He’s officially Vice-President of Publishing for Anthem Entertainment, “but people call me The Ambassador,” says Gilles Godard. This Franco-Ontarian, who began his career as a country singer-songwriter, is now one of Canada’s most influential publishers worldwide, and his position allows him to introduce local writers and composers to the American music industry.

Gilles Godard, Raymond Fabi, SOCAN Awards, 2019, Montreal, Gala

Gilles Godard and Raymond Fabi, composer of the music for the youth TV series Arthur after winning the Music for Television (National) Award – Youth Award at the 2019 Montréal SOCAN Awards Gala. (Photo: Frédérique Ménard-Aubin)

Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, was a good day for Godard and Anthem. That morning, the American Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences announced the nominees for the 62nd edition of the Grammy Awards that will take place on Jan. 26, 2020, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The rap-pop sensation of the moment, rapper and singer Lizzo, is at the head of the pack with eight nominations – thanks to the immense success of her song “Truth Hurts,” from her third album, Cuz I Love You.

“Recently, we bought two catalogues, one with several Lizzo hits, and the other composed of hits by The Weeknd,” says Godard. These are catalogues that belong to the Boardwalk Music Group, which represents the American composer and producer Ricky Reed, who co-wrote “Truth Hurts.” Bingo! Godard and his team are nominated for four Grammys: Recording, Albumr, Solo Pop Performance, and Song of the Year. Not to mention the possibility that country star Reba McEntire wins the Country Album of the Year trophy. “I think it’ll be a good year for us at the Grammys,” say the publisher, whose company (formely ole Media Management) has won several trophies over the last few years thanks to hits by Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, among others.

Godard is even prouder because he considers his company’s structure as “independent” compared to the other big players of the publishing world. “We’re smaller and more agile, but well financed, in the end,” he says. “I believe we still have an independent mind-set, which gives us an edge,” says the Anthem VP, who moved to Nashville in the late ’80s.

Before becoming a music publisher, the Cornwall, Ontario-born ambassador was a successful country singer-songwriter, who launched his eponymous debut album on his own label, Book Shop. He started as an Anglophone artist, but he released a Francophone album, En amour, which won the ADISQ Country Album of the Year Félix award in 1987, before moving to Nashville to write songs for several American country artists.

“I’ve always loved music, but winning that Félix – as a producer and an artist – gave me the opportunity to work with many artists,” he says, and from that point on, he learned the ropes of the music business. “I’m lucky to have had the chance to transition from songwriter to publisher and producer, and I’m still active as a songwriter, even though I’m more often than not a publisher,” says Godard. “It helps me understand the reality of artists—I’m not just a producer; I listen to what songwriters have to say.”

“Television and the movies are the new radio. The field of synchronization is exceptional right now.”

By that he means songwriters from Québec, and the rest of Canada, among others. That’s why he is nicknamed The Ambassador. Godard offers them priceless contact with the American industry, and he doesn’t hesitate to introduce local producers and artists to his vast network. “Do you know Tebey?” he asks. “He recorded a duet with Marie-Mai, ‘The Good Ones.’ It’s through him that I met her team, and right now, we’re connecting Marie-Mai with our team of songwriters in the pop-urban-hip-hop division in Los Angeles.”

After more than 25 years in the publishing world, Godard has a very clear perspective on the evolution of the industry, especially the critical role of publishers. “Publishers have evolved to become somewhat A&R types,” he says, referencing talent scouts for record labels. “We’re on the lookout for, and sign, young songwriters we believe in, and introduce them to talented musicians and artists. And we work really hard to propel their careers.”

The other agent of change, obviously, is the digital revolution – for better or worse – as it affects royalties paid to songwriters. “We often say that television and the movies are the new radio,” says Godard. “The field of synchronization is exceptional right now.” That’s thanks to the new opportunities songwriters have to see their songs used in screen productions. For Godard, that’s the only “fair trade” in the music industry. “The songwriter who owns the copyright receives half of the royalties, and the owner of the masters receives the other half,” he says. “For the past five years, those royalties have experienced strong growth thanks to the video streaming platforms.”

But the low amount of royalties earned by songs played online remains, as Pierre Lapointe pointed out during the recent ADISQ gala. On this issue, the publisher is on the side of songwriters. “These companies couldn’t exist if their platforms didn’t have access to all those songs, so it’s unfair [that the royalties are so meager],” he says. “Those rates will need to be adjusted, and I think a change is coming, because things can’t remain as they are now.”

Do publishers have any clout in this debate? Could a collaboration between the major publishers to put pressure on the music streaming sites of the world become a reality? “Yes,” Godard says, “and I think it’ll happen one day. Our lawyers are very active, and discuss this question with lawmakers to make them understand that if things don’t change, there’ll be no money left to make [in songwriting]. Things need to change, because some players make money and don’t fairly compensate the creators.”

To be continued…

Everyone has a story about a song that reflects the healing and transformative power of music. The Awesome Music Project Canada: Songs of Hope and Happiness, contains 111 of them, told by a wide cross-section of Canadians; musicians, artists, authors, and other people from all walks of life.

