Each June, we hold our Annual General Meeting, where we report and reflect back on the previous year. This year’s AGM was held in Toronto, on June 16th, and with member meetings also held in Montreal, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Nashville, SOCAN works hard to keep a strong connection to its members, and strives to be open and transparent. While some items here may seem like old news, throughout this column, we’ll look back and review SOCAN’s activities in 2014. In that 2015 is an election year, this year’s AGM also included an announcement of the 2015-2018 SOCAN Board of Directors. More on that below.
2014 was an exciting year for SOCAN, celebrating our 25th year as a performing rights organization (PRO) in Canada.
Continuing down SOCAN’s path of reinvention, there were many changes and innovations throughout 2014. Among them was the unveiling, at our 25th annual SOCAN Award Gala, of the new award to celebrate major special achievements of our members.
SOCAN’s tagline is “Music. People. Connected.,” and that simple phrase really captures what SOCAN is all about. Connecting people to music, and ensuring that we’re all fairly compensated for its use, is something that we’re passionate about, and it’s a concept we fight diligently to protect. It’s no coincidence that the first thing SOCAN is about is music, and what could be more appropriate than to have the world’s first music award that is also a musical instrument. As both a trophy and an instrument, “The SOCAN” is truly a thing of beauty.
Another major activity during the year was all of the work undertaken in transforming the SOCAN Montreal office, both in preparation for moving to its new premises in early 2015, and in some reorganization and staffing changes. We were pleased to see Geneviève Côté, a former publisher Board member from Montreal, come aboard as SOCAN’s first Chief Quebec Affairs Officer. Replacing Geneviève on the board, according to our previous election results, we were happy to welcome Patrick Curley from Third Eye Music.
SOCAN has seen a year of activity on the copyright front, both with the Copyright Board of Canada and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), who have been busy with actions that affect us as songwriters and publishers in the performing rights organization world.
In Canada, the Copyright Board issued rulings on Tariff 22.D regarding audio-visual (AV) works on the Internet, which had a very positive impact for SOCAN. For T-22.D.1, regarding online AV services, tariffs were confirmed at 1.7 percent for 2007-2010 and 1.9 percent for 2011 to 2013. These tariffs, in addition to other parts of Tariff 22, brought in more than $12 million in 2014. As a result, throughout 2014, our Tariff, Licensing and Distribution committee and Board approved a new audio-visual internet distribution pool to facilitate distributing these new online AV revenues.
In the U.S., we’ve been closely monitoring the situation with ASCAP and BMI, who have to work within the decades-old consent decrees, set by the DOJ, to attempt to protect the market from potential anti-trust concerns. These consent decrees and recent court decisions have been creating problems for publishers and the PROs, with regard to publishers’ abilities to withdraw certain rights and negotiate direct deals, with the rate courts insisting on “all or nothing” relationships between the publishers and the U.S. PROs. This is an evolving situation, and while we continue to actively investigate the potential impact of these actions on SOCAN, we’ve also been examining opportunities for us to be able to thrive in the changing landscape.
Throughout 2014, SOCAN continued down its path of innovation and modernization by further developing our BEST (Business Enterprise Solution for Tomorrow) computer system in order to deal with the explosive data requirements necessary to track the billions of performances in the digital world. The first parts of the system, the Financial and Issue Tracking modules, were deployed in 2014. Ongoing work will see Licensing, Repertoire and Performance information functions handled by BEST in the near future, with the entire system being fully operational by the end of 2016.
In addition to these activities, as part of the ongoing annual work of the Board of Directors and its standing committees: Executive Governance; Risk Identification & Management; Tariff, Licensing and Distribution; and Membership, we engaged in a multitude of tasks, including monitoring and reviewing budgets and forecasts; managing SOCAN’s investments and other financial activities; conducting a 360-degree evaluation of the CEO’s performance; engaging in a thorough Board and peer assessment; overseeing our many member events, including our AGM and awards ceremonies; and reviewing our communication strategies, policies and activities.
Finally, through its affiliation with SOCAN, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) saw its footprint increase with its new website launch as well as the rollout of music education content, in association with Magic Lantern Media, based on the songs already inducted into the CSHF. This initiative will teach the value and cultural significance of Canadian music and, specifically, the impact of songs and songwriters. The CSHF also announced a new partnership with CBC Music allowing for monthly song inductions with original new videos of contemporary artists performing inducted songs, beginning in 2015.
All in all, SOCAN, its Board and staff, had a very active and transformative 2014 and through our efforts and many changes, we continue to shine as a leading performing rights organization in the world.
Now that we’re half way through 2015, it’s clear that much of the work of the last year has helped pave the way for the exciting activities that will continue to be reported on throughout this year. As it is an election year, I’d like to welcome our new Board of Directors, a full list of which can be found here on the SOCAN website. I would like to specifically thank two of our outgoing directors, Songwriter Jim Vallance and Neville Quinlan of Peermusic, for their important contributions to the SOCAN Board over the last three years. And while there are many familiar faces among our returning directors, I’d also like to officially welcome the newly elected directors Robert Ott and Safwan Javed. With such a varied and distinguished group, the 2015-2018 term is sure to be an exciting one. We’re all excited to get started!