Never Give Up On Your Song!

David Blairby David Blair

(The story of how I almost gave up on my songs, but luckily didn’t)

When I first heard the story of how ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot‘ got into Pat Benetar‘s hands despite the publishing company hating it so much that they made the studio delete the demo tape – that story struck me deeply. No pun intended.  Besides the obvious underdog winning theme I had no idea just how much it would affect me until this year.  It was at least 10 years ago at Canadian Music Week that I was inspired and moved by Eddie Schwartz‘s fight for his song to have a life and it was clear, he truly loved the song and his love for it was infectious.

His story then made me take notice of the song ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)‘ by The Proclaimers and how 5 years after the album and single were released it became not only a number 1 hit in North America but a song that will live on forever as it continues to get played at events from weddings to political events year after to year after it was featured in the movie Benny and Joon. I knew there was something special to these stories and why they resonated with me but I couldn’t place my finger on it for years.

A friend of mine once said to me after a break up; “there’s nothing like the next one to get you over the last one”. I laughed at the blunt truth of it but also realized how he was poking fun at the ‘running away’ part of the situation. I then correlated that with how I approached my songs.  I used to think ” I’ll release it and if it doesn’t get to where I want it to go right away – then I’ll let it go and start writing the next one”. That always made me feel better and the newest song was always my ‘best’ song ever!  But was I giving the songs I really loved the proper commitment and time? Not really.

At shows people would often request certain specific songs that I had long forgotten about or had decided that their time was over because in my mind they were ‘old’. But I started to take notice. I thought certain songs were ‘old’ but what about the people hearing me for the first time? Or even the people that HAD heard my songs before but only a handful of times live – for them it was a familiar but fresh song and welcome because they’d heard it before.  Suddenly I was realizing the importance of continually sharing the songs I loved no matter how ‘old’ I thought they were.

I had a strong feeling for one particular song, This Is The Soundtrack, that I co-wrote with a friend of mine for my second album back in 2008.  It was a song that was written backwards from the chorus to the verse – the melody in the chorus was undeniable and it was where the idea originated from.  From the start it was a song that began writing itself and really took a life on of its own, it was a magical experience writing it and I believed it had a strong chance to be a single on my album and be a song that was going to be fun to perform live.  When it was finished, I played it for everyone I could like a kid at show-and-tell in kindergarten!

When it came time to release the album in Feb of 2009, radio-tracking was a part of the plan to expose the song to a wider audience but money ran thin quickly and even though it got picked up by a radio station in Vancouver and played for over a year – it never really got the national exposure I was hoping for and after the year was over I gave up.  In my mind time had run out for radio because the album wasn’t a new release anymore and it seemed all but over for that song.

But I loved that song. And I didn’t want it to be over. And even though radio play across Canada was my dream that hadn’t happened yet for this song – I couldn’t put it away. I started to remember why I got into the music business in the first place – to share my music with as many people as possible.  I continued to play it live at every show – even after I released two more albums – an EP and a full length – I played it to all my audiences because I wanted to share one of my favourite songs.

In the fall of 2012 I decided that I would move to Germany to develop a fan base there. In October 2013 I played my last show in Canada and though it had now been officially 5 full years after the release of ‘This Is The Soundtrack’, towards the end of the show I played my song. By this time the song had evolved into something totally different from the original recording, but right from the first chords the approving hoots and hollars was as if the crowd knew the song like it had been on the radio – that familiar ‘aaah – I know this song’ feeling, that ‘I’ve been waiting for this song all night’ feeling, that ‘I love this song’ feeling was present. I knew right then – this is what it feels like when you believe in a song and you keep sharing it no matter what you’ve done with it…it’s always between you and your fans and its your job to get it to them and not give up on them.

For the Proclaimers it was a movie, and countless others its been TV, Commercials and Radio that have kept their songs alive along with live performances.

Two months into staying in Germany I signed a record deal and the first single chosen by both the label and myself to hit radio was my favourite song. The song I almost gave up on but couldn’t quite let go nearly 5 years later is now getting a new life and a new chance to be exposed to over 80 Million people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This is just the start – the possibilities of its afterlife are actually impossible to predict with licensing opportunities to commercials, tv and film. So love your song and believe it can make an impact on your future yet to be discovered fans – A great song is a great song and time can’t take anything from that.  Be like a kid at show’n’tell and as determined as Churchill who once said “never, never, never give in….”

yours,
David Blair
Singer/Songwriter
Previous SongWorks participant.
www.davidblairsongs.com
www.twitter.com/davidblairsongs 

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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!

