Desirée Dawson, who makes music to get us “feeling and healing,” is a 2022 JUNO nominee who won the CBC Searchlight contest in 2016; has participated in the Allan Slaight JUNO Masterclass; was a juror in the inaugural Black Canadian Music Awards presented by The SOCAN Foundation; and most recently, had her song “Meet You At The Light” win best music video at 2022 SXSW festival. Here, Dawson discusses some ways that she’s honed her songwriting process – as you can, too.

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The votes are in! Music fans declare “Welcome to the Garden,” written and performed by Emily Steinwall of Toronto, the winner of the 17th annual SOCAN Songwriting Prize. 

In addition to the prestige of winning, Emily Steinwall receives a $5,000 cash prize, a Yamaha Workstation, and a $500 gift card from Long & McQuade to support her creative process and songwriting journey. 

This is Steinwall’s first foray into songwriting, and fans and critics alike are thrilled she made the leap. First recognized and celebrated as an emerging composer, saxophone player, flautist, and bandleader, Steinwall is no stranger to the spotlight. Before releasing her debut concept album “Welcome to the Garden,” Steinwall graced the stage as a back-up singer for Alessia Cara. 

Just as a flower and the Earth are one, synergistically connected and inseparable, an artist cannot exist without the community of people from which they grow. We cannot be separated from our history or environment. This is the message I hope comes across with ‘Welcome to the Garden’,” said Steinwall. “Thank you to everyone that took the time to vote, without whom I would not have received this award. I think this is a clear indication that music grows from the ground up — its roots in community, its meaning and value in how it resonates with others. Thank you so much to SOCAN and all of the sponsors for creating this award to encourage and celebrate young songwriters. 

SOCAN is pleased to also present cash prizes of $500 to the writers of each of the remaining nine nominated songs, along with a $50 gift card from Long & McQuade. 

“Congratulations to Emily Steinwall,” said Jennifer Brown, CEO of SOCAN. “Her talent as a songwriter is clear in ‘Welcome to the Garden.’ It has an emotional depth rarely seen this early in a career. Canada is fortunate to have such strong songwriting talent, and the 10 songs nominated for the 2022 Songwriting Prize are representative of a very bright future for Canadian music.”  

Matt Bobkin, eminent music and arts journalist, and a SOCAN Songwriting Prize panelist, said this about the song: “There’s so much to love about ‘Welcome to the Garden,’ and not just because it’s 10 minutes long: the daring blend of jazz, psych, and progressive rock; the lush arrangements, mirroring lyrics that praise the power of womanhood, community, and nature; and the many stellar performances, from the vocals to the climactic sax solo. It pushes forward plenty of ideas, narratives, and sounds that are too often ignored or pigeonholed in popular music, and it’s amazing to think that this is only the beginning for a visionary like Emily.”   

The SOCAN Songwriting Prize is the only major songwriting award in Canada where fans vote to determine the winner. Ten outstanding songs created by Canadian songwriters over the past year are nominated by a panel of 15 esteemed music industry experts. The public is then invited to vote once a day for their favourite song for one week to determine the winner.  

SOCAN plays no role in determining the nominees or winners, apart from ensuring that they meet eligibility criteria.  

The winner of the Prix de la chanson SOCAN, the competition conducted separately for songs in French, was “Secret,” written by Hubert Chiasson, Félix Petit, and Julien Chiasson; performed by Hubert Lenoir; and published by Leclerc Lenoir Inc.

