This spring, SOCAN began testing the eagerly-anticipated CIS-Net for Rights Holders initiative. This is a bold step that will empower songwriters, composers, and music publishers to search repertoire and interested party information (IPI) on the worldwide database.

This CISAC-led initiative is a response to requests from music creators and publishers to open up CIS-Net to rights holders. For those of you unfamiliar with CIS-Net, it’s a global network of databases that share the metadata associated with musical repertoire – information essential to tracking performances, to ensure that music creators and publishers get paid when their music is played. For instance, SOCAN, as a contributor to CIS-Net, provides the details of SOCAN members’ repertoire for other musical rights organizations to see. The type of information provided for each song includes the title, the songwriter(s) or composer(s), the music publisher(s), IP(s) (Interested Party or Parties) numbers, shares for each participant, performer(s), etc.

Over the years, CIS-Net has become an invaluable tool in SOCAN’s daily business, making it faster and easier for us to track our members’ performances and get them properly paid. We use it to verify that our members’ repertoire is correctly represented around the world; to confirm work details for non-SOCAN repertoire; and we even use it as part of our ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code) assignment processes. Additional tools included in CIS-Net allow us to request cue sheet details, download work details directly to our database, and match unidentified repertoire against the repertoire of other music rights organizations. In short, it has made many of our existing processes much more efficient than they used to be, thus allowing us to get our members paid even faster, more easily, and more accurately than before.

CIS-Net has become an invaluable tool in SOCAN’s daily business, making it faster and easier for us to track our members’ performances and get them properly paid.

Now that CIS-Net is such an integral part of music rights organizations’ business, the time is right to make it available to rights holders. This means that music creators and music publishers will have the ability to search repertoire and interested party information on CIS-Net. As you can imagine, there are many challenges that CISAC has to address with this expansion to CIS-Net – such as the different privacy laws in each territory, overall network security, and providing technical support to an expanded user base.  To address these issues, CISAC has built features into the tool that allow the music creator and music publisher users to determine if they want to make their controlled repertoire available, and if they do, what level of information they will allow CIS-Net to share. Security is addressed through a sign-up process that requires each participating music rights organization to confirm their members’ requests for access. Technical support will be provided by a CIS-Net team.

During the first phase of testing, we’re currently assessing the overall usability of the tool from the perspective of each of the stakeholders (music rights organizations, music creators, and music publishers); we want to ensure that the way information is presented is logical and easy to access. Once the feedback from this round of testing has been incorporated by the project team, we’ll move to another round of testing, and then the tool will be launched. Our goal is to release it in the fall, depending on the results of the two testing phases.

As we move toward a go-live date, we’ll communicate with our members, and let them know how they can start using CIS-Net for Rights Holders.

A life in the creative world or in the arts has its rewards. Self-expression, yes. Creative satisfaction, hopefully. Financial rewards, hmm, maybe. Security and safety nets, well, not so much.

If you’re a SOCAN member, you probably wish you had the health insurance and other benefits that your “nine-to-five” friends can access through their employers. But there is an insurance plan that provides coverage for independent creative professionals. It’s the Arts & Entertainment Plan® offered through the Actra Fraternal Benefit Society (AFBS), and it’s available to SOCAN members.

Jason Saulay of AFBS

Jason Saulay of the AFBS Arts & Entertainment Program®

It started when Canadian author and activist Susan Swan began talking to AFBS about setting up an affordable health care plan for the writing community. As a result, AFBS established The Writers’ Coalition Program in 2009, followed in 2011 by the Arts & Entertainment Plan – the first health insurance plans designed for self-employed artists in Canada.

Around since 1975, the AFBS is a member-owned and -governed, not-for-profit, federally incorporated insurance company that currently insures more than 17,000 self-employed people, and manages more than $625 million in member retirement assets.

Jason Saulay, the representative for the plan, explains that while their main business is insuring ACTRA and the Writers’ Guild, what they offer through the Arts and Entertainment Plan and the Writers’ Coalition Program is an insurance program for the artistic community as a whole, for organizations and people who otherwise don’t have access to such benefits and coverage.

“We’re not your typical insurance company,” Saulay says. “Although on the back end we operate similarly, we’re very different. Because we’re creatives ourselves, we understand the needs of others who earn their livelihood in the creative space. So when we design insurance programs, we do it with expertise, knowledge and compassion that can’t be matched by traditional insurers.” AFBS started offering the plan to SOCAN members about four years ago.

One of the main goals of the plan is to make getting insurance easy. “There’s no barriers to entry or anything like that,” says Saulay. “We have the simplest, easy-to-join plan you can possibly imagine. If you want to join up, it takes literally three minutes. You can join online, or get a quote in two steps. If you want to look around, compare plans, you have that option. When you want to actually enrol, you provide your personal details, what plan you want, how you’re going to pay, and you’re ready to go. It’s that simple. If you want to file a paper application, we have that option available as well.”

