Songwriters’ School Visit in Charlottetown

Although young people don’t necessarily understand why they don’t like something, they know what they do like. They are certainly intuitive when it comes to music. The S.A.C. in the school program has brought many songwriter into schools across the country this past year in the hopes of creating a stronger link between these young people and the music creators of the songs they love. On April 15th, the S.A.C. brought Grammy and Juno award winning songwriter Dan Hill and PEI singer/songwriter Chastity into Colonel Grey High School in Charlottetown to talk about songwriting, perform some original songs and answer some questions about songwriting and the music business.

Both Dan and Chastity played songs that were powerful and emotional and allowed the audience of 70 students to learn more about how these songs were created and why. Dan played a song called “My father’s son” that depicts his struggle growing up and trying to impress his father, which story has been immortalized in his latest book called “I am my father’s son”, a memoir of love and forgiveness.  After he played that song, and everyone recovered from their emotions, he also played some of his other hits that have been recorded by other artists. Chastity played some of her original songs including some recently written pieces. Both Chastity and Dan talked about co-writing as being a way to expand your writing ability and horizons. Some young songwriters stayed afterward to talk to Dan, Chastity and I and they were very inspired by this event and hoped to do more collaboration because of it. In fact, these same students vowed they would start up a songwriting to offer others a safe place to create and learn from other writers. What a great way to meet young people….through music.  Both Dan and Chastity performed at the Bluebird North showcase the following evening along with several other artists.

For more information on the S.A.C. in the Schools program, check out

Getting Paid and Getting Protected as a Songwriter

I recently attended the Registering Your Music – Copyrights & Royalties Information Session” in Edmonton and Calgary and met up with Singer/ songwriter Erica Viegas, who I had previously met at the CCMAs last year.   Here is her take on the evening’s discussions. (Don Quarles)

On March 1st, 2011, the Alberta Music Industry Association treated its Edmonton members to a session on Copyrights & Royalties lead by Wayne Saunders, Industry Relations Executive of SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada), and Don Quarles, Executive Director of the Songwriters Association of Canada.

While most of the musicians in the crowd were already members of SOCAN, the evening proved to be a great information piece, and introduction for many on the benefits provided by the SAC.

Once you put music to lyrics, you are a songwriter…whether you play an instrument or record a rough vocal line into your phone. As a songwriter, protecting your creation, and getting proper compensation for your art is important. Don told the story of an artist who finished a gig at a club and was asked to pay the bill for the food he ate that night. The artist retaliated that he wouldn’t pay anything until he was compensated for his music, which spurred on the movement to support songwriters in getting due royalties for their work.

While most independent artists would struggle to pay their bills through radio royalties, the majority of our efforts lie in live performances.  Many are unaware that we can claim performance royalties through SOCAN for every live show we do at a licensed facility. Membership to SOCAN is free, and a minimum of $100 in royalties is given out for every show with tickets over $6 each. Make sure to keep your posters or proofs of performance and fill your royalty forms out online. You could be missing out on some extra funding available to you. Wayne’s advice was to submit for all the shows that you play and let SOCAN investigate the venue for licensing on your behalf in order to keep the relationships you have in these venues as strong as possible.  The same goes for performances on television or radio, as stations do not always send in their cue sheets.

What about making sure your music is copyrighted? Technically the minute you have a record of something, written or recorded, the piece is yours. To make things more official, most of us have been mailing the song to ourselves through dated registered mail and not opening it.  However, Don advised against this technique and using online vaults, as both may have troubles standing up in court. The SAC has a Song Vault service, which seals and copyrights your songs with a barcode and proof of registration certificate. While SAC membership runs at about $60 a year, it also includes opportunities for song assessment by industry professionals, chances to pitch your music to Film/ TV, an online member community, regional writer groups, workshops, and more. Looking for ways to provide the most service to their members, the SAC does their best to find ways to compensate you for creating your songs.

Though every musician has their career struggles and triumphs, it’s always good to be reminded that there are agencies passionate about helping us along our way!

Erica Viegas, a singer/songwriter from Edmonton, AB, released her first EP, Where My Heart Goes, last year. She has been performing at festivals, theatres, and venues across western Canada and continues to enjoy the feeling of connection that comes from sharing her music.

The warmth of music during Frostbite

BBN Frostbite
The first Bluebird North at Frostbite Festival featuring Manfred Janssen, Ryan McNally, Kate Weekes and Kim Beggs.

Music and frostbite go hand in hand. Well they did this past weekend anyway. I had the privilege of attending the 33rd annual Frostbite Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon (Feb 18-20). An event that is an immersion into minus 40 celsius and music, the 3 day festival was held at Yukon College and featured such great artists as Bahamas, George Gao, Joaquin Diaz, Kim Beggs, Mississippi Sheiks Tribute, Sarah MacDougall, the Weber Brothers and many others. Frostbite offered more than fours stages for a variety of musical tastes and each one was “all ages” bringing out more than double the number of attendees from last year. Workshops were done on Ukulele for Beginners by Uke-Master James Hill and some amazing jamming was heard in the “Woodshed” room both saturday and sunday.

BBn Frostbite 2
Bluebird North #2 at Frostbite Festival featuring Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas), Nathan Rogers, Sarah MacDougall and Eekwol (r to l). Amazing!

The S.A.C. sponsored two Bluebird North stages at the Frostbite Festival that featured singer/ songwriters Manfred Janssen, Ryan McNally, Kim Beggs, Kate Weekes, Nathan Rogers, Hip-hop artist Eekwol, Sarah MacDougall and Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas). There were two Bluebird North events and both offered audiences a glimpse into the creation of these original songs and the stories behind them. These events were held in the Cafe Degele at the Yukon College to packed rooms. We hope this is the start of a relationship with Frostbite Festival and Music Yukon that will see the Bluebird North event appearing regularly.

