This year marked the 20th anniversary of the publishing house Ad Litteram by Guillaume Lombart and his then business partner, David Murphy. It’s the perfect opportunity to take heed of the distance travelled, not only by the publisher and his roster of artists, but also of the whole business, which – in Québec, as elsewhere – has had to adapt to the tremendous upheaval brought about by the digital revolution.

Ad LitteramBesides founding Ad Litteram, Guillaume Lombart was also among the founding members of the Association des professionnels de l’édition musicale (APEM), in 2002, alongside five other independent publishers: Daniel Lafrance, Sébastien Nasra, Carol Ryan, Jehan V. Valiquet, and the late Christopher J. Reed. Reed’s name was attached, in 2013, to an annual award presented by the association, to a music publisher whose “whose contribution to the exercise and recognition of the profession of musical publishing is exceptional.”

As a sign of the times, APEM counted only seven independent publishers among its members when it was created, and there are currently about 50. “I’m really proud of that,” says Lombart. “That was APEM’s primary objective: the profession needed to be structured and promoted. It was a trade in development.” Although it had always played it important role in the music industry, publishing seems to have gained in importance over time.

This, for the publisher, is a situation that reflects the direction the music industry has taken. “What mattered before was the song,” says Lombart. “A good song could be covered by everybody. Then, it was the opposite: artists wanted to preserve their exclusivity over a good song. In doing so, the industry had put the artist first, which pushed songwriters backstage. It goes without saying that the publishers, who represent the songwriters, were also in the shadows. The situation has changed now, partly because singer-songwriters are more in the forefront of the music scene. As publisher, our role is to be by their side during their creative process, of course, but also in all of their activities.” And that includes producing an album, or planning a concert or a tour. “That has greatly changed the way we work,” he adds.

Publisher 2.0

Traditionally, the job of a publisher was to manage the rights and royalties of a creator’s works, but Lombart says that this has evolved considerably. Over the years, he’s grown Ad Litteram into a structure that produces records, and shows, and which now operates a subsidiary, LiveToune, that offers a service for audiovisual recording and broadcasting online.

Obviously, the de-materialization of recorded musical works, and the complexity of online transactions that resulted, have also given some clout back to the publishing trade. “Sure, it has complicated what being a publisher means,” says Lombart. “You see, a new, emerging media doesn’t make everything else disappear; it all accumulates. The publisher who showed me the ropes used to work with composers who worked in his office; they wrote songs and sheet music and he sent that out to orchestras. His revenue stemmed from the performance right. Then radio came along, so he started producing records on top of that. As a matter of fact, in France, they refer to record labels as ‘phonographic publishing.’ Nowadays, I generally refer to it as audiovisual publishing, which includes content broadcast online.

“A new, emerging media doesn’t make everything else disappear; it all accumulates.” – Guillaume Lombart of Ad Litteram

“I consider that administration [of the catalogue of works represented by a publisher] should, as in any other company, represent about 15% of the workload. The rest is artist development and promotion. The thing is, when you’re a publisher, you can’t do everything. There are projects we simply can’t handle because we don’t have the required infrastructure, for example. Take the production of an album: we’ll help with recording the demos, and funding, but we’ll ask a record label for their help with the rest. Same for concerts.” To Lombart, the solution was obvious: become a publisher, a record producer, and a concert promoter.

He is, he admits, most interested in the artist development side of his trade. “It’s the core,” he says. “However, all of those other activities – records, shows, AV production – remains a means to generate publishing revenues, which is to say that Ad Litteram’s main activity is publishing. That’s our business model.”

More than 30 artists and bands depend on Ad Litteram’s six employees for the management of their publishing rights, and sometimes also for their record and show productions and management: Pilou/Peter Henry Phillips, Steve Hill, Renard Blanc, Simon Kingsbury, Moran, Gilles Bélanger and the Douze Hommes Rapaillés project, among others. Florence K and Martin Deschamps recently joined the roster. Lombart’s job, he says, “is to give lyricists and songwriters the financial, human, and sometimes technological means to achieve their projects. The tough part of our trade is building a catalogue of works that’s sizeable enough to regularly generate revenues that are sufficient enough for us to re-invest in new projects.”

