Summer has started off nicely for David Murphy. On June 18, 2015, he was given the Christopher J. Reed award, an honour granted to a publisher for his influence in the community and his role in furthering the recognition of that misunderstood profession.
Proof of his influence can be found in many places. Currently on the board of Musicaction, he also was president of the board at the Professional Music Publishers’ Association (PMPA) from 2000 to 2014, not to mention the numerous training sessions he’s given to his peers. “My drive for being so active is the drive to make publishing better known and recognized in the music industry,” says Murphy. “To this day, people still underestimate the contribution a publisher can bring to the development of a songwriter, and even of a singer. We are partners in their career development, just as much as managers are.”
“To this day, people still underestimate the contribution a publisher can bring to the development of a songwriter.”
Murphy’s career in the music industry began by seeing him knocking on all the doors he could find, a rudderless music lover looking for somewhere to start during his college years. After a few detours, Murphy ended up at SODRAC (Society for reproduction rights of authors, composers and publishers in Canada) where he acquired his knowledge of copyrights, and later at Disques Musi-Art, where he was in charge of music publishing. He left in 1998 and, alongside his wife Mélanie Fuller, he founded David Murphy & Cie., a copyright management company offering creative support, promotion and administration. Those are the three pillars that are his core business nowadays. His clients are numerous, both from the publishing world and from the songwriting world: Richard Séguin, Vincent Vallières, Marie-Pierre Arthur, as well as stalwarts of film and TV composing, such as FM Le Sieur, Michel Corriveau and Nicolas Maranda.
A publisher’s job is accomplished on many levels at once. Murphy remembers a brief comment he made to Jean Millaire at last year’s SOCAN Awards Gala in Montréal. Millaire wanted to thank him for having placed a song by Marjo, which he composed, in a TV ad in Chile. “Yes, it is absolutely possible to have your music travel,” he remembers saying. “That’s what I’m here for.” Or, in another instance, Murphy recalls all the publishing work required so that Alexandre Belliard’s show – Légende d’un peuple, presented at this year’s Francofolies, where artists will cover some of Québec history’s most important songs – could be created. “Without the work of a publisher, such a show simply cannot exist,” says Murphy. “This job may be unsung, but now more than ever, it’s fundamental in our industry.”
Why? Because the stakes are higher than ever when it comes to publishing. As Murphy explains, it’s not so much the trade that has changed as the environment, thanks to the digital era. Murphy offers an example. “The Copyright Act has to be reviewed in order to make it more technologically neutral,” he says. “Let me explain: the private copying regime, which is the tariff that has to be paid by manufacturers of blank media such as CDs and DVDs, was created in 1996. Back then, blank CDs and DVDs sold like crazy, and that meant sizable revenues for the rights holders. Nowadays, USB keys, cell phones and MP3 players, which serve the same copying purpose as blank CDs and DVDs did, are not subject to this private copy regime. This has meant a significant decrease in private copy royalties. That’s why that law has to be updated in a more technology-neutral manner.” The Internet and all those other digital platforms that have fundamentally changed the way we consume music make the work of a music publisher even more relevant, even essential, for the future of music creators.
And that’s just the beginning. For David Murphy, this new environment raises fundamental questions about the presence, accessibility and durability of Québecois culture on digital platforms. Now based in Magog, this fully committed publisher is ready to face the new challenges his trade has in store, and he embraces the situation completely. This is mainly reflected in the fact that he’s not looking for growth, but to deepen his existing relationships. “I’m more in a ‘little bit goes a long way’ frame of mind,” says Murphy. “I don’t seek growth, I want things to be done well.”