From now on, Words + Music will be an online-only magazine.

We’re turning the page completely from print to our more flexible, timely and fulfilling digital edition, bringing with it even more benefits for our members, licensed businesses and anyone interested in accessing interesting, high-quality content about the increasingly exciting and successful Canadian music scene.

The online-only edition will be more open and available than ever before, with opportunities for readers to comment on each story. They’ll also benefit from instant, worldwide distribution: the online edition is available and easily accessible to anybody in the world with an internet connection, on any platform (smartphone, tablet, laptop, home computer, etc.), anytime, anywhere.

You’ll be able to read much more timely stories, posted when ready.

The ratio of those SOCAN members desiring coverage in Words + Music to available editorial space in the print magazine was about 20-to-one, so sometimes even SOCAN members who were clearly worthy of coverage were unable to receive it. The advent of the online-only edition, with no space limitations, will allow us to not only cover more of these laudable SOCAN members, but also expand our coverage to include music users Licensed to Play by SOCAN. We’ll simply be able to bring you more information.

With the quarterly print edition, you had to wait three months before reading about your fellow SOCAN members, which could render some of the magazine content a little dated. In the online edition, you’ll be able to read much more timely stories, posted when ready, so that we’re even more current and relevant to the passing scene.

Our costs for the printed magazine, both the English and French edition (Paroles & Musique) – which include design, printing, postage, and other expenses – were very high (several hundred thousand dollars), and increasing every year. Except for contributor and photographer fees – which, while among the best in the Canadian music industry, comprise a very small portion of those costs – that money can now be put into our members’ hands instead.

The cost to the environment was far greater with the print edition as well. In 2013 alone, we printed about 1.6-million pages, sacrificing a significant number of trees. Online, we don’t have to destroy any of them, and we avoid the environmental impact of running a printing press to create more than 50,000 copies and ship them across our vast country.

For the past two decades, SOCAN has always embraced the digital world to better reach our members, in new ways, wherever they are. Our social media numbers more than 30,000 followers; our website (at, digital magazine, (at, SOCAN blog (at, and online annual report (at bring more news and information to more readers and viewers than  ever; and we’ve also introduced mobile versions of our website and online magazine. Moving the magazine completely to online is just the latest step in our necessary adaptation to technological change. We expect that Words + Music online, which will be redesigned in 2015, will provide an excellent end-user experience.

There are those who, understandably, feel sentimental about holding a paper magazine in their hands. But paper is slow in reporting, expensive to produce, limited in editorial space, restricted in distribution, and environmentally wasteful. It only makes good sense to move exclusively into the online world, so that we can commit more time and resources into making the digital version great.

We’re closing the book on print, but the story continues, even better, at Thanks for being a part of it, as we turn the page to the next chapter.

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!

It’s really all about fairness.

You’d have to be living under a rock not to be hearing the raging debate about royalty rates and the value of music in the rapidly evolving digital and online music world. The bottom line is, “What is fair?” Obviously, there are many important links in the musical value chain, and in a respectful ecosystem all parties need to fairly share in whatever revenue is being generated. Without songs and performers, record labels and music services that distribute and facilitate access to music, our world would be a silent and desolate place.

The importance of music in our evolution and civilization traces back to the dawn of mankind. Simply, there was music long before there was a music business, and there will still be music long after the current methods of its dissemination will be seen as archaic and primitive.

Just as music and the music industry have survived these changes, so shall we, by innovation and reinvention.

The business as we know it has evolved generally in the last hundred years or so, although performing rights and music publishing started as far back as the late 1700s. Throughout the 20th Century, business models took shape and the division of roles between creators, performers, publishers, radio and record companies evolved into the landscape we came to know, for better or worse.  But the horizon looks hazy and unrecognizable, just as it did with every technological shift in our industry, from piano rolls to recordings, from radio days to the internet age.

Just as music and the music industry have survived these changes, so shall we, by innovation and reinvention, building on the strength of systems that seemed to work in the past, and finding new ways that can hopefully treat all rights holders fairly, transparently and respectfully.

Many of these new digital music services, while they have yet to realize significant profits (or any profits at all), still seem to generate millions in shareholder and equity value, as well as for their senior executives, while feeding very little back into the music value chain for creators. Likewise, large internet service providers, through whom music and other intellectual property appears to flow freely – and to the great benefit of their bottom line – also contribute nothing back.

Clearly, the current situation needs to change. At a recent CIAM (The International Council of Creators of Music) Congress in Nashville, a report was released entitled Fair Compensation for Music Creators in the Digital Age, commissioned by Music Creators North America (MCNA) and other international creator alliances with the support of SOCAN. The report, part of the Fair Trade Music initiative, was immediately endorsed by CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers).  Primary findings state that up to 80 percent of revenues generated by streaming services should be transparently paid to the rights holders, and the report also recommends a 50-50 split between compositions and recordings. The study points to a strong and clear standard, a “True North,” in trying to define fairness.

As the debate continues, perhaps all parties need to grab their compasses.