Ad Litteram’s 20th year was marked by big decisions, says Lombart. First there was a deal with a German partner to represent Ad Litteram’s catalogue for all of Europe. They had a similar agreement in place for the French market, and they manage, as a sub-publisher, the catalogues of Éditions Beuscher Arpège (Édith Piaf, Nino Ferrer, etc.) and Melody Nelson Publishing (Serge Gainsbourg), among others. Second was the development of a similar partnership with an American publisher, to develop, in 2019 and 2020, new projects in the U.S. “It’s a lot of work,” says Lombart, “but what I’m proudest of is that our artists stick with us.”

Ria Mae

Ria Mae

Over the past several years, SOCAN has organized and hosted its annual Kenekt Song Camps in British Columbia, Québec, and Nicaragua. Now, SOCAN is pleased and proud to report that some of the songs created at those camps are seeing the light of day with commercial releases, assisting the co-writers and performers, and their record companies and music publishers, in furthering their careers.

Begonia’s brand-new seasonal song, “It Won’t be Christmas (Till You’re Here)” – co-written with Wes Marksell and Jason Crouse of  Darcys – was created at the 2017 SOCAN Kenekt Song Camp on Pender Island, BC, inspired by community – and the cold.

“Wes and Jason’s production room was in this beautiful cabin overlooking the ocean,” says Begonia (a.k.a. Alexa Dirks), “BUT IT HAD NO HEAT! We were drawing a blank on where to start that day, but we were freezing cold, so we let that inspire us and decided to write a Christmas song! We basically used every holiday-related word we could think of: mistletoe, snow, fire, gifts, reindeer, stockings… and CHRISTMAS, FIVE MILLION TIMES! We finished the song and showed the [full] songwriting group at the end of the day. A few people laughed, while others said that it was kind of annoying and                                                                                                 that they couldn’t get the chorus out of their heads… I think this song reflects both our experience                                                                                                     at the retreat, and the spirit of the holidays!”

Savannah Re, Ralph

Savannah Ré, Ralph

Inspired more by the thought of a hot climate than the experience of a cold one, Samito, Rymz, and (with later contributions from Realmind and Connor Seidel) co-wrote “Sunny Day,” which became a hit for Rymz (feat. Samito) at the 2018 SOCAN Kenekt Quebec Song Camp, in Rabaska Lodge, on the shores of the Baskatong Lake, in the Laurentians. The song is published by Maisonnette and Joyride.

“It was the last day at the camp,” says Samito. “After breakfast, I bumped into Rymz while heading to the recording studio. Neither of us had a very clear plan for the day. Rymz said, ‘Yo! Let’s do a song… I feel like doing something tropical.’ We decided to go see Neo who, in just a few minutes, cooked us up a beat with an amazing vibe. Fifteen minutes later, Rymz had written and recorded an intro and a verse. I then jumped on the mic and recorded a chorus and a verse… The vibe in Neo’s studio was so amazing that we were done in an hour.”

Says Rymz, “Personally, I love getting out of big-city stress and working on music all day, from dawn ‘til dusk. I also appreciated the fact that everyone at the camp was a seasoned professional.”

Matthew V, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, Robyn Dell'Unto

Matthew V, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, Robyn Dell’Unto

Rymz was also a co-writer – along with Stephanie Boulay and Ingrid St-Pierre – of Boulay’s single “Sorbet Collant,” also created at the SOCAN Kenekt Québec Song Camp, produced by Connor Seidel, and published by dare to Care and Joyride. In fact, Boulay was so inspired and touched by her experience there, that she released an official video for another song, “Des histoires qui ne seront jamais finies,” entirely composed of footage she shot at the camp by Boulay and Xavier Martel (of Forum).

