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So you want to tour in the US? Advice for Canadian Musicians from Ember Swift.

September 4, 2014

by Ember Swift

Despite the economy, artists still want to travel in the US. Especially those living in Ontario and comparing drive lengths between Toronto-Edmonton versus Toronto-Albany, it makes sense for us to dip down south of the border to try our luck there.

While that’s true geographically, all artists need to be aware of the paperwork required to make this happen legally. There’s nothing worse than booking shows, organizing a tour and then getting turned away at the border. It’s bad for your professional rep and it leaves a permanent mark on your border crossing record. Not worth it.

Here are some easy steps:

  1. You must be an American Federation of Musicians (AFM) union member: This is a vital first step. There’s a musicians’ union in every geographic region in North America, so find your local and join up! (Also consider, a non-geographically dependent union for travelling musicians.)
  2. Secure bookings in the United States well in advance: Thanks to nine years of advocacy, AFM has rallied for shorter processing time for applications (from 4-6 months down to 35 days for regular processing! Thanks AFM!), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your while to be organized. Provided you have at least 1 show for every 30-day period, with one application you can secure a single work permit that can last up to 365 days. This takes lots of advance organization, but it saves money and hassle!
  3. Contract your bookings on an official AFM contract: Contact the office below that handles what are called “P2 Work Visas” (what you need!) and they will send you a package with full instructions (See Contact Details below). Within this package is a blank contract that you can forward to your venues. Don’t forget that the gigs must pay union scale!

AFM Canada
Phone: 1 416 391 5161 x222 or 1 800 463 6333 x222
Fax: 416 391 5165
75 The Donway West, Suite 1010; Toronto, ON; M3C 2E9

  1. Submit All Paperwork Including both the AFM Processing Fee & US Immigration Fee at least 2 months before the first date: The AFM processing fee is now $100 CAD and the US Immigration fee is now $325 US (get a money order!). Even though regular processing time is only 35 days, I really recommend submitting your application at least two months in advance. Remember: AFM acts as the “middleman” and they submit your application to the US government on your behalf. When the US government receives everything, the 35 days of processing begins. Factor in mailing time (to/from/back to you), correction time, transfer time and any other possible delays!

The most important thing to remember, though, is not to be intimidated by the paperwork required to make this happen. It’s more than doable. It will expand your possible market, exponentially. What’s more, gas is cheaper down there!

Travel safe,
Ember Swift

This article is republished from the 2011 edition of Songwriters Magazine.

Rights, royalties, revenues & remuneration – How do we make money in this business?

August 14, 2014

by Kendon Polak

Royalties are your songwriting revenues. They are the standard method of moneymaking in the music industry for songwriters.

As a songwriter, a creator of original material, you are the first rights holder. This is automatically granted to you under copyright law, thanks to the Canadian Copyright Act. Your diligence as a rights holder is key.
It is your responsibility as the original copyright holder to keep track of your rights and royalties – unless, of course you choose to sell your rights to a new owner or transfer your rights to a label or publisher.

A royalty is paid to the author (and/or owner if the songwriter has sold a share to a publisher, for example) of a song when another party us- es it, plays it, reproduces it, broadcasts it or sells it. An agreement grants the other party a licence to use the song for one of the specific purposes listed above, and the royalty that eventually flows to the songwriter (and/ or owner) is generally proportional to the revenue that the other party collects as a result of using the author/owner’s work.

Thankfully, there are several rights organizations, also known as copyright collective societies, that can help you (and/or your publisher) track your rights as a songwriter. A rights organization will work on your behalf to grant permissions, determine the conditions of usage, collect licence fees, tariffs and levies, and also distribute royalties to you and the other the rights holders (cowriters, publishers). You can maintain mem- berships with several rights organizations which collect different types of royalties for different uses of songs (listed in the chart below).

