What are the differences between song rights and master rights?

“Song” refers to rights in a song or musical composition itself – the music and the words (if any). These rights are generated in the writing of a song, before any recorded performance occurs. “Master” refers to the rights in the sound recording of the song or composition. The sound recording is what you hear on radio or streaming services – the recorded performance of the song by the artist.  Because the writer isn’t always the owner of the sound recording (whether artist or label), these two rights ensure everyone is fairly compensated for their contribution.

Songwriters, composers, lyricists, and music publishers are typically the owners of the rights of a song or composition. When a songwriter, composer, or lyricist enters into an agreement with a music publisher, the music creator and the publisher usually share ownership of the songs. The publisher then works to maximize the earning power of the songs by placing them with recording artists, in movies and TV shows, in commercials, or videogames, or any other medium or situation where the songs can earn as much in royalties as possible.

In Canada, usually the maker of a sound recording initially owns the master rights. When an artist enters into a recording agreement with a record label, the recordings they produce together are usually owned by the record label. The label then works to maximize the earning power of the sound recording by selling as many copies of it as possible, and/or licensing or distributing it as widely as possible (including in other territories).

When artists working with a record label produce a new song, the original recording will have at least two owners (or sets of owners) – the owner(s) of the songs or compositions (the song rights)  and the owner(s) of the sound recording (the master rights). For example, co-writers TOBi, Alex Goose, and Hannah Vasanth own the rights to their song “Family Matters” (there’s no publisher on the song), but RCA Records own the master rights to the recording of the song, as performed by TOBi on his album Elements Vol. 1.

Alternatively, if a song is written, performed, and also recorded by one person, without any publisher or record company, then that person gets copyright ownership to both the song (the song rights) and the sound recording of it (the master rights). For example, Julian Taylor both wrote and recorded his song “Wide Awake,” so he owns both the song rights and the master rights (though he owns the master rights through his self-owned record company, Howling Turtle).

Synchronization royalties generate income for copyright-protected music that’s paired or “synced” with visual media. Sync licenses grant the right to use songs or compositions in any visual media – films, television, commercials, videogames, online streaming, music videos, etc. Any use of copyright-protected music in a screen project will require a master license from the owner(s) of the sound recording in order to use that recording, and a sync (synchronization) license from the owner(s) of the song itself, for the use of that song, or even a portion of it. For example, you need both a master and sync license before using the latest track from Loud Luxury in a commercial video.

The song right (to the song or composition) is divided into two kinds of rights: performance and reproduction (or “mechanical”) rights.

Performance rights generate royalties when a song or musical composition that you wrote, or co-wrote, or publish, is played in public (on TV, radio, digital media, streaming media, in background music, live performance, in movies, etc.). SOCAN’s role is to collect and distribute the royalties you’ve rightfully earned when your song is played in public.

The reproduction (or “mechanical”) right, is the right to authorize the reproduction of your musical composition or song on various media, including streaming, downloads, CDs, vinyl records, cassettes, DVDs, etc. When copies of your music are made  in these media, reproduction royalties are owed to you, and SOCAN ensures that you receive the royalties you’ve earned.

SOCAN can represent both your performance rights, and your reproduction rights – the latter, on almost every type of audio, audio-visual, digital, or physical media in existence. We negotiate licensing agreements on behalf of our members and clients for the use of their works, and ensure that they’re fairly compensated for their extraordinary talent. SOCAN is essential to receiving all the royalties you’ve earned when your music is performed or reproduced around the world.

For more information: https://iconcollective.edu/how-music-royalties-work/

Ray-On, Ludivine Lavenant, Iohann Martin, Mitsou Gélinas“Iohann and I have been working together for more than 25 years alongside our screen composer partners,” says Mitsou, right off the bat. “With the three acquisitions we made [Harris & Wolff, Maisonnette and Ray-On], we wanted to offer a service under the Ray-On banner.” Ray-On offers unique music services for screen productions, including original music composition, music research and supervision, rights clearance, as well as access to a pre-cleared music bank of more than 3,000 works, mainly from Québec and Canada.

Iohann Martin, who co-founded Dazmo (25 films, 15 TV series) with his business partner Mitsou a quarter of a century ago, already had business ties with Harris & Wolff, specialists in music placement. He sniffed out a good opportunity to diversify his music production activities.

“We were thinking about offering a complementary service for music that fleshes out a scene without necessarily being connected to the narrative framework of music, simply to add ambiance and colour, a complement to the soundtrack,” says Martin. “There’s a will to maximize the artistic potential to produce music that fits in a genre that I call musical nuance.

“While we were working on the music for the immensely popular TV series La Galère, the Dazmo team took full measure of the challenge. We had to write three or four songs per episode on top of the soundtrack itself: it was a very tall order.”

