SOCAN appeared before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“the CRTC”)  on the implementation of the Online Streaming Act (formerly Bill C-11) in Gatineau, Québec, on Nov. 23, 2023. SOCAN was part of a panel presentation with the coalition group ACCORD (of which SOCAN is a member), Association des professionnels de l’édition musicale (APEM) and Société Professionnelle des Auteurs et des Compositeurs québécois (SPACQ).

The Commission is tasked with deciding how to determine which online streaming services, including online music services, will contribute to the creation and promotion of Canadian, Francophone, and Indigenous content, how much they’ll contribute, and where those contributions should go. In subsequent phases, the Commission will decide what promotion and recommendation requirements services will have, and whether any other expenditures, or other types of supports, may be required from these services.

Based on SOCAN’s data, there’s a dramatic difference between the use of Canadian music on traditional broadcasters and online streaming services. “For distributions from traditional media, such as commercial radio, the market share for Canadian-owned content was 30 percent for 2022,” Fraser Turnbull, Legal Counsel at SOCAN, said. “This share has stayed consistent since 2016.  On digital audio media, the market share for Canadian-owned music is 11.1 percent. For every dollar SOCAN collects on traditional audio media, 30 cents goes to Canadian-owned music, while on digital audio media, only 11 cents does.”

Turnbull noted that the difference is even worse when looking at the market share for Francophone music. “The market share of Francophone music in traditional media was around 7 percent in 2022. These numbers drop dramatically on the shift to digital services, to 1.4 percent for Francophone music. This is a huge risk to the survival of Francophone music in Canada.

“We need to increase the share of Canadian music, and notably Francophone music, in the online services market.  The goal of the Commission ought to be to increase the share of Canadian music represented online, and increasing investments in the production and promotion of Canadian works is the first step in accomplishing this.”

Jérôme Payette, Executive Director of APEM, urged the Commission to set a minimum rate of five percent of online music services’ gross revenues for initial base contributions to start flowing now, with the opportunity for the Commission to re-assess that rate at future hearings.

Ariane Charbonneau, Managing Director of SPACQ, shared with the Commission the decline in royalties for Québec-based songwriters and composers, stating that their SOCAN royalties have declined by 15 percent since 2016, mainly due to lower royalties from traditional broadcasters, and that digital royalties aren’t sufficient to stop the decline. Ms. Charbonneau recommends the Commission direct contributions to existing funds like FACTOR and Musicaction, that have established track records of delivering successful programs for the Canadian music industry.

Greg Johnston, Past President of the Songwriters Association of Canada (S.A.C.), appeared on behalf of ACCORD – a coalition of Canada’s songwriters, composers, and music publishers. Johnston left the Commission with a final thought:

“I wish that the [online streaming services] would look at this as an opportunity instead of an obligation… This is an incredible opportunity to keep building our story and bragging rights for [the online streaming services] to be part of it.”

The Commission continues to hear from interveners in this first phase until Dec. 8, 2023.