When your material is used abroad, or when a foreign songwriter’s work is used in Canada, rights organizations in other countries will work alongside Canadian rights organizations to pass royalties back and forth across national borders.

Rights and royalties are divided into several categories:

Reproduction: Mechanical

This refers to the mechanical reproduction of your song, whereby physi- cal copies of your song (on CD, for example, or digital download) are sent into the marketplace and sold. A mechanical licence is granted by the publisher or rights holder (you), giving permission for your song to be reproduced and distributed publicly. A mechanical royalty is paid to the publisher/author based on the number of recordings sold. (Unless you self-publish, you will traditionally share 50% with the publisher.) In Canada, these rights and royalties are tracked by CMRRA (Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency;, which represents over 6,000 North American publishers who own and administer roughly 75% of the music recorded and performed in Canada.

Reproduction: Synchronization

When one of your songs is licensed to be used in a film, TV show or commercial, you will receive a synchronization royalty, which is usually negotiated between the publisher and the producer of the film, TV show

or commercial. If your song is broadcast on a TV show it will also earn a performance royalty (see below). When a specific recording of your song is used, the user must also seek permission from the label or re- cording artist and pay them in the form of a Master Use Licence.


Whenyoursongisplayedontheradio,ajukebox,onTV,atahealth club, on an airline, in a restaurant, on a piped/streamed music service over the internet or live on stage, a performance royalty is payable. Such licences are often granted to radio and TV stations via annual licence fees that represent a percentage of the station’s advertising revenue. In Canada, these rights and royalties are tracked and paid to songwriters and music publishers by SOCAN (see page 23).


This royalty is based on sales of printed sheet music.


Every recording of a song has a copyright, and every performance with- in that one recording has a quasi-copyright. Canadian law recognizes that everyone (including all musicians and producers) who contributes to a recording has an economic interest in the recording. In Canada, neighbouring rights royalties are administered by Re:Sound (resound. ca).

Rights organizations in Canada:

• ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society.
• ArtistI.
• AVLA. Audio-Video Licensing Agency.
• CMRRA. Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency. • CSI. CMRRA SODRAC Inc. Joint venture between CMRRA and SO- DRAC to handle online music. /

• MROC. Musicians’ Rights Organization Canada.
• Re:Sound. Formerly known as the Neighbouring Rights Collective of Canada.
• SOCAN. Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.
• SODRAC. Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada.
• SOGEDAM. Société de gestion des droits des artistes-musiciens.
• SOPROQ. Société de gestion collective des droits des producteurs de phonogrammes et vidéogrammes du Québec.
• UDA. Union des artistes. French-language equivalent of ACTRA.

Online Rights
If a songwriter/artist is putting their own music online, what kind of rights do they need to know about? There are three main rights you need to be aware of: rights in the master sound recording, rights in the musi- cal composition embodied in the master and rights in the performer’s performance in the master. There are also rights relating to artwork, logos, photographs and name and likeness uses. – Paul Sanderson, Sanderson Entertainment Law, Toronto.

(This article is from Songwriters Magazine 2011/12)

The story behind the song “Answers” by Jesse Weeks

July 31, 2014

Jesse Weeks

by Jesse Weeks

This song was inspired by the TV show LOST. I was a huge fan of the show and it was during the 5th season when I had the idea to write a song to the castaways from the viewers perspective. I wanted it to be filled with the hope they would one day have their questions answered.

The first line of the song – “Live together or die alone” – is a common phrase repeated by main characters throughout the various seasons. It seemed like a good place to start. The repetition of “Don’t lose your hope” in the chorus also worked well given that the characters faced so many obstacles and failures. I wanted to convey my earnest desire to see their tension resolved.

My favourite line of the song is “tarnished souls conflict with righteous minds”. This line summed up a lot of the interpersonal and ethical dilemma’s that characters found themselves in.

