SOCAN is on the scene at the 2024 edition of Canadian Music Week (CMW) conference, June 1-8, at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel on Toronto’s waterfront. Below is a summary of sound advice and useful information gleaned from CMW panels on Monday, June 3.

Cookin’ Beats, Presented by SOCAN
Rudy Blair, of Rudy Blair Entertainment, introduced a discussion between SOCAN Creative Executive for Black Music, Lord Quest, and Grammy-winning songwriter/producer/beat-maker DZL. To a double ballroom crowded with attentive musicians and CMW delegates, DZL – who’s been in the game for almost 20 years, and worked with J Cole, among others – offered his guidance on a wide variety of subjects. DZL said the most important thing is to do the work, and stay at it until people start reaching out to you, instead of you trying to reach out to them. He stressed the importance of finding your own style, outside of trends, saying, “If you just make the stuff you like, eventually the wave will catch up to you at some point.” He recommended keeping demo production simple, in order to get the idea out, and that all the little sonic touches can be added later. DZL played the stem tracks for the beat he created – in 10 minutes – at a song camp hosted by Macklemore, which ended up on Jazmine Sullivan’s Grammy-winning smash hit, “Pick Up Your Feelings.” It was originally created for singer Audra May, but producer Denisia “Blu June” Andrews happened to hear the beat, asked DZL for a copy, took it into the studio next door, and eventually the song she co-created with it got to Sullivan. “But first, it was cut and then passed over by Normani, and Kehlani,” said DZL. “So, don’t get discouraged if an artist passes on your  beats.”

NXTGen: Why Creative Music Publishers are a Songwriter’s Best Friend
Laura Holtenbrinck, of Music Publishers Canada (MPC), moderated a discussion of the ways that music publishers find, sign, and work with songwriters, producers, and beat-makers. To a packed meeting room, Jordan Howard, of Daytripper Songs /CCS Rights Management, said that publishers are looking for “someone who really understands who they are and where they’re going.” Lexie Jay, of the band Featurette, and signed as a songwriter/producer to Daytripper/CCS, advised that signing with a publisher “is about finding the people who’ll be your champion,” which is about the people, not necessarily the deal. Melissa Cameron-Passley, of Kilometre Music Group, said that song camps have become a good way for music publishers to get song pitches out, and to  get “a whole whack of songs written in one week.” Producer/beat-maker Tom  French, signed to Warner Chappell Music Canada, said that song camps are especially valuable for the fellow writers you connect with, and with whom you can work in the future.  Artist/Songwriter/Producer Runway the Catwalker, signed to Kilometre, agreed that they’re great for networking and meeting new people.  Warner Chappell A&R Ricardo Chung said that he signed French because he was “diligent, smart, and had a great business ethic, at a young age.”

Harmony & Code: The Future of Music Publishing in the AI Era
Cole Davis, of Switchchord, moderated a discussion of how music publishers are trying to quickly respond to generative AI to ensure that their client songwriters are fairly compensated for this use of their work. Paul Shaver of the CMRRA (Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency) said that rightsholders of music need consent, control, and transparency in the use of their work, and that we need to find a path to a licensing model so music creators can  get paid. Virginie Berger, of Matchtune, said that she doesn’t think AI will replace human creators, but that producers of TV shows, movies, and ads are using AI because it’s cheaper, and added that rules and regulations are very slow to catch up to the technological developments of AI companies. Chris Dampier, of Sentric Music, said that the difference between a songwriter creating a song influenced by previous artists, and AI using an input of thousands of songs to  create one, is a matter of “inspiration versus modification.” Dae Bogan, of the U.S.-based Mechanical Licensing Collective, pointed out that the industry was unable to find a successful large-scale licensing model for DJ mixes, so it may take some time to achieve one for AI. Shaver said that because there are different copyright rules and regulations in different countries, it’s very challenging and complicated to create a consistent regulatory framework for AI. He also suggested that – as with digital service providers – the path forward will likely start with legal action against AI companies over copyright infringement, which will then be settled, breaking ground for a more general framework.