Songwriters Update!

Intro SongBird North Slide

 

This name change announcement from Bluebird North to SongBird North concerns the showcase concert series presented by the Songwriters Association of Canada and sponsorship partners across Canada.  We asked the Toronto series’ producer, Blair Packham, to write a statement outlining the idea behind the change.

“For more than 20 years, the S.A.C. has presented the regular concert series that we called Bluebird North. A showcase for accomplished Canadian songwriters—four sitting in a row—each performance was unique, but they all shared some key elements: a celebration of the art and craft of songwriting, complete with road stories about hits and misses, and plenty of humour along the way. Decades ago, when I was asked to take over as producer of the Toronto shows, I wanted to change its name because I wanted to make it ours, not a tribute to some place faraway. That didn’t happen for a variety of good reasons, and in the interim, we in the lineup, there would be a good show that night. For the 2017/2018 season at the Royal Conservatory of  Music, we’ve decided to make that name change, but the shows themselves will remain reliably the same: excellent songwriters trading songs and stories, singing, playing and laughing together. We’re calling it SongBird North, as a nod to our glorious past and our promising future, not to mention our Canadian geography, which so often shapes the songs we write and sing.”

— Blair Packham

Songwriters Association of Canada
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“Music to Inspire” Press Release 170124

S.A.C. member, Steve London, announces “Music to Inspire,” an album being released in partnership with the UN to raise awareness and funds to combat human trafficking. View press release here, rukus-avenue-un-canada-release.

T-SHIRT SALES SUPPORT FAIR TRADE MUSIC CAMPAIGN

ftmi-shirt-promo2
Exclusive Offer

As you may be aware Fair Trade Music has been a focus and priority of the Songwriters Association of Canada for the last several years. In the spirit of the season, we are asking our members to consider buying a t-shirt (or two!) as a great Holiday season gift that will help us build Fair Trade Music (FTM). All proceeds will go to furthering FTM’s mission to achieve a fair, transparent and equitable music value chain for songwriters, artists and everyone in the music value chain.

In the future, the goal of Fair Trade Music is to certify anyone in the music value chain, including digital steaming services, record labels, ticket sellers, and anyone else in the music value chain between those who create the music and the millions of people who enjoy it everyday. Fair Trade certification will inform consumers who pays and who plays “fair,” so they can make better choices when streaming and purchasing music.

As a valued member of the Songwriters Association of Canada, we ask you to show your support for the Fair Trade Music by purchasing a t-shirt (or two!).

Email info@fairtrademusicinternational.org to add your name to the Fair Trade Music campaign mailing list.

Visit the new Fair Trade Music International website now in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

From all of us at the Songwriters Association of Canada and Fair Trade Music International, Happy Holidays and Happy Songwriting!

Thank you.

Isabel Crack
Managing Director, Songwriters Association of Canada

Greg Johnston
President, Songwriters Association of Canada

Eddie Schwartz
Chair, Fair Trade Music International

A chapter of the S.A.C. Story – By Ian Thomas

Ian Thomas
Ian Thomas

Award-winning songwriting and Canadian legend Ian Thomas whose songs have found international success with many artists such as Santana, America, Manfred Man, Chicago, Bette Midler and Ann Murray, played an integral part of the evolution of the Songwriters Association of Canada.  We invited him to share his memories of the journey.  We also hope you will hear his appeal and join us.

In the words of Ian Thomas

In the mid-eighties I went to Ottawa with a group of songwriters to bend the ear of then Minister of Communications, Flora MacDonald. The issue of the day was that the mechanical rate for song usage in recordings had been fixed at 2 cents in 1924 and over 60 years later the rate was still sitting at … 2 cents. It was a wake up call for many songwriters who, like myself, had been living in a bit of a bubble. Many of us just couldn’t believe why no one had done anything about this? More importantly though was the realization of why we expected someone else to look out for our interests in the first place. We needed to grow up.

That Ottawa trip and the attendant publicity succeeded – the mechanical rate increased. The publicity alone probably outed and shamed the industry into action. An awakening creative community of songwriters shortly thereafter founded the SAC. It was a group of talented writers and kindred spirits who knew that songwriters needed dome serious advocacy and education in the business of music. 

From 1998 to 2000, I took a turn as president of the SAC in a rather transitional time. The board and I worked hard and we accomplished a lot. We acquired a greater national profile, our own office, our first full time Executive Director, our first full time secretary and a new quarterly magazine. 

Songwriters Magazine stirred up criticism from a few industry moguls. One article brought on considerable harrumphing from a few publishers. The article, “Looney Tunes” used some actual contracts to show how little money could trickle down to songwriters on every dollar earned. It was an educational, not a sensationalist, article and so no names were mentioned. We offered to print any rebuttals but none were offered. It’s hard to argue facts. The real problem was that advocacy for the creative community was offensive to some who posed as champions of writers while making a living at acquiring their rights. There were many in the music business establishment who simply didn’t like the notion of writers becoming better businessmen.

