Changes to S.A.C. Funding Due To The Termination of the Creators Assistance Program (Letter from Eddie Schwartz)

Dear S.A.C. Members,

Re: The Termination of the Creators Assistance Program

Earlier this month, we were notified by officials from the departments of Heritage and Industry that one of the key sources of funding for the S.A.C., the Creators’ Assistance Program (CAP) will be terminated as of April 1, 2013.

There is no question that this decision by the current Canadian government represents a serious loss of funding for the S.A.C., and threatens many of the activities, programs and events that we have developed over the last 30 years to benefit songwriters and performers.

Along with our sister organizations, the Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC) and La Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ), who will also lose significant funding, we have written a letter to the ministers of the two departments involved to voice our opposition to this terrible decision, and ask for the CAP program to be reinstated.

Unfortunately, we have been informed that there is very little if any chance that CAP funding will return.

The good news is that we have almost a year to secure other sources of funding, and make whatever adjustments are necessary to survive and prosper given this new reality.

Even more important, thanks to you, our members, the S.A.C. has never been stronger than we are today. We have grown tremendously in recent years, have more well attended programs and events, both live and available on the web, and have a wonderful staff who work hard on all our behalf under our terrific Managing Director, Isabel Crack.

The S.A.C. board and staff will be doing everything we can to identify alternative funding opportunities and aggressively pursue them going forward.  We look forward to playing a key role in supporting music creators for many years to come.

Eddie Schwartz, President

Songwriting Saved My Life

by:  Sean Barrette

For me, songwriting has not only provided great joy and opportunities to meet and share my soul with really cool, interesting and wonderful people – it helped saved my life.

Music has been a thread that ran through my entire life, from having a musician father, to starting a career in radio in my hometown of Kapuskasing while still in high school. I moved to Sudbury twenty years ago for a full time job, and enjoyed a fourteen year career as a radio personality, music and program director, spanning multiple formats (rock, country, CHR). I’ve definitely helped put a few bucks in the pockets of some of the S.A.C.’s more famous members!

At the time me and radio parted ways in 2002, I’d done quite a lot of radio control room serenading and some stage work, but songwriting still wasn’t part of the picture (aside from some pretty forgettable lyrics I wrote for my first, very short lived band in 1994, in which I was lead singer.)

In fact, I was a late bloomer as far as playing an instrument, and didn’t really dig into songwriting until after I learned to play guitar in 2004.

It is how I got to that point where the story really begins.

In July 2003, I lost one of my best friends, Reggie Wainman, in a motorcycle accident. We started as acquaintances, and after a chance encounter in a grocery store, Reg and I jammed together for seven years. Reg played guitar, I sang, and we enjoyed hanging out and covering other peoples’ songs. He played like two people – there had never been a need for me to learn. When Reg died, his brother, Doug, also a great guitar player, gave me one of his guitars as a memento of our friendship. Unfortunately, it sat silent in the corner as other events conspired to keep me reeling.

A few months later, October 2003, I was assaulted outside a bar and had the end of my nose bitten off. This required extensive reconstructive surgery that would take close to two years – and a lot of mental and spiritual work. You just don’t see something like that coming – there is a cognitive dissonance that occurs between thinking you live in a civilized society, and having somebody cannibalize your face. How do you make sense of that? As it is with most things, I would eventually discover that the answer is found inside of you, in how you choose to deal with it.

But I didn’t really have time to think about that. A month later, in the cruelest twist on the adage “bad luck comes in threes”, my 53-year-old mother died of cancer that had been diagnosed as terminal only that August. Believe it or not, bookended by the first and third losses, what had happened to my face seemed almost inconsequential.

It was, to say the least, a rough six months. What do you do to bounce back from that? The question kept me awake at night. How the hell am I going to live through this? I was 33 years old, and ever being happy again seemed a distant thought.

But – isn’t there always a “but?” – I was fortunate to be married to a very good woman. And in December, we found out we were pregnant with the first of our two beautiful children. So there was some light. But there needed to be another focus.

Early in the New Year, Reggie’s brother, Doug, called and asked if I’d like to come over to his place to work out a few tunes. He asked me to bring Reg’s guitar with me, and that was when he started teaching me to play. The way it all unfurled was a real circle of life kind of thing, and I still marvel at it. The Universe works in very mysterious ways.

After learning dozens of other peoples’ songs, my attention turned to the ones that were finding their way into my own consciousness. And I started writing. It turns out I had a lot to say, not only about that period of my life, but in general. Some of it is intensely personal – some of it comes from nowhere. My process is just to let it in, give it a voice, and see where it goes. Because I believe songs are living things, and I am always thankful when I am the one chosen to bring them forth.