Also featured in the English category were the following extraordinary songs: 

  • “24hrs” – written by Johann Deterville, Adam Pondang, Savannah Ré Simpson; performed by Savannah Ré; Savannah Ré and Johann Deterville published by Sony Music Publishing, Adam Pondang published by Warner Chappell Music Canada Ltd.  
  • “By Myself” – written by Kahdijah Payne; performed by DijahSB and Harrison.  
  • “Can’t Let Go” – written by Jeanne Garpy, Gabrielle Godon; performed by Laroie; published by Arts & Crafts Music Publishing.  
  • “Container” – written by Liam Cole, Thomas Gill, Dorothea Paas, Paul Saulnier; performed by Dorothea Paas. 
  • “Find A Home” – written by Andrew Lennox, Eric Lourenco, Kirsten Kurvink Palm, Adam Sturgeon, Joe Thorner; performed by Status/Non-Status. 
  • “Paper Thin” – written by Brendan Grieve, Nemah Hasan, Stevie Solomon; performed by Nemahsis. 
  • Stacy” – written by Kevin Ekofo, Jordon Manswell, Jonathan Martin, Evan Miles, Jon Vinyl, Corey Wong; Kevin Ekofo published by ST Music Circle, Jon Vinyl published by Warner Chappell Music Canada Ltd; performed by Jon Vinyl. 
  • “Trust Issues” – written by Erik Fintelman, Robyn Ottolini, Mark Schroor; performed by Robyn Ottolini; published by  Warner Chappell Music Canada Ltd.
  • “want you more” – written by Amaka Queenette, Joshua Stanberry; performed by Amaka Queenette.  

The 2021 winner of the SOCAN Songwriting Prize was “Western Skies” written and performed by Billy Raffoul. Previous winners are available to view at SOCAN Songwriting Prize. 

SOCAN’s CEO and executives were on the scene throughout Canadian Music Week, June 6-11, 2022, participating in three of the conference panel discussions at the InterContinental Hotel on Front Street in downtown Toronto, as the event came back to a live-in-person presentation for the first time in three years.

On Wednesday, June 8, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. (all times ET), in the Ballroom, SOCAN CEO Jennifer Brown took part in a panel discussion on the State of the Industry: A United, Dynamic and Resilient Canadian Music Ecosystem, looking back at how the industry has been affected by pandemic restrictions, and looking ahead at how we can better support everyone within the music ecosystem.

“In the past two years we saw an 80 percent decline in concert revenues,” said Brown. “But we also saw the online opportunity, and we were there really quick to license it. We tried to make it as easy as possible. By August 2020, we were putting out online concert distributions… We wanted to get that money out. It was really important that we maintain the paycheck.”

Looking ahead, Brown anticipated a recovery in concert and radio royalties to come, and to licensing music in gaming, virtual reality, and concerts and events within those platforms. “I really see SOCAN as a service provider,” she said. “We don’t need to compete with the start-up that is actually building the app that almost every songwriter’s going to register their songs with; we just need to build the piece that gets that fee and gets that registration.”

On Thursday, June 9, from 5:15 to 6:00 p.m., in the Ballroom, SOCAN Creative Executive Houtan Hodania , along with other panelists, shared his thoughts in the session Show Me The Money! How To Make a Living as a Music Creator. This panel focused on the many revenue streams available to music creators, and on the organizations that collect and distribute the funds.

“As a music creator, you’re an entrepreneur,” said Hodania. “You should take it upon yourself to at least understand the basics of the industry and where your money comes from – making sure that you know the different organizations, and making sure that you’re signed up. That education will definitely go a long way.

“Nowadays more than ever, with TikTok, songs can blow up out of nowhere. You never really know where it’s being played, when it’s being played, when it’s going to go viral – so just make sure that you’re registering it… Look at Stranger Things, they picked up that song by Kate Bush, ‘Running Up That Hill.’ That song came out in, what, the ’80s? It never hit the Top 10 until this week. You never know, so make sure you’re taking care of business.”

Finally, on Friday June 10, from 9:55 to 10:40 a.m., in the Ontario Room, SOCAN Vice President, Royalty Collections, Kit Wheeler, joined other panelists for The Future of Live Streaming Concerts: Hybrid and Beyond. The panel discussed how artists can leverage live streaming shows, whether they do a pre-show, full show and/or post-show; what the new tools are for making live streaming shows more collaborative, engaging, and financially lucrative; and what the financial opportunities are for songwriters, publishers, and artists