Rob Carli

Rob Carli

“It could easily have had many more, but we had to cut it off somewhere,” says award-winning TV and film composer Rob Carli, who compiled the book with his neighbour, Terry Stuart, Chief Innovation Officer at Deloitte Canada.

“It started with an over-the-fence kind of conversation,” says Carli, explaining that Stuart asked him if there was some kind playlist that might be universally beneficial for people’s happiness and mental health. “I said, ‘Terry, that’s not the way music works. It’s subjective. Your happy song and mine, they’re going to be completely different. In fact, yours may be a complete turn-off to me,’ But after he showed me a couple of stories, I realized it’s really about the narrative – why music does what it does to people – and I became fascinated with that question.”

The Awesome Music Project is more than a book; it’s an ongoing campaign to accelerate the discovery of solutions to mental health issues using music, with all proceeds going to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s CAMH/MaHRC Joint Music Therapy Research Project Team; a project studying how music impacts brain chemistry, in the hope of finding data to help treat patients in a non-pharmaceutical way.

“I realized it’s really about the narrative – why music does what it does to people.” – Co-Author Rob Carli

Just as everyone has a story about how a song impacted their lives, many have stories about how mental health challenges have affected them, or someone they know. “One in two Canadians, by the time they’re 40, will have been impacted somehow by those challenges, through someone in their life,” says Carli.

Settling on World Mental Health Day – October 10th 2019 – as their release date for their book, Carli and Stuart set about collecting stories, with the help of Vancouver-based publisher Page Two. “They’re a unique force in Canadian publishing,” says Carli, describing them as “a big publisher with the compassion and personalization of an indie record label. They guided us but always solicited our input.

The Power of Music: Excerpts from the Book

  • “Singing and playing music made me feel free, unburdened, and joyful. Music released me from my loneliness by connecting me to something bigger.” – Sarah McLachlan
  • “Music gave me a way to deal with the most harrowing thing I had yet faced in my life, a way to say the kind of things I would have said if I’d known how.” – Col. Chris Hadfield
  • “I had a dark side, a sadness, but I kept it hidden, except when I made music.” – Elisapie Isaac
  • “I never fit in and was always the outsider… until I discovered music. At age 12 I received a 29-dollar guitar that changed my life forever.” – Bob Egan

“We used a lot of Terry’s contacts, and my contacts in the music business, but Page Two helped track down contributors,” Carli says, adding that there were three chapters to the project: the creation of the book, promoting it, and fundraising. “I’ve never done anything like this before, so it was really gratifying learning – not only about charities, fundraising, and mental health and music – but about working with different teams than I’m used to. It’s a different world from sitting in my studio writing music,” he says, laughing.

Carli also singles out editor, writer, and publishing consultant Scott Steedman as integral to the process, in collecting, editing and compiling stories – by contributors ranging from the likes of Sarah McLachlan and astronaut Chris Hadfield, to Steedman’s eight-year-old daughter, Rose.

The 111 stories speak volumes about the healing power of music, and are backed up with entries detailing how music affects the brain, resources and advice concerning music therapy, and articles covering neurological research initiatives that confirm music’s role in improving physical and mental health overall.

And more stories will be told. Since the conception of The Awesome Music Project in early 2019, it’s evolved into far broader campaign, with plans in the works for online companion initiatives, and fundraising events – similar to those held recently in Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo, which bring together contributors to the book and musicians performing the songs that inspired their stories.

“This is how we’re relevant across the country,” Carli says, “as we go into communities and partner with whoever is working in the mental health space and help them raise money. So it’s not a journey that really ever ends.”

For Caroline Cecil, the ability to feel music is more important than any form of technical training. The Vancouver-based DJ and producer – who goes by the name WHIPPED CREAM – doesn’t have a musical background. But in a few short years, she’s already risen up the ranks of the EDM (electronic dance music) scene. “Do I feel imposter syndrome? Absolutely not,” says Cecil matter-of-factly. “Jimi Hendrix couldn’t read or write music.”

 Through what she admits has been a process of “trial and error through hours of work,” Cecil has landed on a sonic identity that’s uniquely her own: a fluid sound that oscillates between genres. It could be electronic one moment, but heavily hip-hop-inspired the next. “It’s energy, it’s life, and it can never be contained in a box,” she says, when asked to define her music. “The music I put out two years ago, the music I’m putting out two months from now, the music I’ll be releasing five years from now – it’s always going to be different, and that’s the beauty of being a music producer, and producing on a computer.”

But her own sound isn’t the only thing she’s had to navigate over the years. With EDM still being a predominantly male genre, Cecil has been incredibly forthright about the sexism that she’s faced. Those experiences even fuel one of her biggest tracks yet, “Ignorant,” from her 2017 EP, Persistence. “It’s really interesting when people speak on how we should feel and act when they’re not female producers,” she says. “ If you’re not a female producing music, you’ll never know all of the extra challenges we have to face every day. We definitely have to fight way harder to get the things we want.”

Cecil says she’s noticed some improvements in representation and behaviour towards female artists, but still advises newcomers to stay strong. “Don’t let what anyone says affect you in a negative way,” she says. “Just let it pass through you and just keep going towards your end goal.

“Keep the love in your heart for music. Know who you are, and that you’re as deserving as anyone else to be here.” Imposter syndrome be damned.