The song was beautifully produced by Ron Lopata. Ron was great to work with and helped me achieve my vision of having the song’s tempo speed up throughout the song. It’s hardly noticeable but at 2 or 3 points in the song, the tempo increases slightly. This makes the build more exciting and I was pleased that it worked so subtly.

The video was the brainchild of director Jeff Hammond of Hammond Cheeze Films. Jeff came up with the touching story which he captured with creativity and originality. My favourite shots are the flashbacks at the theme park. These were taken at the CNE where the colours are so rich and vibrantly engaging. I also liked that Jeff kept the storyline vague as it left the viewer open to interpret meaning. The female role is played by my wife, Laura Miyata. She did an amazing job portraying the mixed emotions we all feel at various times within our relationships. Given the theme of the music video, we thought it only fitting to pay respects to our heroes from the Canadian Forces by added a dedication at the end. Another notable topic is that I created 2nd version of this video which includes clips from the show LOST. I promoted the LOST version on YouTube during the series finale and was able to generate some buzz.

Given it’s inspirational and sincere message, “Answers” found a place on Canadian Christian radio and is still being played on many of these stations including Galaxie station “The Light”. I am very grateful for the airplay as the royalties have helped pay for some of the expenses associated with the production of the song and video.

Since “Answers” I’ve been writing a lot and am assisting a few up-and-coming artists. My goal is to write with/for artists that are either signed to labels or who I feel have the potential to be signed. I continue to write for myself but I often conclude that my songs may work better if performed by other artists. I also continue to work with new producers as I find it’s a great way to stay fresh and learn new tricks . Given that my strengths are melody and lyrics, I have found I work well with multi-instrumentalists and programmers. Some of my new demo’s can be heard at and I also have a blog at which I update from time to time. Thanks for listening :)

Visit Jesse’s Songwriter Profile:

Here is the Lost version of the video:

Songwriting Duo credits S.A.C. membership for recent Factor demo grant

July 17, 2014

Campbell-Green-promo-shot-1200We’re, Campbell + Green, a husband and wife duo who got serious about writing our own songs just a few years ago. Since then we have been actively educating ourselves on the craft of writing using whatever tools we can find. We’ve recorded a few CDs and are working on another.  We are excited to say we just received word of our first FACTOR demo grant to assist in our work!

We became SAC members (Click Here to view our Songwriters Profile.) in 2010 when we were living in BC. We started out visiting SAC events, SAC Songstage nights and ‘self-medicating’ by learning online, hosting songwriter workshops in our home (Shari Ulrich, Bruce Coughlan, Gregory Hoskins) and from books.

A life changing move occurred in May 2010 when, enticed by wanderlust and music and house prices, we pulled up roots and moved to Nova Scotia. It was a real learning situation getting in to the local community and fixing up our house as a small concert venue and, writing songs! Our writing culminated in our most recent CD ‘East’ which was completed June 2013 featuring 9 original tunes and has some great local players – Jamie Robinson – producer/guitar, Adam Dowling – Drums and Jamie Gatti – bass.

We have, very gratefully, made good use of other SAC resources by attending online seminars, one-on-one mentoring sessions and participating in the “6 songs in 6 weeks” 2014 blogging challenge with Christopher Ward. Part of this challenge included co-writing. We are both novices at co-writing and I, Robert, decided, ‘Why not connect with a proven winner’ and contacted North Easton, (the 2013 blogging champ who was back at it in 2014!). Using Skype and email we wrote an up tempo pop song, “A Simple Life”. North is a real gem and he quickly and skillfully crafted a scratch demo. We really like the tune and I sing it live now at gigs, albeit a tone lower and with a few small changes. We used that initial scratch track as part of a FACTOR application for our ‘demo’ grant and we were  successful in the process and are now eager to get in to the studio to record!

We can honestly say the cost of our SAC membership has been paid back many times over by the ideas, mentoring and education received.

