industry, as a whole.”

The most common challenge that artists and songwriters shared with the company was that they weren’t getting credit, or timely payment for their work. Jammber tackled this problem head-on. Jammber Splits revolutionizes how you manage co-writes. Songwriters can now say goodbye to the hassle of paper songwriting split sheets, and the uncertainty of handshake deals.

Splits captures songwriting share splits in real time. You’re able to plan and add co-write sessions with just a couple clicks of a button. During your co-write, the app collects all the vital information from your co-writer(s), such as the date of the song creation, info about the publisher, and affiliation with any performing rights organization. Once all writers agree to their ownership percentages, you’ll be able to register your new song with SOCAN.

“Throughout the process of building Splits, we worked closely with songwriters around the world, investing millions, and making hundreds of iterations until they gave us their stamp of approval. Establishing ownership of a song at the point of creation is crucial,” says Cobb. We agree!

Having the power to capture your percentage of ownership in a song at the point of creation, and simplifying the collection of metadata — which is essential to earning royalties — is a game-changer for songwriters. The ability to have all the necessary metadata for a song means you’ll get faster and more accurate royalty payments. This means never missing out on a royalty check again!

Jammber has invited SOCAN writers to be a part of their BETA testing group. As a member of the BETA team, you’ll have full access to Splits before it’s released to the general public. To join the beta, visit http://splitsbeta.jammber.com.

“Being able to share the Splits app with SOCAN clients is an important moment for Jammber. We believe in your art, and want you to have tools to help grow your business,” says Cobb.

The ultimate mission for Jammber is to eliminate the obstacles creators face within the music industry. Splits is just the tip of the iceberg. Jammber has developed multiple other tools for creators that streamline the creative and administrative processes, from the conception of a song, to recording it, to overall project management.

Our goal at SOCAN is to make it easier for you, the creator, to bring your ideas into reality, and to ensure that you get paid for your work.  By working with companies like Jammber, we’re working to enable you to do more, and do it more quickly and easily. Stay tuned for even more down the road.

For more information about Jammber, visit www.Jammber.com, and visit the SOCAN Partner page in the secure portal to find out more about the other opportunities we have cooking.  If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me, Ryan Maule, at ryan.maule@socan.com.

 



A strange confusion grips the listener at the end of Le Phénix, il était plusieurs fois, Dramatik’s third solo album, which concludes with a Gospel-rap number unequivocally titled “Miracle.” The ecstatic MC proclaims, “Le bonheur est si simple, le soleil est si synchro/ J’étais triste ce matin, mais les rayons étaient comme une boussole/ Ouvre les stores et ouvre la porte, nous voulons porter la nouvelle aux gens” (“Happiness is so simple, the sun is in synch / I was sad this morning, its rays were like a compass / Open the curtains and open the door, we want to take the Good News to the people”).

Dramatik

Photo: Drowster

Yet many of the 11 previous tracks, for which he;s written all the music, offer a bleak portrait of our era’s woes: domestic violence and toxic masculinity (“Enuff”); having the drama of one’s origins running through one’s veins (“Ghetto génétik [tome 5]”); broken youth (“Épicentre jeunesse”); and the alienation of the 9-to-5 life (“Ô ciel”). Has the man proclaiming a miracle actually listened to the rest of his album?

“I stutter when I speak, and I don’t when I rap. Don’t you think that’s a miracle?,” Dramatik shoots back, loquacious as ever – despite his speech impediment, which indeed is miraculously cured the moment a beat comes out of the speakers and he grabs a mic.

“The fact that the neighbourhood is really disgusting doesn’t mean I can’t say the rose is truly beautiful,” he adds. He explains that his profession of faith towards life might seem contradictory, but is, in fact, proof of the realistic optimism he’s chosen to embrace. “I intentionally included a moment of silence before “Miracle,” because miracles never occur when you think they will. “Miracle” is also to express that I am a being of light, that we all are beings of light, and that we need to let it shine through!”

