The Association des professionnels de l’édition musicale (APEM) is taking advantage of the 2022 Francos to kick off a spate of activities marking 20 years of existence. On June 15, 2022, the association will offer two roundtables: the first one on its history, with one of its founders, Daniel Lafrance (Éditorial Avenue); and the second one discussing the future of music publishing in Québec, with Diane Pinet (Édition Bloc Notes), Odette Lindsay (Third Side Music), Yao (Intello-Production), and Marie-Ève Rochon (Bonsound).

APEM, 20th AnniversaryFor the current Executive Director of APEM, Jérôme Payette, “it’s an opportunity to talk about the association does, what we embody as a collective group, aiming at the growth of the music industry in Québec. It’s also a way to bind the music publishing community by promoting our efforts to enliven our community by encouraging meetings and networking. We want to reach out to the hundreds of people we’ve trained over the years as well, and continue tom promote of best practices [in the industry] through our workshops, conferences, and the contract templates we offer.”

The association, which believes it now represents the vast majority of Québec’s music publishing stakeholders, is making its mark at a juncture in time where the industry is undergoing a major upheaval, while its business practices and opportunities must remain relevant as music consumption habits and technologies constantly evolve. “We must emphasize the importance of our collective efforts,” insists Jérôme Payette. “It may sound cliché to say it again, but there’s so much changing, so much adapting to do, so much need for representation – more than ever, I feel.”

The publishing sector’s main battleground today is the federal Bill C-11 amending the Broadcasting Act and the representations on it that have been made in recent weeks “in coalition with our partners in the music industry.” In addition, there’s the issue of a Copyright Act “which will generate better revenues for the industry,” and efforts to obtain more public funding for APEM members, “an issue on which we’ve managed to make progress for 20 years. This has been one of APEM’s great victories over the years: gaining access to public funding sources to which other industry players were entitled. Today, music publishers can ask for help, for example from SODEC and Musicaction, and this has helped our sector to progress.”

But APEM’s main challenge, as Jérôme Payette acknowledges, is still educational. Music publishing is an essential and important revenue generator for the industry, but it’s still poorly understood by many players in the field, starting with the songwriters themselves. “For the past 20 years, we’ve had to explain our trade, and I believe we’ll need to do so for the next 20 years,” says Payette. “At first glance, what people don’t immediately grasp when they enter the business is that the music industry is a very, very sophisticated business. People often ask us if there isn’t a way to simplify it all. I always give them the same answer: if it was possible, we’d have done it already! Now, with the hundreds of people we’ve managed to train through our programs – not necessarily people who’ve gone on to become publishers, but often as managers, for example – I think we’ve seen a better understanding, and recognition, of the publishing profession.”

Thus, APEM’s mission is two-fold: to train its members, and to rally them around common objectives. “I like the concept of co-optation,” says Payette. “Today, we can see that our members know each other, rub shoulders and collaborate, particularly within the association’s various working committees. This training work has helped build a community that, over the years, has contributed to the recognition of the importance of this profession, even though it has to be done over and over again. We evolve, after all, in a very small market: our members are all independent, the majors are not very present,” making this cooperation among publishers, and between publishers and other sectors of the Québec music industry, even more necessary.

Finally, APEM will take advantage of its day at the Francos to award Lucie Bourgouin, founder of the copyright consulting agency Permission Inc., the 2022 Christopher-J.-Reed Award. The award is presented “to an individual who is committed to his or her professional community, who demonstrates a high level of respect for creators and copyright, and who has made an outstanding contribution to the practice and recognition of the music publishing profession.”

Before he became one of Canada’s most renowned DJs, Charlie B was a kindergarten teacher. In the wee hours, he would be in the club on the 1s and 2s, or in the studio working with then-emerging GTA exports like Tory Lanez or Preme (formerly known as P Reign). By day, he was helping 30 schoolkids learn how to write their names.

“It’s crazy, because during that time, P Reign had a song coming out with Drake,” says Charlie B. “We waited so long to try to get this song; countless hours in the studio, working so hard. And finally, P Reign gets the song with Drake, and it’s Labour Day Weekend, and I’ve got work on Tuesday. I’m over here teaching kids how to walk in a straight line, all while this song was out.” Though Charlie, born Ajay Saxena, juggled teaching and music for three years, in 2016, he decided to make a leap and pursue music full-time.

Since then, he’s toured the world and worked with hip-hop standouts like Cardi B, Rick Ross, and DJ Khaled, the latter of whom he cites as a mentor. Most recently, Charlie released his first full-length album, Across the Board, which features hand-picked talent from all over Toronto. “I’ve been working on [the album] for the last two years,” he says. “It’s my view on talent in this city. I’ve been able to be in the studio and create with these artists. We’ve built these records together, collectively. And I’m super-proud of how it came out.”

For Charlie, in-person recording sessions were crucial to creating the album. “I was really adamant [about] having the artists coming to the studio and us building the song together,” he says. “Saying, ‘Hey, listen, this the concept I’m thinking about, this is the vibe.’ I’d play them some beats from my producers and essentially executive-produce these songs.”

Patience was another key ingredient in his creative process. If a song didn’t quite have the flavour he was looking for, he didn’t try to force things. This approach helped him and Driftwood rapper Pressa come up with the infectious single “Glitch.”