The Changing Landscape for Songwriters – Statement by Eddie Schwartz

As most of you are well aware, the music industry faces many challenges, and making a living as a music creator has not gotten any easier over the last decade.

One of the few good news stories has been the significant growth of revenue collected and distributed to songwriters and music publishers from performing rights societies, such as our excellent Canadian society, SOCAN. Revenues at SOCAN are up approximately 40% in recent years, and performing rights societies around the world now collect over $10 billion annually.

Just as importantly, songwriters and composers receive their performance royalties directly from SOCAN, and overhead has been kept to around 15%, so 85% of the money collected goes to music creators and publishers.

Unfortunately, the very success of performing rights societies may have created serious problems going forward. Please follow http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20121216/MEDIA_ENTERTAINMENT/312169998 to this interesting and important article which helps explain the enormous challenge to performing rights societies in the US and worldwide by the threat of direct licensing.

Please stay tuned for further posts and information from the S.A.C.. Given the enormous stakes and profound change direct licensing poses, this is not an issue songwriters can ignore.

Many thanks,
Eddie Schwartz
President S.A.C.
Co Chair Music Creators North America

Bill C-11: A Backward Step For Music Creators

Here is a simplified list of key provisions in Bill C-11, the current revisions to Canada’s copyright law that are expected to be passed shortly, and a brief explanation of why they do little to improve the lot of music creators, and in some cases are detrimental to our situation.

1) Format and Time Shifting, Back Copies
The proposed legislation would permit reproduction of a work for private purposes where the work is a lawful copy—and not merely rented or borrowed—and where the individual making the copy did not circumvent a technological protection measure. A similar right for making back-up copies is also proposed.

The problem: Music creators and publishers will essentially lose two revenue streams thanks to Bill C-11. One is the private copy levy, which was not extended to mp3 players and similar devices in the new law. Since the levy only applies to recordable CDs, and sales of those are falling dramatically, it is only a matter of time before this revenue stream virtually disappears.

Secondly, music creators and publishers currently receive “broadcast mechanicals”, a royalty paid by broadcasters when they make copies of songs for broadcast purposes. Bill C-11 eliminates this revenue stream.

2) Anti-Circumvention Provisions
Bill C-11 would prohibit the circumvention of technological protection measures used by rights-holders to secure and control their digital content.

The problem: Since little or no music is protected by these measures, and has not been for years, this provision will do nothing to reduce the billions of songs that are file shared every year and for which music creators receive no compensation. The SAC believes the monetization of music file sharing is the only sensible approach in any case. The model we propose is available at http://www.songwriters.ca/proposalsummary.aspx

3) Changes to Fair Dealing
Bill C-11 expands the existing categories of fair dealing exceptions to include dealings for the purpose of parody or satire as well as for education purposes.

The problem: Because the definition in Bill C-11 is so broad, this provision will almost certainly lead to years of costly litigation to determine what is “fair dealing” and what is not. Bottom line: Huge legal costs and less revenue for music creators

4) Changes to Statutory Damages*
Non-commercial infringers of copyright would face considerably less exposure to statutory damages. The range of possible statutory damages would be reduced to $100 to $5,000 per infringer and cover all past infringements.

The problem: This provision limits damages to an amount so small that suing will not be economically viable, except for those with the deepest pockets. Again, the SAC does not favour litigation as a policy against music file sharing, but we understand litigation may be the only recourse in certain extreme situations. In other words, if legitimate damages are in excess of the proposed limits, why shouldn’t creators and right holders be able to sue for the full amount of the loss?

* We have had further legal opinion on this matter that creators and right holders can opt out of statutory damages and seek legal remedy for full actual damages. The question remains whether statutory damages are set at appropriate levels.

5) Limited Liability for ISPs and Search Engines
The government has proposed limiting the liability of ISPs and operators of Internet search engines for the copyright infringements of their subscribers, in that they act as mere conduits on the Internet.

