SOCAN will participate in both a panel and an info session, all online, as part of the 2021 East Coast Music Festival & Conference, leading up to the East Coast Music Awards on May 9, 2021.

The panel, “Royalties & Rights Management Explained,” will gather SOCAN and several other organizations that specialize in the area of royalties and rights management, to explain that ecosystem to artists. The panel is slated for Thursday, May 6, at 2:30 p.m. ET, 3:30 p.m. AT.

The session, “Connect with the Experts,” will gather SOCAN and a few other Canadian music organizations (like FACTOR, or the Music Managers Forum), with each one addressing sets of attendees for 5-10 minutes (plus a short Q&A) in separate online “rooms,” and the attendees switching rooms two or three times. This session is scheduled for Saturday, May 8, at 9:00 a.m. ET, 10:00 a.m. AT.

The ECMA 2021 Industry Conference, which runs from May 5-9, will feature a series of high-level online conference sessions to help prepare industry professionals and companies by providing the insight that might expand their career and business opportunities in the world of film, television, advertising and music supervision. To attend, you can register here.

Among the 50-plus SOCAN members playing live-streamed showcase performances at the festival, which runs concurrently with the conference, are Rose Cousins, Jimmy Rankin, Quote the Raven, Rachel Beck, Rich Aucoin, Beòlach and Charlie A’Court.



One of Canada’s finest music icons and “First Lady of Cape Breton,” Rita MacNeil, is the newest Inductee to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF).  Today, on the anniversary of her untimely passing, MacNeil’s legacy will be indelibly remembered with a permanent place in the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame at the National Music Centre in Calgary. A special tribute is planned for the 2021 East Coast Music Awards show on Thursday, May 6, taking place in the songwriter’s hometown of Cape Breton, NS. The induction presentation will include a musical tribute performed by a cast of former bandmates, friends and more.

Some of MacNeil’s best-known songs often spoke of Nova Scotia, however, her cross-genre appeal and immense talent resonated with Canadians across the country and globally.  With her shy persona, MacNeil endeared herself to grassroots audiences nationwide and enjoyed commercial success despite not conforming to the music industry’s expectations. Her melody-driven, heartfelt songwriting resisted classification – sometimes country, sometimes hinting of folk, gospel and blues.

“Through her lyrics and songwriting, Rita allowed us into her heart and soul,” said Vanessa Thomas, Executive Director, Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.  “The love between songwriter and audience was mutual.  Rita didn’t sing to people, she sang for people; and her audiences, in return, gave her strength to overcome her shyness and stage anxiety. There are few artists who have such an intimate and authentic connection with their fans, and that bond lives on through her songs.”

As MacNeil once told the CBC: “The people in this country have given me such a career and loved me back so much.”

“We’re thrilled to partner with the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame to honour the tremendous legacy of Rita MacNeil,” said ECMA CEO Andy McLean.  “As we celebrate the best of today’s East Coast artists, it’s also important to look back and recognize the impact that songwriters like Rita had on our region and its history. She was a phenomenal talent who represented the very best of our East Coast music community, and we’re very proud to be a part of her induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.”

Before reaching commercial success, MacNeil was involved with the women’s movement in the early 1970s writing feminist protest songs. Gradually, her songwriting evolved into a broader folk-pop autobiographical style, and she performed for rallies, at coffeehouses, folk clubs, the Mariposa and other folk festivals.

She recorded three albums independently beginning with Born a Woman (1975), but it was Flying on Your Own, her 1986 debut album with Virgin Records, that became her commercial breakthrough.  With the successful single “Flying on Your Own” and the double-platinum album of the same name, MacNeil won her first JUNO Award in 1987 as Most Promising Female Vocalist, and ECMA Female Recording of the Year in 1989-1990 and 1993.

A large part of MacNeil’s successes came with her compositions. More than 200 of her own songs are registered with Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and she was recognized in 2009 with SOCAN’s National Achievement Award.  MacNeil often described her songwriting as arising from strong emotions for people or places, and has spoken of her songwriting technique as being unusual, with the music and lyrics coming together in her head simultaneously in the shape of songs.

1988’s “Working Man” was inspired after a visit to Sydney Mines, and written as a tribute to the hardships and sacrifices of coal miners in Cape Breton – but it would serve an anthem for coal miners everywhere.  The song, which she famously performed with the coal miners’ choir, The Men of the Deeps, soared to No. 11 in the U.K.  She would continue to regularly perform with The Men of the Deeps, including at the 1989 JUNO Awards.