This was all good, positive change, but I still had to do other work, and I don’t mean the kind that pays the bills – I mean the kind that gets your head, heart and soul straightened out, and keeps them there. I had to learn to accept what had happened, to forgive, and to move on. I had to tap into something deep inside.

I did a lot of reading, a lot of contemplation, a lot of soul searching. I came to the realization that I had led a charmed life, and despite it all, that had not changed. I was still alive, I was lucky, and I had to be grateful for all I had. What I had lived was all part of where I was headed, all part of whatever I was supposed to be doing, and eventually I was able to not only understand and accept, but to appreciate and love all that had transpired. Because it was all part of the person I had become – and I liked that guy quite a bit, in spite of his faults.

I gave myself permission to call myself a songwriter and the songs started to come in a flood. There were scraps of paper everywhere and I had two MP3 recorders on the go at once, full of melodies and notes. Now what?

Recording was the next logical step, so I bought a little ZOOM recorder and put them down. But that was guitar and voice, and in my head I heard something bigger for those tunes. I had to get into a studio and I knew it.

Last year, on my 40th birthday, my friends and family gave me studio time as a gift, so I could quit talking about recording and actually do it.

So I did.

Live Through This is my debut album, and was released this past July. They say if you want to catch water, you don’t try to grab it – you just hold out your hand. Everything about the project has gone exactly as I would have hoped – better, in fact, just by letting it be what it’s going to be.

As I write this, it is my 41st birthday, and I am in a good place in my life. The events I described are eight years gone. I cannot believe how far I’ve come since then.

From the ashes of that trying period, I am happier, more peaceful, and comfortable with myself and others than I have ever been. I draw inspiration from my family, and the love around me. What has unfolded in the past year has been an incredible experience – joyful, nourishing, and beautiful.

I am lucky and grateful to be alive, and for the family, friends, and acquaintances old and new who care so much and have supported me through everything.

I have been blessed, and I will never take this incredible gift for granted.

I am a songwriter, and for as long as I am drawing breath, I will be thankful for every word, every note, and every song.

Click Here to visit Sean’s Songwriter’s Profile (and hear some of his tunes).

A Study on Lyrics, Rhythm & Phrasing

by:  Debra Alexander

One of the best ways to learn how to set lyrics is by writing your own over the tried and true melody of a classic song. (There is a reason why that song has lasted, and why it got popular in the first place.) You can study the lyrics originally written for it to see how the accented and unaccented syllables are placed in each phrase, and how these patterns are echoed throughout the piece from section to section.

Consider the first two verses of the classic folk song, “Clementine,” (perhaps by Percy Montrose; maybe by Barker Bradford—read all about it and see multiple verses here).

In a cavern, in a canyon,

Excavating for a mine,

Lived a miner, forty-niner,

And his daughter, Clementine.

Light she was and like a fairy,

And her shoes were number nine;

Herring boxes without topses,

Sandals were for Clementine.

Break down each word that contains more than a single syllable, and check the dictionary to see where the accented syllables are:







Words that have more than two syllables sometimes have more than one stress. I have indicated a primary stress with all caps, and a secondary stress with one initial capital letter. Read more about primary and secondary stress here. Note that a stressed syllable is generally spoken somewhat higher in pitch. Use that fact to make your melodies stronger!

“Clementine” is in 3/4 time—you can waltz to it. If you hum the melody, you can feel how the accent is on beat one of each group of three beats. The song begins with a pick-up measure, using a dotted eighth note and a sixteenth note for the words, “In a.” The dotted eighth note has more ‘weight’ than the sixteenth note; when you say (or sing) the words “in a” you put more emphasis on the first word, and hold it out just a bit longer. Two quarter notes follow, on the two syllable word ‘cavern.’ We could translate the rhythm of  “In a CA-vern” as “ta ta TUM ta.”

Now. The game is to match, as closely as possible, the stress pattern of each phrase, in each line, from section to section. You can see this in action when you look at standard songs in notation. Each verse sits pretty much beneath the other, with appropriate syllable stresses occurring on the same musical notes of the melody. Know what I mean? It looks tight and right, like the masterful laying of bricks. Solid. Not sloppy. All the edges line up. You may have seen multiple verses lining up under each other in a hymnal. Visualize that.