The problem: ISPs already have “safe harbour” protection in law and have claimed for years they are only “dumb pipes”. Without getting into whether this is true or not as many assert, it does create a situation where Internet service providers have little incentive to work with right holders to address the issues.

So Bill C-11 legislates less revenue for music creators, imposes more expenses in holding on to the revenue we do receive, and more confusion as to what are rights as creators are.

It is worth noting that members of the SAC board, as well as other right holders, have gone to Ottawa many times to deliver the message to government that this bill is not a good one for Canada’s music creators.

Bill C-11 makes it clear our advocacy work to improve the legal and business environment for our creative community is far from done.

Many thanks,
Eddie Schwartz
President, S.A.C.

Click Here to read Bill C-11.

Does Spotify Make Cents for Creators?

There has been a lot written about Spotify in recent days. As of now Spotify operates in Europe and the US only, but there are very similar services in the works here in Canada, and the discussion below may well apply to them as well.

Some of the attention Spotify has received lately is because a growing number of independent record labels have stopped allowing Spotify to stream the music of their artists. The central complaint has been that the revenue stream from Spotify is so miniscule that it provides virtually no compensation for music creators and indie labels, while undermining sales of physical product such as CDs, which pay considerably more.

Spotify has responded by announcing that it has paid the music industry roughly $150 million over the 3 years it has been in business.

That may seem like a lot, but for those of us who write and perform music there is both much more to the story, and unfortunately, far less.

Let’s begin with the $150 million figure. Since that revenue was paid out over 3 years it averages $50 million a year. Keep in mind that although Spotify has only operated in Europe for most of that time, the music it streams originated with creators from all over the world, and so that $50 million must be split between creators and right holders in the US, Canada, France, Australia, the UK, Ireland, and many more countries around the world.

Now let’s compare revenue from other sources to get some perspective.

In Canada, our excellent performing rights society, SOCAN, collects about $250 million a year from radio, TV and other sources. BMI, ASCAP and SESAC, the US performing rights societies, collect an amount between $1 and $2 billion a year. Worldwide performance revenues are billions more. This all sounds like a great deal of money. But when it is divided among all the creators and right holders in the world it amounts to modest payouts to the vast majority. SOCAN’s average royalty payment to songwriters is in the area of $500 annually.

So the $50 million a year from Spotify when divided among the world’s creators and right holders amounts to payments that are far below other uses such as performing royalties, and in fact are microscopic for creators and right holders.

Some argue that this kind of comparison is unfair to Spotify because it is still relatively new and in time it will reach many millions more subscribers and pay a reasonable amount to those who write and perform the music.

Maybe. But after 3 years, Spotify has only 1.6 million paying subscribers in Europe, or less than one half of one percent of the population. That does not bode well for Spotify eventually reaching the size of audience that it would need to fairly compensate creators.

So the situation comes down to this: Music creators are being asked to subsidize a model that pays them very little now, and may never pay a reasonable royalty for the use of their work.

As we have seen with a number of independent record labels, some are just saying no.

Brazil considering monetizing P2P file-sharing

As many of you know, we at the Songwriters Association of Canada have been speaking and writing about monetizing music file-sharing in Canada and around the world over the last three years. Now it appears Brazil may well be the first country in the world to adopt a system to monetize music file-sharing. The Brazilian model differs from the current S.A.C. one in at least one aspect. While we have moved away from a “levy” applied to all internet accounts, which seems to be what our South American colleagues are suggesting, we now favor a “license fee” that consumers could opt out of if they did not wish to file-share.

We have said from the early days of our efforts that ultimately this approach must be world-wide, just as the collection and distribution of performing royalties is, and are very happy to see that creators in other countries are actively moving in a remarkably similar direction.

Here is what is a short summery of what is being proposed in Brazil:

Basically, non-commercial file sharing will be authorized – should the proposal be accepted and passed into law. Each broadband user will pay a  R$3 (or US$1.71) fee  together with her/his monthly Internet Service Provider (ISP) bill. The ISP will collect the fees and distribute it to a collecting society comprised of authors’ associations that will then distribute the collected fees to authors, composers, and so on in the proportion that the works are downloaded.

For more please follow this link:

http://pedroparanagua.net/2010/09/02/brazils-proposal-on-monetizing-p2p/