From Brussels with Love: The Creators Conference, February 20, 2013

BrusselsIt’s an incredible feeling being in a room full of music creators who have traveled from many countries around the world for a common purpose: Bettering the collective lot of music creators everywhere.

I am in Brussels, along with the S.A.C.’s Managing Director, Isabel Crack, attending “The Creators Conference”, hosted by the European Composers and Songwriters Association (ECSA).

Clearly, there is a shared understanding that making the world a better place for those of us who create music will not be easy. We have daunting problems and limited resources. We work in our respective continents and countries under very different regulatory and legal frameworks. Our continental European counterparts have “authors’ rights”, while we in North America and the UK work under copyright (an upcoming blog will go into the differences).

But there is also an understanding that as different as our situations may seem, they are increasingly similar. Global connectivity and large mergers are making the world an increasingly smaller and in some ways less diverse place.

Rather than many significant music publishers in various territories as there once was, there are now basically three global giants: Universal, SonyATV/EMI and Warner. These companies have enormous market share everywhere.

And of course Google, Apple and Spotify are all global concerns as well.

These massive companies would prefer not to deal with dozens of local laws and regulations. Increasingly they are pushing for global “harmonization” and “One Stop Shopping”, and prefer to deal directly with one another, thereby bypassing performing rights societies and other music collectives.

In a world where huge commercial interests negotiate directly with one another on a global scale, creators must form global alliances to ensure we have a voice in the process, that we are fairly compensated, and that there is transparency.

That is why this conference in Brussels, capital of the European Union, is so important.  And it is why “The Fair Trade Music Principles” which we are developing with music creator organizations in Europe, Latin America and Africa, as well as Canada and the US is a vital tool for us to establish a sustainable music industry for creators.

The Fair Trade Music Principles transcend our regional and cultural differences and give us a common platform for a proactive and unified approach in this new global environment.

A New Challenge Begins

challengeLast year the S.A.C. launched the Canadian Songwriters Social Media Challenge.  It sent dozens of songwriters into an online frenzy as participants blogged, tweeted and Facebooked their way to a more focused social media strategy.  This year, we are encouraging songwriters to focus on our raison d’être – songwriting.  Over the next 6 weeks, S.A.C. members from across the country are taking part in a free online songwriting course provided by esteemed Songwriting teacher from Berklee, Pat Pattison.  We call it the S.A.C. Songwriting and Blogging Challenge 2013…or Challenge 2013.

So,where does the challenge part fit into this?  Like last year, participants are asked to check in on a weekly basis with a blog that encapsulates what they have learned or wrestled with.  We hope that even those in the sidelines will benefit from this discourse.

So, for those of you who have signed up here:  http://www.songwriters.ca/events/446/challenge2013.aspx please do the following:

1.  Please make sure you are part of the exclusive Facebook group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/506631312722262/
2.  Write your first blog answering the following questions:  Where are you in your songwriting journey?  What do you hope to gain from participating in this challenge?

3.  Post the link to your blog below.  If you do not have a blog, you can also choose to post it as a note in Facebook and share the respective link.  (Type “Notes” in the search area of Facebook to find the appropriate place to post).

NOTE:  This initiative is not officially related to the Coursera Songwriting Course.  Participants are responsible for their own course material.

Fair Trade Music Principles for a Better Future

2012 was a ground breaking year for songwriters and composers worldwide. For the first time our organizations formed alliances both in Canada and around the world.

In Canada, the S.A.C. joined with the Screen Composers Guild and SPACQ, our counterpart in Quebec to form Music Creators Canada.

Music Creators North America was formed following a meeting with the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA) and Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). We have also joined hands with our colleagues at the European Composers and Songwriters Association (ECSA), and the International Council of Authors and Composers (CIAM).

The work will continue in 2013 and beyond to strengthen these newly created relationships so that music creators around the globe can and will speak with a united and powerful voice.

But what will that unified voice say? Surely, with so many organizations from so many parts of the world involved, agreeing upon a common narrative will be difficult.

Well, we have good news on that front. Almost all of the organizations have agreed upon a set of principles: the Fair Trade Music Principles.

In the coming weeks, I will present each of the Principles and explain the thinking behind each one.

Here is the first:

We call for new (and existing) music business models built on principles of fair and sustainable compensation for music creators.

One only has to think of Apple, a company that transitioned from a niche computer manufacturer to the most highly valued company in the world. The transition was built on the incredible popularity of the iPod, which originally had one purpose: to play music. (The iPod of course led to the iPhone.)

In addition, we have Spotify, Rdio and Pandora, not to mention Google and Internet service providers, generating combined revenue streams in the billions of dollars annually.

Without music these businesses would not exist, and yet those who create the core element to this vast wealth, the music creators, are the beneficiaries of very little, if any of this massive value chain.

So we find ourselves in much the same place that Third World coffee growers were in before the Fair Trade Coffee movement, and this is a situation that music creators must and will work globally to correct.

It is time music creators were fairly included in these value chains based on our collected works. The fact that we are working together internationally to achieve this goal is a real step forward.