So, compare line one verse one with line one verse two. There are two phrases of four syllables, with the “ta ta TUM ta” rhythm:

In a CA-vern, in a CAN-yon, and,  Light she was and like a FAIR-y

Note that when you speak the second phrase, you will naturally pause after the word ‘was’—stressing it a bit more than the word “and.” The words “was and” function like a two syllable word with the accent on the first syllable.

Continue working through the song, comparing line two verse one with line two verse two; line three verse one with line three verse two, and line four verse one with line four verse two. Do you notice anything unusual? Accented syllables in a word paired with unaccented notes? Does it serve a purpose, or is it a careless mistake? Do you think you can use this exercise to make your songs tight and right? Tell me about it!

Debra Alexander is a Professional Songwriter, Songwriting Coach, and Songwriting Instructor at Metalworks.

Reposted from Debra’s blog.  Click Here to see original post.

Shifting from physical to digital music; for songwriters, how does it pay?

Image by: Renjith Krishnan

by:  Howard Druckman, Communications Specialist, SOCAN

(PLEASE NOTE:  this article has been revised since it was first published on March 20th.)

Sales of recorded music have rebounded throughout North America, in large part due to the rapidly growing digital market.

According to Nielsen Soundscan, a total of about 68 million downloads were sold in Canada in 2010, a 20% increase from 2009. A total of about 6 million albums were downloaded in 2010, up 25% from 2009. Digital album sales accounted for 19% of total album sales for 2010, compared to 14% in 2009, and 9% in 2008. According to reports on Nielsen figures for the U.S., as of September 25, 2011, American consumers had purchased an additional 12 million digital albums and 90.5 million digital tracks more than they had purchased at the same point in 2010.

How are songwriters’ royalties being affected by the shift from  physical to digital sales? How do their royalties change when digital versions of their songs are downloaded or streamed, as opposed to when physical copies of their songs are sold?

To answer that question, we have to consider two kinds of royalties paid for music use: performance royalties, which are paid for the communication by telecommunication of copyrighted songs; and mechanical royalties, which are paid for the reproduction of copyrighted songs. In the digital ecosystem, the collection of both kinds of royalties applies for music use, either via downloading or streaming, and whether that activity occurs online, via mobile devices, satellite, etc.

SOCAN, the organization that collects performance royalties on behalf of millions of songwriters in Canada and throughout the world, licenses websites where people can stream and download music, including online music services, radio, TV, audio, and games. The SOCAN tariffs covering the use of music on websites have been approved by the Copyright Board of Canada; however, due to an appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada, SOCAN is not yet distributing the royalties that it has collected for this use. SOCAN appeared before the Supreme Court in December 2011, and the Court’s decision is expected to be delivered later this year.

Music websites that provide music on demand or downloads are covered by SOCAN’s Tariff 22A, which accounts for about 90% of the licensing fees that SOCAN collects from all of its internet tariffs. Tariff 22A is essentially based on a percentage of the amount that the subscribers or consumers pay for that service. For permanent downloads, music sites  pay a quarterly fee of 3.1% of the amount paid by the consumer for the download, with a minimum fee of 1.5 cents per (digital music) file in a bundle (e.g., an album) that contains 13 files or more; 2.1 cents per file in all other cases. For limited downloads, these sites pay a monthly fee of 5.7% of the amounts paid by the subscriber, with a minimum fee of 54.8 cents per month, per subscriber, if portable limited downloads are allowed, and 35.9 cents per month, per subscriber, if not. For on-demand streams, these sites pay a monthly fee of 6.8% of the amounts paid by the subscriber, with a minimum fee of 43.3 cents per month, per subscriber.

Let’s take an example. Say Jill writes a song, records it, releases it, and in one month sells 1,000 physical copies of it herself, experiences 1,000 permanent downloads of it online via a music website. Let’s say that each copy sold or downloaded costs one dollar. According to current rates, the sale of the physical copies will earn her nothing in performance royalties, although she will earn mechanical royalties of $85. The permanent downloads will earn her $31 in performance royalties (minus SOCAN’s 14% administrative costs) and $79 in mechanical royalties. The fees and royalties for on-demand streaming music files are harder to predict.

Currently, licence fees collected from music use on the internet is a very small portion of the total collections that SOCAN undertakes in a year, somewhere around two or three percent. This is somewhat alarming, because we know that music consumption on the web or via mobile phones is far more popular than this figure would indicate. In great part, the small figure is due to piracy, which is free downloading and streaming of music without regard for the owners of the copyrights to that music. In the comparatively young field of new media – specifically, online and mobile music – both the technology and the business models that employ it are changing extremely quickly. As new media evolve, SOCAN is adapting to license them as quickly and efficiently as possible.