Musician, entrepreneur and SOCAN member Miranda Mulholland adderssed an Economic Club of Canada luncheon event and panel, “Redefining Success in a Digital Marketplace,” held Nov. 22, 2017, at the Westin Ottawa, co-sponsored with Music Canada.
Mulholland delivered comments on how music creators are faring poorly in the new digital landscape, and suggested new ways forward. Among them were a recommendation that the federal government remove the “safe harbor” provisions for tech companies like YouTube, which she says creates the value gap; that it reverse the ruling that allows major radio stations to pay no royalties on the first $1 million they earn in advertising revenue; that recordings used in TV and film productions be entitled to royalties, the same as music composed specifically for the soundtracks. She argued against the current culture of “permission-less innovation,” undertaken without care for consequences, which only asks “can I?” create the innovation that harms certain parties, but not “should I?”
Before introducing Mulholland, The President of SOCAN’s Board of Directors, Stan Meissner, said that SOCAN continues to outpace the present and anticipate the future as we lead the global transformation of music rights. Meissner talked about how SOCAN advocates and consults with the government on behalf of our members, and how we’re forging new alliances with RightsTech companies such as Muzooka, Songistry, and IBM Watson, to ensure that our members continue to get fair compensation for their hard work in the new digital/streaming environment.
“We’re working to influence effective solutions, to ensure that Canadian songwriters, composers, music publishers, and businesses using music can compete effectively,” said Meissner. “As we move through these challenges we know it’s equally important to continue to identify opportunities to find new revenue streams, and improve upon the current streams.”
At a panel discussion following the speech, screen composer Ari Posner, singer-songwriter Alan Frew (both SOCAN members), and Roanie Levy, President and CEO of Access Copyright, discussed how the digital marketplace has affected their industries and their individual careers.
Posner said that video streaming services have devalued music, just as audio streaming ones have, citing “a 95 to 98 per cent difference from terrestrial television” in royalties received for his work. Frew admitted that as a veteran rocker, he’s “stumbled through” the disruptive technological change in music delivery, urging young songwriters to pay close attention in order to protect their interests, and made a rousing call to action to his fellow music creators, which gained a round of applause. Levy pointed out that the value gap is just as real for a behind-the-scenes songwriter as it is for a recording artist, and that royalties tend to pay for the necessities of life, like mortgage payments or winter tires.
Asked if he had faith in the future, Frew said, “I do, to the extent that we have advocates willing to step up to the plate for us, like Miranda and Stan.”
Music Canada President Graham Henderson concluded the event with a passionate plea to decision-makers to correct the grievous problem that the Value Gap presents to music creators.