We visited the Heritage Ministry in Ottawa often in my years as SAC president. I must admit then Heritage Minister, Sheila Copps was a friend to the creative community. I think she sensed that authors’ rights were something of a canary in the coalmine in the fallout from international trade agreements and multinational corporations. Despite a sympathetic minister, I soon understood the sad reality that our Canadian government was merely a government by the best-funded lobby. Then, as now, we were up against an ever-increasing full court press from corporate lawyers working 24/7 to whittle away creator’s rights. My two years as president were an age of reason compared to current realities where unbridled capitalism is so mistakenly being considered the same thing as democracy. Where the common good is evaporating into the garish wealth acquisition by the few.

We have seen “work for hire” language erode creative rights. Language in some film contracts currently demands that, “producer shall be known as author of all work created by composer”. The latter is like Morris Levy of Roulette Records who, in the formative days of rock n’roll, insisted on co -author status of anything released on his label. I never imagined this would become a corporate template with full authorship, no less. Such corporate evolution requires a permissive societal moral regression.

Some commercial music users state that SOCAN and songwriters do not “fit into our business model”. That model seeks profit from music streaming without paying a penny for the music. This is akin to wanting to open a chain of hamburger outlets around the world …  if they can get the hamburger for free. Outrageous? Not in the corporate boardrooms of the new millennium.

A few songwriters have a lofty notion that music should be free. In 2014, corporations hold an unbridled sense of entitlement to songwriters income as they seek to drift-net the industry. “Free music”  means somebody else will gladly take the income your music might generate if you find it so distasteful. You won’t be writing for a living … well not your own.

The future has never looked so bleak for music creators. This has become a struggle for our very economic existence. As writers we have never needed the SAC more than we do now. As Canadians, there has never been a time when we needed to seriously dig down deep and “stand on guard for thee.”  Take your pick. As a Canadian … or as a songwriter, it is our watch.

Disclaimer:  This blog is part of an occasional series whereby those involved in the founding of the Songwriters Association of Canada have been invited to share their memories with us.  These articles represent the recollections, perspective and opinions of their author only, and not the organization.   

Memories from the beginning of the S.A.C.

by:  Terry McManus

One of the more interesting and important parts of any profession is the representation of that profession to the public and to those who work with those professionals. From the middle ages when “guilds” became the representatives of those who worked on the churches and castles to present day society, such groupings have played an important part in the progress of such groupings. It was with this thought in mind that I approached Stephen Stohn in 1987 and asked him about the ability to copyright a song in Canada and if there was a professional organization representing songwriters in Canada. I knew that there were songwriters participating on many of the boards of related associations, but I was not aware of one that served only songwriters.

Stephen told me of one, the Canadian Songwriters Association, that had been started in the early 80’s but had never really gotten off the ground. (Like many new enterprises, professional associations have a high failure rate because of the time and money commitment to make them work.) He referred me to Donna Murphy who was an executive at CIMA (then CIRPA), who had some knowledge of and had helped the fledgling group of songwriters some years before. Donna and I spoke on the phone several times and then we decided to meet with Greg Marshall, one of the principals for the original organization. Stephen arranged for us to use one of the smaller boardrooms of McCarthy Tetrault in the TD Centre and we had our first meeting with the four of us present. Although Greg was enthusiastic about re-energizing the original idea, his time was limited and so he agreed to lend his name but he could not participate. Stephen also generously lent his name to the enterprise and he was happy to attend board meetings and to counsel us but his own very busy practice precluded any “hands on” work in building up the association.

So Donna Murphy and I embarked on a several month mission to present the idea to the rest of the music industry through a series of informal lunches that not only helped us define some of the more pressing issues for songwriters but also gave us great insight into the need to bring in some of the “name” writers who were interested and who were earning. Enter Eddie Schwartz and Rich Dodson. Eddie’s very positive and literary influence was immediately felt by his reasoning for renaming the group and the Songwriter’s Association of Canada instead of the Canadian Songwriter’s Association. “With all due respect to Canada, we are songwriters working in Canada not Canadians who happen to be songwriters!” And of course, he was right.  I came up to Toronto from London weekly and we held board meetings monthly.

With Eddie and Rich and Stephen’s blessing and encouragement, Donna and I continued to “lobby” the industry and Donna was able to help generate some income for the organization through some grants for research on songwriters for the Ontario government.( In the days of typewriters and regular mail, Donna put in many many hours digging up facts and numbers while I wrote more broad generalized papers about what was needed by our profession.) Both Donna and I wrote many papers during those first couple of years to keep the money flowing so that we could get the word out. Everything was new and everything was possible!