MacNeil became Canada’s top-selling country singer-songwriter in 1990 and 1991.  Her highest charting single, “We’ll Reach the Sky Tonight,” earned SOCAN’s Country Award in 1991; and in the same year her homage to Cape Breton, “Home I’ll Be,” won the ECMA Song of the Year.  In total, MacNeil has received 11 East Coast Music Awards, culminating with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, making her the ECMA’s second most-winning female artist after Natalie MacMaster, and tied with Rose Cousins.

Her popular songs have been covered by the likes of Anne Murray, Tara MacLean, Matt Minglewood, The Elora Singers, The Elmer Iseler Singers, Celtic Thunder, Foster & Allen, and Mary K. Burke.

She also became a familiar face and beloved personality as host of her television variety show, Rita and Friends, which aired on CBC from 1994 to 1997.  The show regularly drew millions of viewers and won a Gemini Award in 1996.  She would continue to produce her own television specials, and make appearances on shows such as the The Royal Canadian Air Farce and Trailer Park Boys.

She performed at the world’s fair during Vancouver’s Expo 86, and toured internationally at venues including the iconic Royal Albert Hall and Sydney Opera House.  Having come far from humble beginnings, MacNeil earned membership in the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia, and was inducted posthumously to the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.



There’s been a sudden, widespread proliferation of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the music industry in February and March of 2021, so here’s a short guide to explain how they work.

NFTs are a way to sell a unique piece of music (or a painting, photo, graphic, collage, video, piece of writing, or anything else, it seems), exclusively to one person, or one small set of people, via a non-fungible token –  which is intrinsically linked to the original work. In essence, the buyer is purchases ownership of a data file that contains the music (or other work of art) in a unique transaction. The back end is controlled by blockchain technology – a kind of digital ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently, verifiably, and permanently.

The only way to buy NFTs now is with a cryptocurrency called Ethereum. Once the artist approves the sale, the Ethereum token is deposited in their digital “wallet,” and can then be transferred into their bank account, and withdrawn as actual money. The combination of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency makes buying an NFT very secure. Once the buyer, or small group of buyers (usually fans of the artist), has purchased the item, the only way for anybody else to obtain it is if a buyer re-sells.

There’s usually still a “middleperson” with NFTs, as the artist sells to the fan through a company, which usually takes a percentage for facilitating the transaction, and a fee for the energy required to create the token. But there can also be less need in the transaction for other typical music industry professionals; record companies, streaming services, digital service providers, agents, managers, publicists, promoters, venues, and so on, might all be left out.

There’s a lot of money to be made with NFTs. Often, the sale is done by auction, which drives up the price for in-demand recording artists. One globally popular Canadian musician auctioned off a video-art piece with a song demo for about $490,000 CAD. Kings of Leon made more than $2.5 million CAD in NFT sales of various exclusive versions of, spin-offs from, and merch for, their current album When You See Yourself. It’s not unlike crowd-funding or Patreon perks, with different products offered by artists to their fans at different prices, or levels of funding; but with NFTs, the sale is only to one fan, or very small, exclusive groups of fans, either once, or in very limited-edition numbers.

And the money can be made multiple times. Because the artists set the terms of the sale, they can dictate the percentage they receive of all future sales of the product, no matter how many times it’s re-sold. So, for example. If whoever bought that Canadian musician’s video-art piece for $490,000 CAD re-sells it for, say, $800,000 CAD, and the musician has established, say, a 20 percent share of future sales, they’ll receive another $160,000 CAD when it’s re-sold. And it might be re-sold many times.

But, according to the eternal laws of supply and demand, in order to drive up the price of the NFTs via auction, or set a high initial price for them, the demand already has to be there. So if a musician draws hundreds of fans rather than hundreds of thousands, or casual listeners rather than hardcore fanatics, they might not make more money from NFTs than from crowd-funding or Patreon offers.

The major, current  drawback to NFTs is that the energy used – referred to as “mining” – for Ethereum is bad for the climate. From Time magazine, March 18, 2021: “Critics say the mining that makes NFTs possible is perhaps humanity’s most direct way of making money by polluting the planet – Ethereum mining consumes about 26.5 terawatt-hours of electricity a year, nearly as much as the entire country of Ireland and its almost five million residents.” But that may improve over time with new advances in technology, so the problem might eventually be solved.

Currently, the buzz around NFTs seems driven more by their money-making potential than their intrinsic musical value. Some say they’re the future of the music industry, some say they’re a fad. Only time will tell for sure.