Monthly Archives: April 2014

President’s Message: SOCAN’s rigorous review of its board of directors

Published 04/28/2014

By Stan Meissner

Former New York mayor, the late Ed Koch, used to ask every New Yorker on the street, “How am I doing?”  In our heart of hearts, most of us probably feel like we’re doing pretty well when we’re trying our best, but those around us may have a different perspective. With this in mind, and in the spirit of striving to work within “best practices” in corporate culture, as well as a degree of self-improvement, and ultimately creating a more effective organization, SOCAN has a rigorous review and evaluation process, not only for staff members by their managers, but for the directors of the board and the CEO.

The SOCAN board, along with Peter Stephenson of Meridien Consulting, perform annual evaluations to assess the effectiveness of the board of directors as a whole.  Each board member anonymously completes a specifically designed questionnaire, and upon a compilation of the results, the Executive Governance Committee (EGC), and then the entire board, review these results with an eye towards making improvements wherever they may be indicated.

Further, in the last few years, the board has also undergone peer assessment reviews, where board and committee members that work alongside each other have the ability to anonymously rate and make comments about their colleagues’ performance on the board. In the past, these results were only seen by that director, however, for this year, in order to give the exercise a bit more “teeth,” the individual results are also shared with the president of the board. This way, the president and the individual director can discuss either a job well done or any areas for improvement, to the ultimate end of personal growth and the ability to become a better and more effective director, with the end result of creating a better and more cohesive board.

Another role of the board of directors is to evaluate the role of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).  In fact, within our governance structure, the CEO is the only employee that reports directly to the board, while all other employees report to the CEO or their departmental managers.  The board, along with Peter Stephenson and Vice President of Human Resources Randy Wark, design a series of questions and areas for open-ended comment regarding the annual performance of the CEO, who like all SOCAN employees must achieve certain targets within the year that affect salary and bonuses.

Again, in keeping with best practices, new for this year, we have adopted a 360-degree approach to this evaluation process, by including assessment and evaluations from the executives that report to the CEO, in addition to the board members.  This allows for a more holistic view of the CEO’s performance and helps give the board greater insight into the CEO’s effectiveness.

Ultimately, the SOCAN board, staff and management continue to strive to make SOCAN the world’s leading performing rights organization, and these are the kinds of things we’re doing to find out how we’re doing in achieving that goal.

CEO Message: SOCAN strives for what’s fair to all

Published 04/22/2014

By Eric Baptiste

SOCAN fights for the legal and ethical use of music, and actually advocates for new digital music models. We believe that our track record is clear in this regard, but people should not forget that obtaining a SOCAN license is not the only step that is necessary for a new digital service to launch in Canada.

Of course, SOCAN fights for the rights of those who create music. But we also work with digital music providers to ensure that music creators are fairly compensated for their hard work and extraordinary talent. SOCAN works tirelessly  to reconcile sustainable digital music models – whose existence ultimately benefits our members – with fair royalty payments for music creators, without whom these models would have no music to provide to their listeners.

SOCAN considers organizations that use music, including digital music providers, as partners. They’re our customers, and they’re an essential bridge between our members and their listeners. We want businesses licensed to play music to empower and please their music listeners – consumers of music, their customers – who are now creating their own music experiences via playlists, streaming choices, downloading, making soundtracks to homemade YouTube videos, and so on. What we desire is to give listeners access to all of the music they want to hear – anytime, anywhere, on any device – in return for fair compensation to the creators of that music. That’s what we mean by “Music.People.Connected.”, the line that appears under our logo.

Simply put: we strive for what’s fair for everyone: music businesses, listeners and creators.

And music creators – songwriters, composers, and lyricists – are hugely valuable to our country. They foster economic growth; establish social values; promote Canada’s influence worldwide; work in a field that is digital, environmentally friendly, and job-intensive; and preserve and foster employment.

Music creators’ activities directly and indirectly add billions of dollars to the Canadian economy each year; provide jobs to Canadians throughout the music industry ecosystem, with a ripple effect throughout the broader economy; reduce Canadian dependency on imported entertainment; and support and nurture personalities that are worldwide icons of Canadian creativity and flair. Individuals and businesses that create music also contribute to Canada’s priceless “cultural capital.”

In view of these contributions, music creators – just like all working professionals – deserve fair compensation. The performance royalties that SOCAN identifies and distributes are a significant part of their livelihood.

With production budgets for music recording and movie scores getting lower and lower, performance royalties have become an ever-more-important revenue stream for all songwriters and composers. For behind-the-scenes songwriters who don’t perform their own material, it’s often their primary source of income. For independent, non-performing music creators, there’s no minimum wage, no salary, no employee benefits. They usually don’t make a dime until someone actually licenses or listens to a public performance of the music that they worked hard to create.

Music creators add value to our lives and growth to the economy. Ultimately, the music that they create is the source of great musical experiences that enrich the lives of listeners and enhance business, both in Canada and throughout the world. SOCAN is pleased, proud and honoured to be fighting for their rights.

Great Expectations

Published 04/7/2014

By Jeff King

Songwriters, composers and music publishers develop long-standing relationships with their performing rights organizations (PROs) that span entire careers and encompass all of their business development. This includes all of the ups and downs, and in the case of publishers, purchases and sales of song catalogues, as well as changes in staff.

For most music creators and music publishers, their PRO is a major constant. Through boom times, recessions, wars, the emergence of new technologies, and evolving demographics, SOCAN and its predecessors have been there.  But just being there is not enough; a PRO should be expected to do more than that. I’m not talking about the benefits and value proposition of SOCAN. Those are easy to check out on What should your expectations of your PRO be?

This is the big one, the foundation of all relationships. We’re talking about your copyrights, your creations and the trust that you’ve placed in SOCAN to administer your performing rights properly. You must expect that your information will be handled appropriately and discreetly, that smart business arrangements will be made, and that your distributions will be timely and accurate.

Essentially, governance is the process around decision-making, and the implementation of those decisions. Good governance can be hard to describe, but you’ll know bad governance when you see it. You should expect your PRO to have well-defined Board of Directors selection criteria, along with appropriate mandates on management and “managing management.” Just to let you know, SOCAN was the winner of the Conference Board of Canada’s National Award in Governance in the not-for-profit category the only year we entered.

You need your PRO to be able to explain where the money comes from and where it goes. SOCAN currently distributes approximately 86 cents out of every dollar as royalties, and we’re working hard to improve that figure. In addition to financial transparency, operational transparency should also be expected. Distribution Rules, policies and procedures, data sources and the like need to be available to you in clear and easy-to-understand language.

You should expect your PRO to move at the speed of business. This includes service, of course, but also includes bringing new products and services to market.

Respect and Dignity
You have a voice and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Your PRO has to be responsive and clear, even if the answer is no.

Your PRO should be looking for way to help make your life easier, not harder. From helping you make contacts and connections, to getting to the bottom of international performance royalties queries, SOCAN can take the lead. Of course, your success is your own doing, but your PRO should take the worry out of performing rights administration.

Remember, SOCAN is a member-owned organization, similar to a credit union or mutual insurance company. Our members own the organization, and the Board of Directors and management are ultimately accountable to them.

These expectations are an integral part of SOCAN’s culture already. However, we’re continuing to make strides to improve SOCAN further and raise the bar for performance rights management.