Applying for grants and filling out forms and doing the business side of songwriting can be a real pain and can consume a lot of time however it is actually quite useful in a few ways. It has helped us:

  • take stock of what we do, who we are and where we are going and why. – It is easy to lose sight of this when dealing with day to day minutiae in our lives.
  • build a portfolio of documents, links and promo. – We now repurpose these for festival, grant and gig submissions. It pays to have at least some level of professionalism in our presentations and even if you don’t have a million dollar video there are lots of low / no cost ways to make things look good.
  • develop patience. – You don’t ‘win’ at the ‘submission game’ on the first or even 4th round. Keep trying.
  • gain more self confidence. –  Are we on the right track? As new writers one never really knows and has doubts that what you are doing is good, bad or indifferent. We have to find honest and useful critique (not criticism!) and a positive response on a grant or a good SAC songwriting seminar can not only be educational but also be really uplifting.

You just have to keep plugging away….

Cailin and I are now writing, and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting, our songs and will be in the studio soon. Well, that plus hosting the likes of Valdy & Gary Fjellgaard, “Tillers Folly” and Charlie A’Court In our 70 seat house venue in Dartmouth

Oh, ya, we are also touring some venues and festivals in New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia this summer, We love meeting other songwriters and invite you to come say hello, connect up and share stories about songwriting and maybe even do some co-writing.

This songwriting thing is a muscle that needs exercise. And co-writing is like having an ‘exercise buddy’. It may even grant you some other rewards… like a FACTOR grant!

Tips for aspiring singer-songwriters from Bill Henderson

June 12, 2014
Bill Henderson

Bill Henderson

Music styles come and go through the years but songwriting will never die. The urge to sing is deeper and more lasting than any style. So if you’re a songwriter, don’t worry, as long as you write songs that people like to sing, you’ll never be laid off. Of course people prefer great songs over good ones so that’s what writers try to create. It takes lots of craft and a little bit of magic.

The craft can be learned. In fact, excellent songwriters have learned it so well that it can seem almost forgotten. They don’t have to think about it.

But also, for most hit song writers, the songs of theirs that really connect with a massive audience come from somewhere beyond craft. Call it the muse, call it inspiration, or maybe just call it magic. This magic is the difference between a good song and a great one. And believe it or not, it is something that can be nurtured.

Both aspects of writing are essential and in the most intuitive writing sessions they work together like one thing. And even though both aspects are present, the writer isn’t thinking about either of them, they’re just writing.

Here are some ways the aspiring songwriter can develop their craft and nurture magic:

1) Get up – Get out of bed and write down that great idea you’re having or sing it into your iPhone RIGHT NOW, while it’s happening – that just may be where the magic is.

2) Get going – Set some time aside everyday for new ideas and to finish old ones. They say it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. That work is the real teacher, so just get going!

3) Get informed - Explore the fundamentals – harmony, song structure, Lyric writing, melody, groove, arranging etc.. Then, when you listen to songs, you will be more aware of how they function and integrating what you learn into your own writing will be perfectly natural.

4) Get connected – Find opportunities to collaborate and network with songwriters, musicians, publishers, and managers. Immerse yourself in the music industry by going to seminars and workshops and joining various associations. Some of the connections you make will become very valuable to you in your career.

5) Get gear – Learn an instrument. You don’t need to be a hot-shot. Just develop a good working relationship with it. Musicians and songwriters are two different things. Get a computer music program and learn to make demos with your computer, but keep ‘em simple and effective, learn to do decent mixes.

6) Get groovin’ - Play and sing your songs. Take every opportunity – in front of an audience, for your friends, or for your co-writers; and make it fun. Even when the song is serious, groove with it. Remember, you sing the blues to lose the blues. If the audience is paying no attention, and they miss your songs, it’s their loss. Don’t let it bother you. Stick with your muse, look for fun opportunities to play, and keep groovin’.

