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.”


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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.


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Imagine staying in L.A. for next to nothing. Waking up to the California sun streaming in your window, steps from famed Sunset Boulevard. Grabbing a cup of coffee, then spending the day collaborating with other songwriters and following your muse.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Thanks to SOCAN, this isn’t just a pipe dream. Just ask Jay “The Human Kebab” Parsons, of alt-rock duo USS. He and his bandmate Ashley Buchholz experienced this recently, staying at the SOCAN House in Los Angeles – a facility that they offer to their members, free, for short-term stays.

“To stay in L.A., at minimal cost, in stunning Silver Lake, was a fantasy beyond a dream,” says Parsons. “From our humble beginnings in our parents’ basements in Stouffville, to living on the side of a mountain courtesy of SOCAN – and writing what would become the biggest single of our career – we’ve certainly come full circle.”

During their West Coast songwriting sojourn, the duo made connections with the likes of former OneRepublic member Tim Myers, and wrote the first two singles (“Work Shoes,” and “Us,”) from its current album New World Alphabet, released in January 2017. The two months the pair lived and worked in L.A. last year were so fruitful that Parsons says they hope to enjoy a similar experience this summer at the SOCAN House in Nashville. There’s also a SOCAN House in Paris, used largely by its Francophone members.

“You don’t have to concern yourself with what hotel you’re staying in, and how much you’re paying – especially important last year, when the Canadian dollar was at its weakest,” the songwriter says. “You meet other collaborators and write songs every day, then come home to a house at night. There’s even a monitor set up there, so Ash and I would often lay down some demos right before bed.

“Part of the attraction isn’t just partnering with other SOCAN members in California, but that the house is provided to artists for very little,” says Parsons. “That’s a big thing! Even a band at our level, when you go off your album cycle, you have to be careful where you spend your time and money.”

The songwriting experience with Myers was another California dream come true. Myers lives in the exclusive gated community of Calabasas, where neighbours include the likes of Brian Wilson. Parsons recalls this surreal scene: “Security had to e-mail him [Myers] so we could even get into the area. We walk into this lavish mansion in a neighborhood one over from Kayne and Drake. We played him two demos of two songs. He liked them, but said ‘Let’s go in a different direction,’ and all three songs made the record.”

On “Work Shoes,” USS collaborated with a couple from Nashville, and recorded the song in Little Armenia, using a couch standing on its end as the vocal booth. Says Parsons: “Who would have thought that that song would change our band’s path and journey?”
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Jessie Reyez is another rising songwriter whose journey was altered thanks to a positive SOCAN experience. In 2015, the artist — recently named one of 10 SOCAN members to watch for in 2017 — participated in the inaugural Kenekt Song Camp, held Sept. 7-11, 2015, at Shobac Cottages in the town of Upper Kingsburg, Nova Scotia.

“It was awesome,” Toronto-based Reyez recalls. “I had a great time — especially working alongside creators that I’ve respected for years, like fellow SOCAN members Jully Black and Anjulie.”

For Reyez, it’s possible some of these collaborations might end up on her upcoming debut album – a collection of music that draws inspiration from her life’s journey to date.

“The co-writing was a rainbow,” says Reyez. “[SOCAN’s] Chad [Richardson] consistently mixed us up, sporadically, so it was interesting to see what came of each session, considering the different recipe of people each day. Funnily enough, I happened to work with Chin Injeti again, not long after the camp, because he was at one of the sessions I had with DJ Khalil last year.”

Reyez highly recommends other SOCAN artists take part in a future SOCAN song camps. She says that by participating, you’ll get an opportunity to meet a lot of like-minded creative people, sharpen your songwriting skills, and learn from others’ techniques – and learn to be “more malleable when placed beside other songwriters that have a completely different process than you do.”

The bucolic setting of Upper Kingsburg, Nova Scotia was another highlight for the songwriter. “That inspired me because it was a completely new and removed environment,” says Reyez. “The fact that it was so far away from home almost added an element of extra freedom to my creativity. Also, the local artists that were invited into our sessions every day [painters, poets, photographers] was a beautiful addition, because having an audience seems to propel me in a different way when making music – like a small dose of the excitement I get when I perform. It was almost like a mini show.”

SOCAN is also working to bring the song camp experience to as many SOCAN songwriter members as possible, with its new “Song Camp Mondays” initiative, whereby members can apply to participate in a three-person, one-day writing session at the SOCAN Toronto office. The monthly Mondays are designed to help our songwriters build their relationships, gain experience collaborating, and advance their craft.

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When we connect, Doug Oliver, drummer and co-manager of Cold Creek County, is in the middle of making some new music. The JUNO-nominated band is recording and rehearsing its sophomore release in Brighton, Ont. The first single (“Our Town”) from this forthcoming album came to life in June 2016 during a co-writing session at Toronto’s SOCAN Sound Lounge.

“I wrote our first single with Gavin Slate and Travis Wood at the SOCAN lounge and that was pretty cool,” Oliver says. “I didn’t even know they had a sound lounge. It’s a little studio set-up, with monitors, where you can do your thing and make as much noise as you want. It’s a really cool and chill environment.”

Did Oliver know heading into this session that he’d walk out later that day with a single?

“Of course not,” he says. “I was just looking for a place to write, and the doors at the SOCAN lounge were wide open. I jumped at the opportunity. That’s the funny thing with writing songs. You write 100 songs to get maybe two or three cuts. We went in that day with a song idea and a title and the next thing you know it’s the lead single for our second record.”


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