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.

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.”

The new Executive Director of Musique Nomade takes over from Manon Barbeau and continues her mission to promote Québec’s First Nations artists.

Born in Sorel-Tracy and now leader of the NPO Musique Nomade which supports music creators from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, Joëlle Robillard and her team have an essential role to play.

“I don’t want to be falsely modest,” admits its new executive director, “but I think that the work of Musique Nomade has greatly contributed to what’s happening right now in terms of the next generation of musicians. I see an open-mindedness, an interest, a change in the structure of things to make it sustainable, I see it at all levels. Five years ago, the doors were closed, the industry structure extremely centred around Québec’s Francophonie, with no space at all for Indigenous artists.”

Robillard now sits on the Board of Directors of ADISQ — “which allows me to open up conversations”— and has been part of the Musique Nomade team for nearly five-and-a- half years. “I replaced a project manager who went on maternity leave, and then I became the Artistic and Operations Director, before becoming the head of the organization.”

After graduating in journalism, her first job was at Francouvertes: “It was really foundational, it allowed me to get into the music business and to develop a network of emerging artists. I was doing press relations, I wanted to be a journalist, but finally I found myself on the other side of the mirror,” she laughs. She then became coordinator at XS Musique, the sound production company of Jean-Phi Goncalves.

“I was negotiating contracts with big clients like Cirque du Soleil, so I really had to educate myself on music rights management,” she says. “My involvement with Indigenous music was quite natural, I felt comfortable in that environment and that’s where I discovered most of the artists and cultures.”

Bookings, promotion, international marketing: there’s not a dull moment at MN. “You can’t cherry-pick a single fight, you have to fight on all fronts,” says Robillard. “We’re starting to see specific playlists on Spotify and there’s our independent streaming platform, Nikamowin. These are all components that have been added to the organization to meet a need. Musique Nomade has gradually equipped itself and has become a label, a management company, a producer of concerts, and a music production agency — we have resources. Our business model is pretty atypical, we never fit into a really defined box; a big part of my job is advocacy and representation within the industry.”

And how is that playing out within the communities? “The songwriting studio is made to invest a place that we will temporarily transform into a studio, and make sure that there are professional-level recording conditions,” says Ropbillard. “We organize our various stops in collaboration with a local community co-ordinator and the office team, Maude Meilleur and myself, among others.”

Montréal’s Présence Autochtone, La Noce and the essential Innu Nikamu (which means the First Nations Sing) festival that has taken place every year in Mani-Utenam, on the North Shore, since 1985 — in the community of Kashtin, Florent Vollant, and Matiu, among others — are among the partner festivals of Musique Nomade this year, in addition to stops in Carleton-Sur Mer for the Mi’gmaq communities of Gesgapegiag and Listuguj, and of Kawawachikamach in the Naskapi community. In the fall, Robillard and her team should be in Abitibi for a stopover in collaboration with the Minwashin organization, as well as in Ste-Mary’s, New Brunswick.

Scott Pien-Picard, twice nominated for the Félix (ADISQ) Award for Indigenous Artist of the Year, rapper Samian, Laura Niquay, Matiu, and Elisapie are playing at the Francos this year, and Émile Bilodeau has been asked by the programmers to put on a show with Indigenous guests. Watch out for the excellent group Maten, which includes Ivan Boivin-Flammand, a 22-year-old rising Atikamekw star from Manawan.

“Anachnid [already winner of a Félix] started from scratch, she had never made music, we just had to find the way to nurture her so that she could evolve,” says Robillard. “For Laura Niquay, it’s been a complete journey, she went through many stages before she got to where she is. They all have a unique personality and style. I develop friendships with them that go beyond the creative relationship.”

One can’t overlook the fabulous project Nikamu Mamuitun: chansons rassembleuses, another enlightened vision by Alan Côté of the Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée featuring four Indigenous and four non-indigenous performers. “We’re partners with Petite-Vallée, who adds an Indigenous artist in residence every year,” says Robillard. “It’s important that we stand together in this community.”