Ria Mae’s last two songs uploaded to YouTube, the acoustic “It’s Not Me It’s You” (co-written with Lowell, Nathan Ferraro, and Scott Effman [ASCAP], published by Concord Music, Hyvetown Music Publishing, Kobalt Music Publishing and Nettwerk Music Group Publishing) and the single “Hold Me” (co-written with Lowell, John Nathaniel, and Frank Kadillac of Neon Dreams, published by Hyvetown Music Publishing) were both created at the 2018 SOCAN Kenekt Song Camp, in the remote town of Maderas, Nicaragua.

L I O N C H I L D – the songwriting/production team of Lance Shipp, Nathalia Marshall, and Rachael Kennedy – and Laurell co-wrote “Lil’ Touch” at the 2017 SOCAN Kenekt Song Camp in Nicaragua. It has since become a single for Girls Generation, the first Asian girl group to achieve five music                                                                                                            videos with more than 100 million views each on YouTube. The song is published by Universal                                                                                                          Music Publishing.

Kenekt Québec 2018

Kenekt Québec 2018

Similarly, Cassie Dasilva’s single Welcome to my Castle was co-written with Fintan O’Brien and Ian Smith, and published by CYMBA Music Publishing, at the 2016 SOCAN Song Camp in the town of Gibson, on BC’s Sunshine Coast. “likefck” (sic), the debut single for laye, a Quebec-based singer-songwriter signed to Sony Music Canada, was co-written at the 2018 Kenekt song camp in BC, by Kevvy Maher and Joel Stouffer, published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada. A SOCAN Kenekt Song Camp was also the creation location for Delhi 2 Dublin’s “Get Loud,” co-written by band members Tarun Nayar and Sanjay Seran, with Kevvy Maher, and performed by Delhi 2 Dublin (featuring Navv Inder). Phrased Differently publishes the song.

The same goes for “Piece by Piece,” co-written and performed by Heartstreets’ Gab Godon and Emma Beko, with Ariane Brunet, produced by Realmind, and performed by Heartstreets (feauturing L.i.s.l.e.). Two other songs created at the 2018 SOCAN Kenekt Québec camp wiulkl be featured on the group’s next album, due in 2019: “Lost,” which Godon and Beko co-wrote with Pilou, and “Good Things,” which they penned together with A-SHO and Connor Seidel.

Frank Kadillac, Neon Dreams

Frank Kadillac (of/de Neon Dreams)

“The song camp experience is unlike any other,” says SOCAN’s Melissa Cameron-Passley, who often organizes and oversees the Kenekt events. “Watching the writers grow from day one to five, and connecting them with new co-writers to create songs together, in such nurturing environments and inspiring locations, is a beautiful experience. It’s a great way of adding value to our members’ creative efforts. Some of the working relationships established in the camps continue on, and some of the songs created there have reached a wide audience. A huge shout out to all of our publisher members, labels, managers, and taste-makers who submit their stellar songwriters for the opportunity.”

Participating songwriters and producers thrive on the experience. Here’s what a few of them had to say…

From the 2018 SOCAN Kenekt Song camp in Nicaragua:

  • “Still on a high from what was one of the BEST WEEKS EVER,” say Jayli and Hayden Wolf, “bringing all these beautiful and inspiring people together in the jungle. It was pure magic.”
  • “An unbelievable songwriting camp,” says Lowell. “Probably one of the best times I’ve ever had, in regards to writing.”

From the 2018 SOCAN Kenekt Song camp on Pender Island in BC:

  • “I’m leaving this camp a better writer, and with some amazing memories and friendships,” says Matthew V.
  • “Each day of writing was filled with such great moments, and memories that’ll live forever in the songs we created,” said Kayo. “It was a life-changing experience.”

And from the 2018 SOCAN Kenekt Québec Song camp:

  • Ingrid St-Pierre: “I’m still surfing that wave. The wave made up of complicit glances, giggles, grandiose micro-doses of happiness, profound talks, night-time friendships, sparkling thunderstorms, games of statues, beautiful humans expressing themselves, bacon grilled-cheese sandwiches, warm afternoon soup, teary eyes, campfires, immense smiles, new-born but already legendary, true, and magnificent friendships.”

