In honor of Black History Month, we’re creating content on our online platforms and social media throughout February 2022 to highlight historical contributions of Black Canadians in music. Check out our recognition of Black History Month 2022 on our timelines, and history-making Black music year-round at www.socanmagazine.ca.
Contemporary composers learned how to better navigate the digital landscape, and had many questions answered, as SOCAN partnered with The Canadian League of Composers (CLC) and the Canadian Music Centre (CMC) to present a free online town hall presentation and meeting, “Classical and Art Music in the Digital Landscape,” on Feb. 9, 2022, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. ET
The town hall focused on notated and contemporary music in the digital landscape, addressing the concerns of Canadian composers pursuing compensation for their music when it’s distributed online. It included useful information about synch licenses, mechanical rights, copyright, streaming, and more, supporting self-advocacy and equitable approaches to presenting music online.
SOCAN’s James Leacock, Director, Domestic Royalty Collections, offered a presentation explaining “Licensing for New Classical Music Composers,” while SOCAN Membership Operations Administrator Karen Richards walked through the registration of a composition in the member portal of the new socan.com website.
Leacock explained how SOCAN licenses the music used in digital streaming, online screen productions, user-generated content, videogames, music learning, VR, and the metaverse. He discussed how royalties work for ticketed online concerts, including those on social, media platforms, and why the rate to charge for a synchronization will vary with the budget of the music user, the length of time of the music use, the reach of their platform, and other variables.
Leacock; Richards; SOCAN Creative Executive Racquel Villagante; and SOCAN’s Gary Laranja, Manager, Member Services, answered many questions throughout and after these presentations. Among them:
- How SOCAN is working to license NFTs by applying a model we’re familiar with;
- the difference in licensing fees, for presenters, between on-demand streaming versus a live online concert;
- the timing limits for submitting a notice of live performance to SOCAN;
- how to inform SOCAN about the use or reach of a YouTube video, so we can follow up on subsequent royalty distributions;
- how SOCAN is able to handle synchronization rights on a non-exclusive basis, based on direction from our member;
- how, If a member embeds a YouTube video on their website, it’s still licensed through YouTube; and
- how, in a musical theatre production, it’s a good idea to register each song separately.
Also attending and overseeing the event were the Canadian Music Centre’s Matthew Fava, Director, Ontario Region, and Bekah Simms, General Manager of the Canadian League of Composers.
At the close of the event, SOCAN’s Vanessa Thomas, Vice-President, Member and Industry Relations, emphasized that this was only the first of many such gatherings to come, and encouraged our member participants to contact SOCAN with any further questions, via our information centre, at 1-866-307-6226, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current broadcasting laws and regulations were designed for radio and television. While these rules have been effective, foreign digital platforms have zero obligations to support and promote Canadian creators, even to Canadian audiences. Reforming the Broadcasting Act is a necessary step to strengthening Canadian songwriters and composers’ place within Canada, and supporting Canadian music in a digital world.
SOCAN is advocating for broadcasting reform to include online undertakings under the Broadcasting Act because royalty distributions to Canadian songwriters and composers are significantly lower on unregulated digital broadcasters, which have no Canadian contribution requirements, such as promotion and funding, as opposed to regulated traditional broadcasters that do. Lower royalty distributions also means that the Canadian public is listening to less Canadian music, which has knock-on effects for Canadian culture, Canadian jobs, and Canadian identity.
The below charts demonstrate that distributions to Canadian songwriters and composers from digital broadcasters are 69% lower than distributions from traditional broadcasters:
The stark difference in distributions can be explained in part by the regulatory systems for traditional broadcasters, which include Canadian contribution requirements, compared with digital broadcasters operated by foreign companies, which do not.
Instead of a 34% share of collected royalties distributed to SOCAN songwriter and composer members on traditional media, only around 10% of royalties collected on digital media are distributed to SOCAN songwriter members. This represents a 69% decrease in distributions staying in Canada for songwriters with a song played on traditional media, versus a songwriter with a song played on digital media.
The situation is even more dire for Francophone SOCAN songwriter and composer members.
On traditional media, they receive an average of 7% of all traditional royalties collected, while on digital media, they receive an average of 2% of digital royalties collected.
To an outside observer, there may be an apparent paradox: SOCAN revenues have been increasing, so how is it possible that distributions are decreasing? The answer to that paradox is understanding the difference between SOCAN’s collection of royalties and its distribution of royalties.
First, let’s look at the domestic collection of royalties.
SOCAN domestic royalty collections have increased from $203 million in 2012 to $282 million in 2020. Domestic digital collections have increased 571% since 2015 – from $15 million in 2015 to $104 million in 2020.
For SOCAN’s domestic collection of royalties, these revenues are collected from issuing licenses to organizations for all music uses, by all music creators in the world (Canadian and international), for public performances and communications within Canada.
So, when SOCAN’s domestic collection of royalties goes up, this means that more music is being used across Canada. That’s a good thing.
Now, let’s look at the domestic distribution of royalties.
For SOCAN’s domestic distribution of royalties, SOCAN analyzes the music use data we obtain from licensees for certain uses of music (or we use an analogous data set if no data is provided by the licensee) to match the musical works used to the correct rightsholders, and distribute the matched royalties to them. In this matching exercise, SOCAN matches musical works to Canadian rightsholders and international rightsholders – with royalties for international rightsholders going outside of Canada to the music rights organization representing them.
In short, for the $104 million in domestic digital collections, only 10% stays in Canada and is distributed to Canadian creators. The rest is distributed to international creators.
SOCAN’s goal is to see Canadian contribution requirements on digital broadcasters, so that more Canadian creators are paid for their work in Canada. Reform of the Broadcasting Act is the first step in figuring out how that goal can be accomplished.
Stay tuned for further articles in this series.