Monthly Archives: March 2015

It all starts with a song

Songwriting_3_CST Published 03/25/2015

By Chad Richardson

If songs were food I would be in a lot worse shape than I am today. If songs were food you would see me as an annual contestant on The Biggest Loser. Every season I’d do the head-hanging walk of shame back to the scale, with the disappointment of my trainer’s eyes burning through my soul but with a smile on my face and a belly full of food.

Although I’ve been a songwriter (and SOCAN member) for most of my life, I always saw my true passion as singing. From recording artist to Broadway performer, I lived to sing. But over the past few years, as I went from the performing side of music to the business side, I realized that it was less about the action of singing and more about the words and melodies coming out of my mouth. Songs, lyrics and music are my food. They are, apart from my young son, my raison d’être.

So when the call went out asking for someone to write a blog with the title “It all starts with a song,” I jumped at the chance. It seemed so easy, like it would no doubt write itself. “Give me the weekend,” I said. But minutes turned into hours, hours turned into days, and days turned into weeks. I wasn’t having an easy time. Why? Because the title itself is the whole article. I felt like all I could come up with was, “Yes, yes it does.”

They call smell the memory sense, and songs are like smells. They instantly bring you back to a moment in time that can evoke sadness, joy, anxiety, fear, pain, happiness, jealousy… the list goes on.. There’s a reason why the first dance at a wedding is traditionally the song that the couple fell in love to. The words tell the story of their great love affair, and with one listen the song brings them back to that little café on 3rd Street when a boy saw a girl, and a girl saw a boy (or any other combination you desire). I realized that it isn’t a simple thing, but a very complex and vast topic that could merit 100 blogs for 100 moments in our life that start with a song.

I needed to centre myself and focus. These thoughts, feelings and moments of inspiration were rushing through my mind, complicating what should be a simple idea. Then it struck me, as I began to think of what might hit closest to home for my industry friends and me. That was it. The “all” that starts with a song, in this case, is our careers, our paycheques and our livelihoods. Publishers, recording artists, record labels, managers, music industry lawyers, agents, promoters… None of my comrades and colleagues would have our jobs, or a reason to get up in the morning, without the beautiful, wonderful, complicated, simple…. song. It’s an incredible product that comes from pure thin air. No assembly (line) required.

I’ve visited and worked for companies that felt more like a bank than a place of inspiration. People focused on the money, but not the music. I’m happy to report, for both our members andmeI is, that SOCAN couldn’t be any further away from this approach. SOCAN is a music company that works with money: your money. Without our members, we’re nothing, but without their songs, our members are nothing.

I’ve invented a T-shirt-style slogan by which I try to live my professional life: “Serve the song, serve the songwriter, serve the company.” If you do right by one then the next one instantly falls into place: they all thrive and they’ll all prosper. So at the end of the day the only thing you need to serve is the song.

We should all serve the song. Of course SOCAN is a company with incredibly skilled people who track down, collect and distribute literally hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties every year to our songwriters, composers and music publisher members. But not one phone would ring, not one cheque would be cut, without the basic, beautiful writing of a song. This is why it’s not just important, but a deep in our bones mandate for SOCAN to not only support our members in business, but also in creativity and in craft. We’re constantly striving to improve our business of music, and amplify our role in supporting its creation.

It’s easy for me to write these words. It’s certainly easy, when having the luxury to sit and ponder for weeks on end, to seem like I have it all figured out. But that’s kind of my point. I don’t. Songs are my food, my air and my lover that never leaves. Songs are all of these things, and still I lose sight of what it’s all about sometimes. I go to work, meet songwriters, talk about their careers, talk about their goals, counsel them on the art, and yet sometimes I forget why I actually do it all and what makes it all possible.

That is, until a Sunday afternoon when I attend an ABBA tribute at a theatre in North Hollywood, with my beautiful seven-year-old son. We’re moving, singing, laughing, and when they play “Dancing Queen,” I get a chill through my soul and I actually start to cry. Yes, I actually cried to “Dancing Queen.” Songs are just that powerful. When I came home, I began to write this blog.

CISAC report suggests enduring popularity of music

Business_ByTwobee_CST Published 03/9/2015

By Eric Baptiste

CISAC, the international federation of copyright societies with 230 members in 120 countries, recently published its annual report on its members’ global collections. As Chairman of the Board of the organization, I’d like to share with you what I took from reading the document.

Even with a few caveats, for example:

  • Exchange rate variations relative to the report’s reference currency (the Euro) have a huge impact and need to be taken into account,
  • the numbers date back to 2013 because they are based on actual reported results for all the societies and not estimates,
  • not all revenues that go to creators and music publishers flow through the collective management system (synchronization being a good example),
  • some rare organizations, like HFA in the US, are not CISAC members and therefore their numbers are not included,

some trends are worth highlighting.

The most important takeaway has to be the enduring popularity of music (87% of all collections) and the strength of its monetization – with one big exception, the sale of music recordings (both physical and as downloads). This is of concern of course since, from the 1950s at least, recorded music has provided a big part of revenues for music creators and the businesses that invest in their talent and hard work such as publishers and record companies. Yet despite the decline of “mechanical” rights, exchange rate-adjusted figures showed a 4.6% growth to 7.8 billion euros (a bit more than $11 billion Canadian dollars).

Looking at continents, collections on behalf of creators still originate mainly from traditional markets like Europe, North America, Japan and Australia, but the 2015 report shows changes at play. While these mature markets remain strong and have generally grown, from admittedly low figures the BRICS are indeed emerging in this field with a particular strong performance from Latin America. Look for that to continue in the next few years, and for China to grow its collections significantly.

Turning the spotlight to the businesses that generated the royalties, as usually reported, the live music segment is still growing and, as a result, is more important than ever to creators.

Less often mentioned is the resilience of the “traditional” media outlets (radio, TV networks, specialty TV channels, etc.). They were supposed to die a few years ago, they were predicted to turn away from music. Predictions from pundits are fine, but the real world provides the truth: performing rights collections reached 6 billion euros for the first time ever, and the bulk of these rights (45% of all collections!) come from TV and radio. Digital services, both musical (Spotify, Rdio, Deezer…) or AV ones (e.g., Netflix) so far seem to be adding value to the market, not undermining the more traditional players.

This is good news for all creators and the businesses that sustain them, like publishers. Even if it is too early for a final pronouncement, that situation appears to be in line with the history of the entertainment and media industries so far: because people could buy records and then CDs, they didn’t stop going to concert halls or arenas; TV didn’t kill radio; DVDs and Blu-Ray didn’t empty movie theatres; and so on.

We’ll have to be vigilant though because if indeed “this time it is different,” Jeff Zucker’s famous remark when he was NBC Universal’s big boss could become true: analog dollars could be replaced by digital pennies.

And in fact, only 5% of CISAC members’ collections come from “digital” sources. Some reasons for that may offer hope for growth: lots of these services are not yet available in many countries, and they’re still young and their market share is small.

However, unless things change fast and these digital services prove that they can generate significant turnover and not just humongous market valuations, things could become ugly fairly soon.

A world without TV channels, but only “over the top” services at about $10 per month, will not sustain the audio-visual creativity that we have today with, for example, acclaimed TV series being produced in seemingly every corner of the world. No more sales of recorded music and no more radio – just ad-funded online services – will not sustain the music ecosystem. The numbers simply wouldn’t add up.

In the meantime, as reported by CISAC for 2013 and SOCAN for 2013 and 2014, music creators and their publishers can count on the strength, hard work and economic success of their Music Rights Organizations in these times of big change.