Finding a forum to learn, connect, and perform can be challenging so to guide singer- songwriters through fundamentals of the craft and help channel artistic development the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music (VSOSoM) has recently launched a Singer-Songwriter’s Workshop that will kick-off for the first time this August. The first of it’s kind in Canada, the workshop combines individual coaching, song circles, and instruction in all aspects of lyrics, song structure, melody and harmony, arrangement, performance and the business of music, providing students the formal and informal training necessary to find success.

For more information about the VSOSoM’s Singer-Songwriter’s Workshop, visit:

Bill Henderson is best known for his work with ‘Chilliwack’ one of Canada’s top recording acts in the 1970’s and 80’s and has been honored with a Juno award. Joined by fellow Juno award-winning songwriter, Shari Ulrich, Bill will lead this summer’s VSOSoM Singer-Songwriter workshop.


It’s never too late! Retired 9 to 5-er launches new career as singer/songwriter

May 22, 2014
Jim Dorie

Jim Dorie

For many years Jim Dorie was busy raising three children working a full time job in the oil and gas industry in Alberta.  Life was busy.  Although he grew up in Nova Scotia surrounded by music as many do on the East Coast, he barely touched his guitar outside of the occasional kitchen party or jamming with a friend.  With three kids to raise, time was mostly spent between work and chauffeuring his kids to extra curricular activities.  As he approached the opportunity to retire, Jim was advised by a friend to find something to do with the extra 40 to 60 hours he would have every week.  He looked to music as a retirement hobby, a way that he could reconnect with his East Coast roots.

Four years after releasing his first CD, Jim is in the midst of releasing his third album, Drop Forge.  He received an ECMA nomination on his second album, and has a busy touring schedule.  His hobby has turned into a career.

At 64 years old Jim admits he is still learning about the business aspect of the music industry.  Social media doesn’t come naturally to him.  He has also witnessed the rapid evolution of the business.  Four years ago he was able to place his album in local records stores that have now vanished.  Jim recognizes that live performance is now the bread and butter for performing songwriters who want to make a living.

There’s a lot of freedom in his new career.  He is financially secure and could quit at any given moment.  As a result, the only person he is trying to satisfy is himself.  He also has realistic expectations for his career.  He doesn’t expect big time fame or accolades.  Instead, he chooses to focus on what he’s good at – writing songs filled with stories that resonate with his audience.  Songs like “Living in Alberta” about the cost of moving away from home to make a living.

Jim credits Dave Gunning as begin a pivotal figure in the development of his career.  He previously attended Dave’s performances during visits back to Nova Scotia and purchased his CDs.  After retiring, Jim approached Dave for some pointers and thus began an important relationship.  Dave produced Jim’s first and most recent album.  Although Jim writes primarily by himself, Jim has also found a writing partner in producer/songwriter Dave Gunning.  He has two tracks, including “Living in Alberta,” on Dave’s 2014 ECMA Record of the Year – No More Pennies.

Jim may not have a large corporation or millions of dollars behind him, but he has stricken a wonderful partnership with his wife, Jeanne Dorie, who has come onboard as a graphics designer and website manager.  He has received great feedback on all the tour posters, CD graphics and shirts that she makes for Jim’s stage wear.  More recently, Jim has started working with booking agent/publicist Jenny MacDonald – a talented artist in her own right.  This helps him get more time to do what he loves doing – which is songwriting and performing.  In fact, he already has enough material for his next three albums.

All of this is a great reprieve as Jim faced a cancer scare and surgery last year that could have meant a long hiatus from his burgeoning career.  Prior to his surgery, he rushed to finish this latest album for fear it might never get recorded.  He wanted to make sure these songs could be passed on to his kids.  Luckily his oncologist gave him the “all-clear” and he went back to finish the album.

Jim’s success story is sure to be an inspiration to any songwriter stuck behind a cubicle wondering if they will ever find time to pursue their dreams.  Jim’s only advice is to do it for yourself and not for fame or fortune.  As for his own aspirations?  He looks to Willie Nelson and Gordon Lightfoot who are still touring in their 80s.  Jim figures he still has at least 20 years in his new career.

