While 2013 may seem like a distant memory now that we’re into summer, this is the time of year we look back at our annual results and achievements. Throughout last year, SOCAN has been striving not only to reinvent itself, but to actually reinvent what a performing rights organization (PRO) can and should be. With many bold initiatives, SOCAN’s board and staff have been actively working to “raise the bar” for performing rights in Canada and set an example for PROs around the world.

It’s very clear that YouTube is one of the most widely used outlets for online music and, over the last year, SOCAN’s management team and board have been actively investigating, negotiating and initiating new ways for members to earn royalties in this evolving landscape. In addition to directly collecting YouTube license fees (under tariff 22D) and distributing YouTube royalties for the first time in November 2013, SOCAN initiated its collaboration with Audiam, a company that aggregates and further monetizes music uses on YouTube to facilitate an additional royalty stream.  SOCAN made the first distribution on behalf of Audiam also in November 2013, and early predictions show that this source of revenue is growing exponentially.

In an effort to operate more efficiently, SOCAN underwent a thorough review of staffing needs and was able to reduce headcount by 13.5 percent, significantly lowering annual expenses, while maintaining and even improving high levels of service and performance. Many of these reductions were realized in the restructuring of the licensing department by outsourcing smaller general licensing accounts.

Further, due to retirements in certain key positions, SOCAN was able to add some new faces on its executive team, such as Michael McCarty – a former member of the Board of Directors – to the position of Chief Membership Officer. Michael’s enthusiasm, keen view of the needs of members and ability to energize the Membership Department was instantly apparent. As a result of Michael’s hiring, his vacant seat on our board was filled, by Neville Quinlan of peermusic, according to the 2012 election results, as required by SOCAN’s bylaws.

Even though SOCAN elections aren’t coming until next spring, we must be doing something right, because recently, SOCAN management has again seen fit to hire from within our board with the addition of Geneviève Côté to the role of Chief Québec Affairs Officer.  Replacing Geneviève on the board, also according to our 2012 election results, is Patrick Curley from Third Side Music.

All in all, SOCAN’s success in 2013 was a direct result of forward thinking and reinventing the way we do business to make us more proactive, efficient, adaptable and prepared to face what lies ahead in the constantly changing music industry landscape. We’re confident that the path we’re on will continue to benefit our membership tremendously, as we continue to reinvent SOCAN and the definition of a PRO.

SOCAN’s Licensing team does the important work of connecting businesses that use music, their customers, and the more than 120,000 SOCAN member songwriters and composers that create the music that their customers and employees love.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in our new, awareness-raising Licensed to Play program for the more than 125,000 organizations across Canada that put music to work to improve their business.

The public-facing campaign began with the introduction of the Licensed to Play graphic, and the distribution of a window sticker to more than 30,000 retail establishments, bars, restaurants, fitness studios, clubs and offices that are current with their 2014 SOCAN licenses.

By displaying the Licensed to Play emblem proudly, businesses affirm that they put music to work ethically and legally, and recognize that music adds value to their business, and to their customers’ experience.

Businesses that are licensed to play are essentially saying loud and proud that, yes, they support fair compensation for music creators and music publishers. The sticker implicitly underscores the partnership and mutual respect between SOCAN’s licensed businesses and SOCAN’s members – and, of course, SOCAN itself.

The Licensed to Play campaign also encourages businesses and their customers to think of music as an instrumental (pardon the pun) aspect of their experience.

According to new research conducted by Leger, The Research Intelligence Group, on behalf of SOCAN, Canadian businesses confirm that music is increasingly important to their success. The data supports the fact that most businesses that use music understand and appreciate the contribution that Canadian songwriters make to the economy.

According to the study:

  • Almost three-quarters of Canadian businesses feel that music is important to the customer experience
  • Almost three-quarters of them rank music above décor when considering customers’ experience, and the numbers are even higher for restaurants, theatres, concert halls and health clubs
  • Half of them said they would never stop playing music
  • Almost seven out of ten of them agree that it’s fair to compensate those who created the music

There’s no greater testimony to the successful efforts of SOCAN’s Licensing team than to witness the widespread recognition among Canadian businesses that music is working for them, that music benefits their customers, and that the people who create it deserve fair compensation.

SOCAN’s Licensed to Play program connects all of the stakeholders in the ecosystem when music is being used in Canadian businesses, and the Leger study confirms that these businesses understand and appreciate these kinds of connections. It’s a collaborative and collective win for businesses, their customers, and our members.

Connecting licensed businesses with accomplished members is exactly what SOCAN consistently strives to accomplish, and Licensed to Play is a prime example of collaborative success.

Former New York mayor, the late Ed Koch, used to ask every New Yorker on the street, “How am I doing?”  In our heart of hearts, most of us probably feel like we’re doing pretty well when we’re trying our best, but those around us may have a different perspective. With this in mind, and in the spirit of striving to work within “best practices” in corporate culture, as well as a degree of self-improvement, and ultimately creating a more effective organization, SOCAN has a rigorous review and evaluation process, not only for staff members by their managers, but for the directors of the board and the CEO.

The SOCAN board, along with Peter Stephenson of Meridien Consulting, perform annual evaluations to assess the effectiveness of the board of directors as a whole.  Each board member anonymously completes a specifically designed questionnaire, and upon a compilation of the results, the Executive Governance Committee (EGC), and then the entire board, review these results with an eye towards making improvements wherever they may be indicated.

Our CEO, like all SOCAN employees, must achieve certain targets within the year that affect salary and bonuses.

Further, in the last few years, the board has also undergone peer assessment reviews, where board and committee members that work alongside each other have the ability to anonymously rate and make comments about their colleagues’ performance on the board. In the past, these results were only seen by that director, however, for this year, in order to give the exercise a bit more “teeth,” the individual results are also shared with the president of the board. This way, the president and the individual director can discuss either a job well done or any areas for improvement, to the ultimate end of personal growth and the ability to become a better and more effective director, with the end result of creating a better and more cohesive board.

Another role of the board of directors is to evaluate the role of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).  In fact, within our governance structure, the CEO is the only employee that reports directly to the board, while all other employees report to the CEO or their departmental managers.  The board, along with Peter Stephenson and Vice President of Human Resources Randy Wark, design a series of questions and areas for open-ended comment regarding the annual performance of the CEO, who like all SOCAN employees must achieve certain targets within the year that affect salary and bonuses.

Again, in keeping with best practices, new for this year, we have adopted a 360-degree approach to this evaluation process, by including assessment and evaluations from the executives that report to the CEO, in addition to the board members.  This allows for a more holistic view of the CEO’s performance and helps give the board greater insight into the CEO’s effectiveness.

Ultimately, the SOCAN board, staff and management continue to strive to make SOCAN the world’s leading performing rights organization, and these are the kinds of things we’re doing to find out how we’re doing in achieving that goal.