The members of Hex never thought that they’d pursue a career in music – and really, they’re still a little unsure about it.

Formed in 2014 at Toronto’s chapter of the Girls Rock Camp program, Halina Katz, Simryn Mordasiewicz and Kyria Sztainbok had an immediate connection. “There was just no tension, and I think we just understood each other’s sensibilities,” says Katz. One of the first songs they ever performed together was Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl,” a ‘90s Riot Grrrl theme song of sorts that Hex related to because, as Katz says, “it represents a lot of the ideologies of Girls Rock Camp – they want young women to go and perform, and be anarchic.”

It was through that experience that the members of Hex, who were still getting a handle on performing and songwriting, were encouraged to continue working together. Girls Rock Camp’s Kritty Uranowski even took on the task of managing the trio. But, as they were still attending high school at the time, it had to be a balancing act. And when they had to split time between homework and jam sessions, the best way for them to gain experience and grow as a band was to hit the stage, performing in all-ages venues, and opening for local acts like Hooded Fang, and Polaris Prize winner Lido Pimienta.

Tackling the music scene can be tough, though, as not only do the Hex members have to confront sexist behaviour on occasion, but also ageism. “We get treated like idiots by every sound person,” says Mordasiewicz. Katz recalls a recent show where she was shown how to turn her amp on, to which she thought, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Hex Handler
On their manager, Kritty Uranowski, also a musician, and artistic director of the No Mean City collective: “We would be nothing without her,” says Mordasiewicz. Katz adds, “She showed us the importance of having diversity, and giving bands a chance. When we book a show, we’re really aware of having a female presence and, like, dealing with asshole sound men. She’s the wisest woman ever.”

“They’re only mean to us before our set though,” she continues, adding that their performance is all the proof they need to show that they know what they’re doing. “At this point, we’ve been doing it for years,” Sztainbok says. “So we know what we want for our sound.”

Eventually, the time came to record an album. The trio admits that they struggled at first to lay down their tracks individually but later realized that the band works best when replicating their tight live sound together in one room – a process completed in the span of one evening. “We stayed up till 5 a.m.,” Mordasiewicz says of their recording session. “It was fun, and it was really intense.”

Thanks to that method of recording, Hex’s thunderous live energy is perfectly captured on their record, Miss Pristine, which came out earlier this year. On the seven-minute opening title track, Hex plays with tempo and volume, one minute slowly strumming along, as Katz’s howling vibrato fills every nook of the track, the next building up an incredible fury of cacophony.

Miss Pristine finds its influences deeply embedded in the music they first learned to perform in Rock Camp – Bikini Kill, and other ‘90s punk and rock acts like Sleater-Kinney and Hole – but they pull those threads forward to the present day. Songs are infused with a rage that burns brightly inside each member, an energy that fuels every guitar riff, drum fill, and bass line.

The songs work primarily around Katz, her captivating voice, and her songwriting. Mordasiewicz and Sztainbok praise their lead singer as a “lyrical goddess” who often brings sparks of song ideas – inspired by her real-life experiences – to the band in the form of words, which the others can then build upon with their respective instruments. When asked if Hex has more new music on the way, Mordasiewicz looks to Katz, and says with a smirk, “I don’t know, got any song ideas?”

With Mordasiewicz and Sztainbok now in university, and Katz currently living in Philadelphia, Hex acts as a part-time job for its members. That doesn’t mean they’re not committed to performing more, and putting out more music in the future; they’re very excited to put out a music video soon, and have even written three new songs recently. But the band maintains a bit of a laissez-faire attitude towards the future.

“I do want to pursue music, but it’s hard to admit, because it’s a hard thing to do,” Katz confesses. But Sztainbok sums up everyone’s mindset pretty succinctly with an optimistic statement: “As long as I always have music as something that I’m doing, then I’ll be happy.”