Click Here to visit Jim Dorie’s Songwriter Profile and hear some of his tunes.


Songwriting and (Fried) Chicken Skin – A transformative songwriting experience in Nashville

May 22, 2014


Mary Gauthier & Mel Farrimond

Mary Gauthier & Mel Farrimond

by Mel Farrimond

No wonder it’s called Music City! Nashville is bursting at the seams with songwriters. Perhaps as many as 40,000. 40,020 if you did the tally at the end of April, and one of them was me! I finally made it there, having wanted to go for so long. I heard about a songwriting workshop organized by the brilliant Lydia Hutchinson of Performing Songwriter Enterprises and led by one of my favourite troubadours, Mary Gauthier. I jumped at the opportunity to immerse myself in songs and be in the company of songwriters for three whole days! That same desire took me to The Road to Stanfest in Sherbrooke Village and to SongStudio in Toronto.

The night we arrived, Mary cooked supper for all of us – jambalaya and cornbread.  The next day, the hard work began, and for three days we worked on songs alone, or with a teacher, or most often in a small group. We listened intently to Mary Gauthier, along with guests Don Henry and Gretchen Peters, as they generously described their songwriting process and deconstructed some of their songs for us: ‘The Last of the Hobo Kings,’ ‘Beautiful Fool,’ ‘The Matador.’

Mary Gauthier is clearly an avid reader, referencing an eclectic range of songwriters, poets, novelists and philosophers. She is also an incredible teacher. We witnessed transformations not only of songs, but of souls. As Mary was working with an anxious student on a song, getting him or her to try changing the tempo or the pronouns or the feel of the song, the air in the room would suddenly change. It was tangible. A glance around the room showed tears, not just of emotion, but of connection. We had goosebumps or ‘chicken skin,’ as Mary put it. (As a vegetarian, I prefer to call it ‘tofu skin,’ but I digress). Mary brings out the lesson and makes what she’s doing with one song and one writer a teachable moment. She treated our songs like babies being born. She told one writer, “I think you’re having twins!” She masterfully helped shape each song, nurture it and the writer, and, by extension, all of us. Before long, some were calling Mary ‘the song whisperer. ’

On Thursday evening we headed to The Station Inn to catch a show by Jim Rooney’s Irregulars. The colourful cast of characters on stage included mandolin player, Jumbo Shrimp, and Jelly Roll Johnson on harmonica, with special guests George Hamilton IV and V. Still tanned, still awesome! Friday evening was spent at the famous Bluebird Cafe, a special thrill for me as the host of Bluebird North in Halifax. Don Schlitz, who wrote ‘The Gambler,’ put on a superlative evening of songs. I spent the evening saying ‘He wrote THAT?’ I said this silently, to myself, because the venue’s policy, as we were told before entering, is ‘shhhhhhhhhh!’

We wrapped up our time in Nashville with a supper at Monell’s soul food restaurant, where we (some of us) feasted on – you guessed it – fried chicken and marvelled at what had truly been an inspiring and transformative retreat. We learned how to write with emotional honesty and clarity. We learned that to connect with listeners you must allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to bring your deepest feelings into the light through song.

As a person who tends to crave solitude, which is necessary for songwriting, I came away feeling more connected, and better for it. We may have individual journeys, but we also have fellow travellers. CD Baby asked Mary to write a ‘Letter to a Young Songwriter’ for their series based on Rilke’s ‘Letters To A Young Poet.’ Let’s conclude with this excerpt, which captures one of the key lessons from the workshop:

“The chief danger in songwriting (and life) is taking too many precautions. There is a very real relationship between what you contribute and what you get out of this life, but satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. The point of the work is the work. Being vulnerable in your work will bring you strength.”

For more information on the Performing Songwriter Creative Workshops, see



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