I think the turning point for the organization came with the plans for PROCAN and CAPAC to merge. (Up until that time Canada followed the US model of two performing rights societies, one which favored ASCAP and one which favored BMI.) When Nancy Gyokeres of SOCAN told us about the plan I was immediately on board because I had seen the east / west divide in songwriters and I knew that in order to have a national organization, we had to have songwriters from across the country. I saw the opportunity to not only bring the performing rights organizations together, but to grow our association. We were able to get  a financial commitment from SOCAN  to hold a national meeting and so the phone calls began.

I had lived in Vancouver for a couple of years where PROCAN ruled the roost and the West Coast writers were fiercely loyal to that performing rights society. I got on the phone and I started to call some of the top writers and ask them to join SAC and to get behind the amalgamation of the two societies. I talked for hours to many of them but it was Bill Henderson who really cracked the ice out there. We had a spirited conversation about the fact that the west coast already had a songwriters association and why was there a need for another. I offered to make him a vice-president of SAC in order to assure him that the west would be represented and I still remember him laughing and saying “You want to make me a vice-president of a society that I am not even a member of?” But thanks to his open mind and ultimately his brilliant leadership, not only did he join with us, he went on to lead the association to bigger and better things and even serving on the SOCAN board.

Eddie Schwartz, Bill Henderson and Donna Murphy were all critical to the establishment and success of the SAC. As we brought on more board members besides Rich Dodson such as  Ron Hynes, Roy Forbes, Shari Ulrich, Ron Irving Joan Bessen and others,and as we reached out to our Quebec counterparts the organization took hold and we found a place at the table.

As to my question to Stephen about the ability for songwriters in Canada to protect their own works in this country, that is now the Song Vault. Along with the Song Vault are a myriad number of services to help, guide and promote the young songwriters career and all of those are ideas born in those days.

It is very gratifying to look back today at the establishment of SAC and all of those services to its members and to remember that first conversation over 25 years ago that has brought all of this to fruition. You, as songwriters who live and work in Canada, are so fortunate to have such a strong and vibrant society to help you climb the ladder and to make sure that your place is recognized culturally and financially.  Many thanks to those people who were so important in making this happen!

Great memories!

Co-Writing Coast to Coast with the S.A.C.

Dayna Shereck, John Pippus and Lucy LeBlanc
Dayna Shereck, John Pippus and Lucy LeBlanc

by Dayna Shereck

I can list several reasons why the S.A.C. has been so important in my personal journey as a songwriter, but would like to say that the fellow writers I have met and the connections I have made have had the greatest impact.

Several months ago, through a network of songwriters on Facebook, I came across a song that was posted called “Half A World Away”.  I immediately connected to the song and was eager to see who had written it.  John Pippus and Lucy LeBlanc of Vancouver were the creators, and they had developed something really magical. I re-posted the song and complimented the writers on how much I liked it.

Early this past June I had the opportunity to go to Vancouver for a couple of days and wanted to see if I could do a co-write while I was there.  I emailed the SAC Regional Writers Group in Vancouver and was quickly connected to Lucy LeBlanc, who was so warm and kind.  She suggested a three-way co-write with her writing partner, John Pippus, and I was delighted.

We figured out a central meeting spot that was convenient for everyone. I was staying at UBC, and Lucy was coming from White Rock.  Lucy and I met at the station closest to John’s place and we headed over there together.

I spent a little time observing their co-writing style and identifying the best way for me to fit in.  I quickly learned that Lucy was a wonderful lyricist and John was a great melody man.  We bounced some ideas around, and I loved some of the riffs John was playing. I was slowly developing a chorus in my head.  It was a little country, and I thought it might be something we could work with. Lucy immediately began to piece together a story, and John nailed down the verse melody with a catchy guitar riff that I immediately fell in love with. Within a matter of hours the song was coming together.

Lucy LeBlanc adds, “Dayna came prepared. She had a chorus for a country song that seemed to crackle with energy. So, we started working with it, throwing out ideas and crafting the verses. It’s a good feeling when it all comes together, and you end up with a song that resonates among each of us.”

It was my first time writing away from home–with the exception of Nashville…and it made me feel so grounded to be writing while I was in a place that was completely new to me.

After our first session we were tremendously excited about how the song was developing and made arrangements to meet the next day to finish it. With the exception of getting stuck on a musical bridge, we did almost finish it, and sorted out the bridge and fine-tuned the details over skype once I got home.

Lucy was able to do some sightseeing with me, and graciously helped me find my way back to where I was staying.  As I sat on the bus and replayed our song through my iphone voice notes, I felt even more confident about what the three of us had created.

I was happy to have connected with Lucy and John in Vancouver, and would certainly access the S.A.C. to set up co-writing opportunities when travelling to other cities. The song we wrote is called “ I Still Want You”.  We are hoping to have it demoed in Nashville and hope to have it pitched to an artist.

Visit the Songwriters’ Profiles for this trio:

Dayna Shereck
Lucy LeBlanc

John Pippus