“Me and Pressa were in L.A., and we were working on music, and I just felt like we hadn’t gotten what we could have,” says Mr. B. “I didn’t want to rush it. Just because you lock in a studio with an artist, doesn’t mean that you’re gonna get the record you want the same day. It doesn’t work like that.”

Teacher’s Tips

Ever the teacher, Charlie B has three tips for other up-and-coming rappers.

  • “Never stop networking. Your network is obviously your net worth. Keep expanding on that.”
  • “Be consistent. Never, never give up. Keep going!”
  • “It’s very important to have good mentors and good life coaches in your corner that can guide you. I think we all need that in our lives.”

The creative spark they needed would be ignited weeks later on Charlie’s birthday weekend. He and Pressa were at Quad Studios, the legendary Times Square recording space that’s been used by everyone from Mariah Carey to Jay-Z. A change of location made everything click. “We were in New York, it’s Quad, and I’m working on my birthday,” says Charlie. “[I said] ‘Let’s try’. And we got one out, and we were really happy with the final product. It was in a memorable studio too, so that was even better”.

Known as “Mr. Canada,” Charlie aimed, with Across the Board, not just to put a spotlight on Toronto, but to help illuminate the possibilities for local artists. “I want to give these kids experiences,” he says. “If we can do something to make these kids believe that they can get out of the streets, that’s the most important thing to me. I love seeing the kids in Toronto live their passion; live their dreams. There’s nothing happier for me than to see these kids on the stage doing their thing.”

Award-winning screen composer Antonio Naranjo, like most of his peers, started his songwriting career as a part of a band. As a member of Boys Who Say No (later “re-branded” as Future Peers), Naranjo earned alumna status at both the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Canadian Film Centre’s Slaight Family Music Lab. (Fun fact: the band took its name from the 1968 Joan Baez anti-war song “Girls Say Yes to Boys Who Say No.” No one got the reference.) But by 2019, when Naranjo was 33, he felt group life had “run its course.”  Since then, he’s been working in film and television, but finds the job of creating music hasn’t really changed that much.

Writing for himself and writing bespoke music for the screen “kinda works out the same way,” says Naranjo. “When you’re doing something for a film, it’s like being a made-to-order chef. I treat those projects like they’re puzzles. Oftentimes you’re looking to invoke this feeling, or to work in this type of genre. You can fall back on the tools you’ve accumulated over time to get the work done.

“It starts as something a little less personal and more like a task. When you’re writing music for film, people already have in mind what they’re looking for, so you usually have something that you’re trying to accomplish, that isn’t necessarily in your own voice. You’re always trying to find a way to appease a style, or a feeling, that someone is hoping for. But once you start working on it, it always becomes your own. It becomes regurgitated out the other side, totally different than anyone ever intended. It’s funny. You try to wrestle the music into a box and then, simply by going through the process, it’s always going to become something unique.”

On the phone from his home in Toronto (where he was born and raised), Naranjo says he’s just finished his sixth Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film score (including Love in Harmony Valley and Christmas with a Prince: Becoming Royal). In February, he wrapped up his work on the third, and final, season of CBC Gem’s Detention Adventure. Transitioning from a group to solo work proved to be quite eye-opening.

“It was a ‘grass is greener’ situation,” he says. “Working with other people means there’s a lot of creative sacrifice. When I first started working in film, it was me doing this work alone. At first, I was really happy to have something that was uniquely my own musical identity. But composing and working in this medium can be pretty solitary. After awhile I really started to miss the collaborative nature of being in a band. As I’ve done more projects, especially in [the final season of Detention Adventure], I’ve reached out to more people to collaborate. There’s something magical in working with other people.”

He’s referring to the fact that, unlike the previous two, the final season of Detention Adventure would incorporate more musical interludes, including songs with lyrics made to fit specific scenes. Although Naranjo wrote the music and played all the instruments on the series, he had help with some melodies and the lyrics (plus vocals for the demos) from his life partner, Carla Sutton, a mental health worker — though Naranjo has been encouraging her to explore more of her musical talents.

Like most songwriters, Naranjo is never fully satisfied with his own work. “There’s something I call ‘divine dissatisfaction,’” he says. “I think that there are degrees of ‘getting there.’ For the most part I think I usually get to the place I need to get to, so my success rate is pretty high. But it never seems to be enough, and that’s kind of what’s so compelling about being an artist. It’s like you’re chasing a dragon. You’re never fully satisfied. It propels you to be better.”

“See You Later”: A tear-jerking farewell

Detention Adventure’s co-creator/director Joe Kicak gave Naranjo a serious challenge for the show’s final episode. He wanted a song that he could dedicate to his late mother, that would touch on the subject of loss and moving on, which was the theme of the finale. Kicak wanted him to include the phrase, “see you later,” which was his mother’s typical farewell, instead of “goodbye.” He added a single instruction, the song should “make me cry.” Neither were satisfied with the first few tries, but while he was fine-tuning each iteration, Naranjo’s mother passed away as well. That may have been the key to finding what proves to be a heartbreaking bit of beauty called, appropriately, “See You Later.” Earlier versions included a full ensemble of instruments, but the end result is spare and piano-based. “It wasn’t so poignant, it was busier, and then I let the piano take the lead,” says Naranjo. “I think there’s something more beautiful in having more space.” The final effort met all of Kicak’s requirements.