SOCAN Account Executive Kristen Antunes was on hand, to explain how the company works, at the International Indigenous Music Summit panel Royalties and Revenue: Let’s Get You Paid, held on June 14, 2024, in the small, 100-capacity theatre at the Allied Music Centre.

Antunes, who addressed performance royalties, was joined by Andy Hunter, Legal Counsel at CMRRA (the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, who presented the session), who discussed reproduction rights; Kortnee Borden, Associate Director, ACTRA Recording Artists’ Collecting Society (RACS), who talked about neighbouring rights; and Zach Leighton, Executive Vice President, Sub Management Group, who moderated the event.

They explained that SOCAN collects licensing fees most often for the public performances of music (performance rights); the CMRRA collects licensing fees for the reproduction of the music (reproduction rights); and ACTRA-RACS, licensing fees for the performers of the music (neighbouring rights).

All the participants agreed that the most important thing for music creators is to ensure that, right from the start of writing and recording,  there’s a clear agreement between all parties about share splits on a song, and that the metadata attached to the song is clean and clear. All three music rights organizations (MROs) rely on accurate data about the song to match it to the usage by media, so music creators are unable to earn royalties without it.

Antunes said that if there’s a conflict between rightsholders of a song, SOCAN reaches out to the disagreeing parties, but doesn’t attempt to settle the conflict, and instead depends on the parties to resolve it themselves. In other news, she said that, broadly speaking, SOCAN revenues from internet and streaming are trending upward, while those from traditional terrestrial media are moving downward.

On another matter, she explained that because SOCAN (and the CMRRA) have reciprocal agreements with MROs throughout the world, it makes it easier to collect licensing fees globally. “But different countries can have different copyright laws, and enforce them differently,” she said. “If there’s a specific problem, members can alert us, and we can investigate if necessary.”

Discussing  neighbouring rights (for performers), Borden said, “Even if you only clapped your hands on a recording, you’re entitled to royalties,” and informed attendees that 80 percent of the licensing fees are paid as royalties to the feature artist, and the other 20 percent to all other performers making “an audible contribution to the music” (though samples aren’t included). He said that Spotify isn’t paying performers – yet.

Asked if it’s a good idea to hire a company to navigate royalty collection across these rights organizations, Hunter said that it can be useful, but it depends on the individual circumstances. Antunes said it might  make sense if the music creator can afford it, and is finding that the business and administrative work is taking away from the  creator’s music-making. Borden said to look for transparency, and Leighton counselled creators to be careful, and  know what you’re doing before you sign.

Asked about how far back music creators can claim for their royalties, Borden said that for ACTTRA-RACS, it’s five years; Antunes said that for SOCAN, it’s three years for back claims, 12 months for live concerts, and 90 days for online concerts. Hunter said that digital service providers are pushing hard for an 18-month window.

One Indigenous attendee asked if there’s a way to apply their First Nations tax exemption to their royalties, even if they’re earned from intellectual property, off of the reservation. Though none of the panelists had a clear answer,  Leighton suggested that the attendee contact a good accountant, and offered to help them, after the panel, find someone to answer the question more thoroughly.