The plan offers flexible payment options. You can pay online monthly or annually by credit card, by cheque with a paper application, or by automatic bank account withdrawals each month.

“We offer health insurance, but we’re really artists helping artists.” – Jason Saulay of the Arts & Entertainment Plan offered by AFBS

The portability of the plan is also a key selling point. “With this program, it’s individual enrollment packaged up as group insurance,” Saulay explains. “So when you go to SOCAN or, say, if you work at some of these organizations, if that employee wants to leave, this insurance follows you. That’s very important for freelancers and self-employed people.”

The plan offers coverage for families and enrolment also has certain advantages come tax time. “If you file self-employed, you have tax advantages to joining the program,” Saulay says. “A significant portion of the premiums are a straight business expense and any unpaid portions of claims are also tax deductible.”

There are two options under the Arts & Entertainment Plan: a standard plan and a comprehensive plan (a more robust version of the standard one). While premiums will vary, Saulay says they’re very conscientious about the cost. “We know we’re dealing with artists, [we know] where the price points are, so they can’t scale too high from where they are. We actually offer the best guaranteed issue plan for the price available on the market, against any other plan in Canada.”

The Standard Plan premiums are $77 per month for those under 65 years old; for those over 65, the rate varies slightly per province, where there are “a couple of different minor premium jumps.” The Comprehensive Plan premiums range from $110 to $140 per month, depending on one’s age.

Saulay explains how some people come to the plan after having heard about it, while others who perhaps have never had employer-supplied insurance benefits contact them to inquire into what it’s all about. “Those people are tough because you’re dealing with people who say, ‘Okay, I’ve never had anything, now you want me to pay you every month, and then I may or may not use this plan?’ So then it’s [all about] getting into what you’re paying for; that’s a longer educational process,” he says. “Then you get others who had insurance already either from another job, or they’ve secured it through their spouses. They hear about it and they just come over.”

But Saulay says he and his team at AFBS are always there to help you through the process. “When you contact us, you tell us what you need, we explain what we have, we leave it in your court, answer any questions you have until you’re fully comfortable, and then we hope you come with us,” he says. “And in most cases people do.”

Amanda Sadler

Amanda Sadler

SOCAN member and freelance composer Wolfgang Webb had heard about the plan through friends who are ACTRA members. “I knew it was a non-profit insurance provider owned by other performers and writers,” says Webb. “Once I found out that SOCAN was providing this plan, I jumped at the chance,” he says. “I’ve never held a typical ‘day job’ or had an employer pay for my benefits. My medical premiums and expenses can often be written off as a business expense, and prescription drugs are reimbursed up to 70 per cent. My dental is 50 per cent up to $800, and increases to $1,250 during year three.”

Amanda Sadler is a singer-songwriter, and while she finds her work “unequivocally fulfilling” in many ways, she notes that the lack of insurance coverage is definitely a downside to her chosen profession. For her, the plan has helped to provide some stability in her music career, through access to affordable insurance benefits, which also gives her some financial wiggle room. “AFBS has allowed me to invest more money back into my music,” she says, “and has given me peace of mind to know that a trip to the dentist, or a prescription for new glasses, won’t be taking away from a songwriting trip or my next recording session.”

For singer-songwriter and film/TV composer Jon Mullane, there are also the advantages of the plan’s extended coverage. “One of the big benefits to me from this program is the travel insurance component,” says Mullane. “We travel a lot in this business, and it’s been great for me as I spend much of my time in the U.S. They also offer a phone consultation service where you can speak with experts on finance, legal, etc., which I’ve accessed a few times as well. It’s really excellent.”

Saulay boils it down the fact that the plan is exclusively designed for artists, by artists. “You’re getting something offered by people who completely understand you,” says Saulay. “We understand many of the concerns you may have, we know the benefits that are helpful to you, we have experience providing insurance to the artistic community. We offer health insurance, but we’re really artists helping artists.”

SOCAN members who want to learn more about the Arts & Entertainment Plan from AFBS can visit their website, or give them a call at 1-800-387-8897, Ext. 238.

Anyone with a pulse probably realizes that Nova Scotia is a hotbed of musical talent.

Joel Plaskett, Classified, Sarah McLachlan, Sloan, Old Man Luedecke, Jenn Grant and Wintersleep are just a few of the province’s most noteworthy artists. But it’s the burgeoning potential of the region’s lesser-known lights that brings Scott Long, Executive Director of Music Nova Scotia, to Great Britain at the time of this writing, May of 2017 – where he can trumpet their value.