Once the purchase of Ray-On was realized, the musical offer was now complete. Its catalogue of pre-existing music includes an intuitive platform that editors, directors, and producers can access directly, but also, as Mitsou points out, “with a selection of local artists whose works are renewed frequently.”

The soon-to-be-aired series Mégantic is the collective’s latest accomplishment. At its core, Dazmo is a team of composers — Sari Dajani, Rudy Toussaint, Pierre-Luc Rioux and Ioann Martin — and is now under the guidance of Ray-On, the organization that supervised the whole musical aspect of Mégantic, thanks to its new music supervision service.

That brought sync and rights clearance into this new environment. Ludivine Lavenant is very proud of this unique and diversified catalogue of Canadian and Québec composers. One artist she’ll be promoting to the Netflix, Disney+, and the rest of the competitive music-placement world, is newcomer Olivia Khoury, “who’s doing Bon Iver-style jazz-folk”— in the hopes of placing her music in series, films, and ads.

“It’s really an efficient way for musicians to get their names out there,” says Mitsou. “We want to democratize and promote our music supervision service, because it’s not very well-known in Québec. For Ray-On’s clients, we’re a one-stop shop, an opportunity for productions to have integrated services. A song sync in a TV series or a film can have a major impact on an artist’s profile. Music supervisors are curators, they gloat when they’re sent new, original music that’s not yet on the market. That’s the edge of pitching music that will be released in three months — offering a song by someone who’s very well-established isn’t as important to them.”

“When we started in 2013, we were often asked for existing music,” explains the experienced gatekeeper of sounds. “A sound bank of 3,000 musical works for TV, movies, and advertising — with a search engine to satisfy the needs of the client with variables like singing by a male, a female, or a choir, a specific bpm, etc. — did not exist in Québec.”

As Mitsou explains, “Promoting our composers through our platforms and supporting a new generation of local talent is one of our goals for the next few years. Right from the start, I gave myself the mission of promoting more female composers and producers.” Then, she says, with a sparkle in her eye, “Music is just as important as lighting in a visual production! You just need to know how to use it well.”

Ray-On, Ludivine Lavenant, Iohann Martin, Mitsou GélinasSimon Bourdou works closely with Mitsou, soliciting contracts for members of his team of composers at Ray-On in the endless jungle of global visual productions. He spent five years with the M for Montréal and Mundial Montréal organizations before getting on board in 2017. “I’ve always been close to emerging artists. Discovering music is the essence of my work,” he says, a few SOCAN Awards adorning the wall of his office in the background, notably for the Canadian series How It’s Made.

“Directors and producers tell us what they need, music-wise, and we then recruit the team of composers who fit the best with the music they’re looking for. We realized that the biggest export and revenue potential for our artists truly lie in AV,” says Bourdou.

Among the composers on the Ray-On roster are rapper and producer Boogat, composer Mathieu Vanasse, Latin singer Ramon Chicharron, jazz guitarist Benoît Charest (who gave us the soundtrack for the movie Les Triplettes de Belleville), Carole Facal’s electro-pop, and promising singer-songwriter Naïma Frank. Almost all of these artists have songs hosted by Ray-On that have been synced.

Mitsou can list the most successful musical placements achieved by Ray-On without batting an eyelash: Emily in Paris and Tiny Pretty Things (Netflix), Soulmate (Amazon Prime), Woke (Sony Pictures), to name but a few, as well as clients from the advertising world such as Nike and Red Bull, a Ubisoft videogame, Crew 2, for sync and rights clearance, Xavier Dolan’s film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, the Canadian comedy Wong and Winchester…

Ray-On is a promising company, especially since it has reached its full cohesion in a single year. Mitsou is the artistic director, a pivotal role in creating the right connections with producers, directors, and artists.

“I must say, Mitsou is passionate about discovering artists,” says Martin. “If your curiosity for new music is waning, you can always count on her to help you discover a ton of new stuff!”

Prolific singer-songwriter Dumas is back with – already! –  his 12th album. And yet, it’s been five years between the release of Cosmologie (2023) and Nos idéaux (2018). For this project, he mainly worked with producer Philippe Brault, and Jonathan Harnois, with whom he co-wrote most of the lyrics. Although his favourite themes of existentialism and the passage of time are still there, Cosmologie is firmly rooted in the present, rather than in the nostalgia of his previous endeavour. Musically, Brault’s contribution is felt through more electronic elements, adding a synthetic aspect that’s still intimate, overall. Cosmologie also strives to be more raw than the rest of Dumas’ output to date. In the video below, Dumas explains the creative process behind Cosmologie, a short album by most standards (35 minutes), that’s not likely to run out of steam anytime soon.

Dumas video thumbnail

Click on the image to play the video