Interviewing Dramatik is a master class on the art of dropping rhymes over a looped beat. The virtuoso rapper’s flow is versatile, but the 42-year-old Montréaler nevertheless restrains himself on Le Phénix, il était plusieurs fois. As he puts it, “three Ferrero Rocher chocolates is better than 33 of them. You take you time and savour them. Endless rhyme patterns only end up exhausting the listener.”

“To age gracefully, you need to constantly sharpen your blade, and that happens in your brain.”

He does whip out his verbal machine gun on a few rare occasions, notably on “Let It Go,” the mesmerizing confession of an anxiety-ridden person. “My super-fast flow at the end of that song is to express how I’m fighting to stay sane. If I had sped like that for four bars, it wouldn’t have been cool. I used to do that, I wanted to flex, but when you get to the half-point of your life, you calm down.”

Despite the fact that it’s a dark social chronicle, Le Phénix, il était plusieurs fois remains, at its core, a call for universal love. Dramatik’s partner La Dame and their eleven-year-old daughter Ruby both have cameos on this atypical family album.

“We should’ve dressed in red and posed in front of a fireplace with imp hats,” jokes the father of four. Dramatik joins another dad, Dubmatique’s Disoul, on “Debout” – a serene ode to the soothing passage of time. “We like to come across as dangerous in rap, but we don’t say enough how much children change us and make us more stable, says Dramatik. “You even eat better when you have kids!”

It becomes clear that the man who, in “Enuff,” perpetuates the violence of which he was a victim during his childhood, is purely fictitious. “Yes, it’s a character, but I used some of what I went through, and I breathed through his nose with my own air,” says Dramatik. “When I was a kid, other kids were scared of me because I would hit them and bully them. I wasn’t well, I wanted to off-load. I went to school filled with rage. Then one day, a principal told me, ‘Bruno, what you are looking for is love.’ Right away, I pushed back: ‘Fuck love, man!’ But he was right.”

On Nov. 3, 1999, during an interview with his former group Muzion for the weekly paper Voir, the journalist wrote that it was a shame radio stations still didn’t play “La Vi Ti Neg,” one of the most powerful hymns of Québec solidarity ever recorded. “An utterly ridiculous situation, given the song’s obvious potential for popularity,” he said back then. “Frankly, disheartening… The worst of it is, I’m convinced the kids of the guys who decided what’s going to play on the radio do listen to Muzion.”

Twenty years later, the children of those decision-makers have apparently not yet unseated their elders from the most popular FM stations, because Québec rap is only timidly celebrated by them.

“Radio wants to hear the joual accent (the Québecois Francophone accent),” the veteran rapper surmises. “They want to recognize themselves. I think it’s a thing having to do with protecting the Québécois heritage. Which is crazy, because I was born here, I am Québécois, I eat poutine, and I watched Chambres en ville [a very popular TV show for teens that ran from 1989 to 1996 on TVA].

Writing Tip: Feng Shui
“When the beat starts, I let myself go. It’s a kind of feng shui. I ride on the beat, and if I start losing my breath, it means something’s not right, there’s a lack of feng shui. When I lose my breath, it’s often because I use too many stylistic devices, and when that happens, there’s a real risk that the idea I want to express won’t come across clearly.”

Would he go as far as calling it racism? Dramatik smiles. “It’s not racism,” he says. “It’s just extreme faint-heartedness. But take notice: Blacks in TV ads have a joual accent. It’s like there’s a memo that says you can’t scare people away. We want our Blacks to not be too Black. Thankfully, radio no longer has a monopoly of influence, but there’s still a certain prestige attached to it.”

And what about the Muzion reunion on “Shadow,” one of the new album highlights? Is it the sign of a bona fide reunion? “It’s possible!” says Dramatik. “I lit the torch to make sure it wasn’t wet, and could still be lit. I also wanted to show that Muzion is still one of the sharpest bands on the mic.”

Clearly, to him, rap isn’t just for the young ones. “Hell no!,” he says. “But to age gracefully, you need to constantly sharpen your blade, and that happens in your brain. It’s like the old Chinese folks who do tai chi, and do the splits at 80: the trick is consistency and discipline. What people look for in rap is something extraordinary, something “wow.” Rap is like magic, you can’t always rely on your old tricks, and you need to be in top shape to come up with new ones.”