“Music Nova Scotia works as an export office for the province in the music business,” says Long. “We cover these events to also drum up interest, and meet and network with buyers. I try to meet as many agents, festival bookers, record labels, and other people like that, as I can.”

Long says the results are tangible. “We’ve been doing this pretty seriously now for five or six years, and we track the return on investment,” explains Scott, who joined Music Nova Scotia in 2008. “It’s definitely worth it. We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t. The thing about it, though, is that it’s a long game. We see results from being at The Great Escape [an annual festival of new music held in May in Brighton, U.K.] – we’re here this week – but it could take three years before an artist would truly benefit from attending an event like this.”

Music Nova Scotia, a provincially- and privately-funded organization, established in 1989, has several mandates to help local musicians extend their careers beyond the 902 and 782 area codes. Spreading the gospel of Nova Scotia musicianship to foreign lands is only one of them.

Long says there are several current success stories unfolding as Music Nova Scotia targets the U.K. and Germany. “Ben Caplan is doing a lot of live touring over here,” he says. “Erin Costelo is touring Germany right now. Ria Mae has benefited from our investment in export. She’s doing really well.

“Some of our up-and-coming exporters who’ve taken part in a lot of our activity lately include Port Cities; Like A Motorcycle, a punk band from Halifax that’s actually gaining some interest overseas; and on this trip, we have an indie rock band called Mauno, signed to a U.K. label called Tin Angel, and we’re working to help promote them. Mo Kenney has had success in the U.K. and Germany as well, and she’s touring Europe at the moment. We have realistic expectations, but we’re seeing more and more Nova Scotia artists touring outside of Canada than ever.”

“Writing good songs, owning them, and knowing what to do with them, we believe, is more important than ever.” – Scott Long of Music Nova Scotia

Another aim of Music Nova Scotia is to provide information, training and education to their membership, currently hovering around 1,100 members, according to Long. “You can book consultation time,” he says. “We train in best practices of the music business – everything from baby bands who are just getting going, to advising on export – and we present different training activities throughout the year.”

The organization also owns and runs Nova Scotia Music Week, which includes a festival and industry conference. Long says artists are taught how to write grants, and about the definition and executions of music business and music marketing plans, as well as identifying revenue streams.

Long also says that SOCAN membership is crucial.  “We’re going to be debating this with our Board of Directors – that we want it to be mandatory for our export-ready artists that you’re a member of SOCAN, or you can’t apply to our funding programs.

Muisc Nova Scotia Logo“In the world of publishing, that’s a big thing for us – intellectual property, digital marketing. It’s important to us to see more intellectual property created, and exploited properly, out of Nova Scotia… We think that’s where the value is. Obviously, live touring is super-important now as well. But writing good songs, owning them, and knowing what to do with them, we believe, is more important than ever.”

To that end, Long says Music Nova Scotia has been sponsoring such initiatives as the annual Gordie Sampson Songcamp, which he describes as a music incubator. Although the Nova Scotia-born Sampson currently resides in Nashville, the writer of such hits as Carrie Underwood’s Grammy-winning “Jesus, Take The Wheel” and Hunter Hayes’ “Storm Warning” returns to Nova Scotia every July for the five-day event.

“It’s his way of giving back,” says Long, mentioning that the band Port Cities was formed at one such song camp. “He brings up some friends who talk about the business, and as far as songwriting goes, we think collaboration is really important. Our members get better value, better songs, and better success with their songs when they collaborate. So we’re really trying to encourage that.”

Another role of Music Nova Scotia is acting as an advocate on behalf of their provincial music industry. “Most of the advocacy we do is to maintain public investment in the sector from the province,” Long explains. “Our job is to prove to governments, on an almost continual basis, that we’re an industry worthy of investment. We’ve done that successfully over the past few years. The music investment for the province of Nova Scotia is equivalent per capita to the Ontario Music Fund.  We’re a much smaller province [a population of 923,000 versus Ontario’s 13 million], and have much smaller dollars and cents, but per capita, we’re on par with the biggest province in the country. So we’re proud of that. We estimate value of Nova Scotia’s music industry as close to $100 million in Gross Domestic Product.”

Administering investment for the music industry on behalf of the provincial government, Music Nova Scotia also runs an Export Development Program and Artist Development Program, where it invests in tour support. “We don’t invest in recording or making records, but we’ll invest in touring, marketing, and developing emerging artists,” says Long.

Lately, the organization has been working to address the loss of live venues in the province. “In particular, Halifax,” Long explains. “We’re in danger of losing our own venues at home. We’ve been working with the province, and some other stakeholders in the live industry, to ensure that there’s a review of public safety regulations involving red tape. We can’t ignore the home front, so we’re working more to promote the province as a music destination to ensure we have a good business environment for the music sector.”