A private event was also held at the Music Yukon offices on friday, February 18th offered Yukon songwriters an opportunity to learn more about the S.A.C. business to business music file-sharing initiative. Alot of great questions were asked by participants and the event ended with some wine, food and networking.

Notes from Don Quarles on Breakout West 2010

A Note from our Executive Director:


Hi folks,
Breakout West 2010 (formerly called the WCMA conference) was held October 20-23  in Kelowna, B.C. The S.A.C. sponsored two events that were a huge success. The first event was a talk given by Bill Henderson (Chilliwack) on the S.A.C. proposal to monetize music file sharing that was held on friday at 5:30 in the Regatta Room of the host hotel. Some of the songwriters that attended had never even heard of the S.A.C., not to mention the proposal to monetize file sharing. It always amazes me how many songwriters there are out there who haven’t yet discovered who we are or how much they can benefit from being a member.
Bill presentation was fantastic and offered room for questions. The obvious question was then asked “What can we do to help?”. Well, here is the deal. There are several ways they (and you) can help:
1. Become a member of the S.A.C. – we are doing great work on behalf of all songwriters including you. If you are a songwriter, you should be a member.  Click Here to read about Membership Benefits.  Click Here to Become a Member.
2. Sign your name to our proposal’s online petition. Visit for information about our proposal. Visit “I Agree” to sign your name.
The second event the S.A.C. sponsored was a demo evaluation event on sunday that featured Blair Packham, Elizabeth Spear, David J Taylor, Brian Hetherman and was hosted by Luc Hart. The were over 60 enthusiastic songwriters / producers that attended and just under 30 song demos were submitted. According to the panelists, the quality of the submissions were “top drawer”.
Our thanks to Melissa and Rick from the Western Canadian Music Alliance for help to make both these events happen. They have asked that we do similar events next year. I am sure we can make that happen!
See you all then!

The S.A.C. at Culture Days -with Rob Wells and Shiloh

Rob & Shiloh share their wisdom.

For those that were present on Sunday, September 26th and managed to avoid the Toronto marathon traffic, you witnessed a great session with hit songwriter, Rob Wells and young singer/songwriter Shiloh, who gave information on the art, craft and business of songwriting.

The free event had them discuss everything from song collaboration, their individual songwriting process, the tools they use to create as well as what inspires them. They even performed a few tunes that they have collaborated on together. The event was sponsored by the Songwriters Association of Canada and in conjunction with culture days, which had close to 400 events planned this year!

The day was a huge success with a cross-section of songwriters that included those that have been developing their craft for sometime and those who are just starting out.  With over 35 in attendance in this songwriting workshop, I was excited to see several familiar faces as well as many new faces at these types of seminars!  It is so great so see writers that are willing to share their expertise with aspiring and developing songwriters.

Culture Days is a collaborative pan-Canadian volunteer movement to raise the awareness, accessibility, participation and engagement of all Canadians in the arts and cultural life of their communities. A national Steering Committee, together with provincial committees (known as Provincial Task Forces) are self-mobilizing at the grassroots level to implement concurrent annual province-wide public participation events each September beginning in 2010. The annual, concurrent Culture Days events across Canada will feature free, hands-on, interactive activities that invite the public to participate “behind the scenes,” to discover the world of artists, creators, historians, architects, curators, and designers… in their community. For more information about Culture Days:

new approach to downloading

It was October 21st when Billy Bragg, Sawan Javad (Wide Mouth Mason), NDP’s Heritage Critic Charlie Angus and I were in Ottawa at a Press conference to talk about Canada’s Digital online challenges.

Canadian Press’ Jennifer Ditchburn’s article appears here:

The Songwriters Association of Canada, under the leadership of President Eddie Schwartz, has worked tirelessly to ensure that a business model is created to fairly remunerate Canadian music creators and rights holders for the use of their works that are being file shared. The S.A.C. proposal can be found here:
or at:

This model is to address the fact that currently file sharing accounts for approximately 95% of the online activity and yet none has yet to pay creators for this use of their work.

The Association has been to several conferences to speak on this proposal along with many supporters including the CMCC (the Canadian Music Creators Coalition), CIPPIC (The Canadian Internet Privacy Policy Interest Clinic) and others. Eddie Schwartz will be attending a conference in Las Vegas in January to discuss this model as well as at MIDEM in France at the end of the month.

The S.A.C. is determined to find a solution that works for music creators and right holders as well as consumers / music fans and file sharers and is equitable.

To let the S.A.C. know that you support this initiative, please sign onto the proposal at the link above.

No One Will Invest In Music – or will they?

In an article by Tim Cashmere, U2’s The Edge comments that something must be done to save the music industry. See the article here:

When bands like U2 realize that their music is seemingly decreasing in value, the world pays attention.

The reality is that U2’s music is probably shared more now that it has ever been shared via peer to peer sites and other file sharing networks. An estimated 95% of the music activity in the digital space is on non-commercial sites and not currently paid for.

The S.A.C. is proposing a model to remunerate music creators for the use of their works for files shared on P2P sites and other bit torrent sites. A fair monthly fee to creators and rights holders for this use of their work will offer a revenue stream where there hasn’t been one since the first file sharing site started 10 year ago (Napster).

The fee would be collected at the point of access of the users music (ie: internet service or mobile providers) and then paid to those music creators whose music has been shared based on a pro-rata system, once files have been tracked through companies like Big Champagne.

Several recent studies have shown that music fans and consumers are willing to pay for their music. So why can’t we just facilitate making it possible through existing distribution methods?

This proposed model can be created with technology currently available.

Now all we need is the desire.

Come together everyone!