As singer-songwriter and SOCAN member Gordon Lightfoot wrote, “If you plan to face tomorrow, do it soon.”
These are sage words from one of Canada’s greatest songwriters, and are perfectly in line with SOCAN’s commitment to constantly reinvent itself.
Our activities in 2013 were no exception.
Reinvention is crucial to the way SOCAN conducts business. In 2013, we collected and distributed record royalties with fewer resources. It was a record year for total revenue, with $276-million brought in for members: an increase of approximately nine percent over 2012. Of this, $51-million came from outside of Canada, which was also an all-time record for SOCAN.
At the same time, the net expenses required to run SOCAN in 2013 amounted to only 12.9 percent of total revenues (a substantial improvement over the 15.4 percent of 2012), and the lowest in the history of SOCAN.
SOCAN is actually driving down expenses while achieving even better results, as we continually work to improve our efficiencies towards the goal of becoming the leanest, most agile and most productive music rights organization in the world.
In 2013, SOCAN assigned the task of collecting a significant portion of its licensing fees to a world-class third-party expert. This action not only increased the efficiency of the licensing process, but also allowed our staff to focus on the music-using businesses that contribute the most to total revenue.
This allows us to put more money in the pockets of those who have earned it: our members.
Another way we’re reinventing SOCAN is by embracing new information technology. In 2013 the first elements of our BEST (Business Enterprise Solution for Tomorrow) IT initiative were successfully deployed, and the whole suite is on track to be fully operational by 2016. BEST is designed to monitor, calculate, collect and distribute royalties more quickly, comprehensively, and accurately than ever, with the power to handle the dozens of billions of micro-transactions that occur in the digital/online ecosystem.
In 2013 we also launched eSOCAN, a fast, paperless, safe and secure way for SOCAN licensees to view, print or save their monthly statements and manage their own accounts. eSOCAN is resulting in improved efficiencies and accuracy, and overall improved satisfaction with businesses that use music.
In the past year SOCAN granted YouTube a performing rights license for Canada covering 2007 to 2013, and SOCAN further entered into a ground-breaking agreement with Audiam that makes it easier for our members to receive additional money that they deserve from the use of their music in any videos posted to YouTube.
Although we could not move forward with the proposed alliance with the Canadian Musical Rights Reproduction Agency (CMRRA) and the Société du droit de reproduction des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs au Canada (SODRAC), SOCAN continues to strive for more collaboration and alliances in the spirit of reinvention, working to create new opportunities for the future, and bring our members more services, efficiencies, skills and value.
In a similar vein, in 2013 we helped to build MusicMark (launched March 2014), a collaboration between ASCAP, BMI and SOCAN that makes the music registration process much simpler and more efficient for our members. Once MusicMark is fully implemented, songwriters, composers, and music publishers will be able to submit a single registration file simultaneously to all three music rights organizations, even if the work was co-written by members of different organizations. Each organization will then integrate the data into its own repertoire of works. Music users will also have more accurate information about the songs or compositions that they want to license and the MusicMark partners are already working on other joint projects.
SOCAN has brought together eight like-minded organizations in “ACCORD,” a co-operative working group seeking to help music fans, key stakeholders and decision-makers understand the value of the music, and the importance of the contribution of music creators to the lives of all of us. ACCORD comprises the following organizations: APEM, CMPA, CMRRA, SAC, SCGC, SOCAN, SODRAC and SPACQ.
In 2013 SOCAN achieved a huge increase in our digital presence through concerted and strategic communications efforts. Almost 600,000 unique visitors came to SOCAN.ca, and we’re deploying more and more embedded video to bring our members the information they want and can use. We launched “Music.People.Connected,” the new SOCAN blog, a slick new SOCAN Songwriting Prize website, and a new online version of our magazines, Words + Music and Paroles & Musique. All of these properties are available on your cellphone, tablet, or any other device you choose to use.
Since 2012, we increased the number of our followers on Twitter by 52 percent (now close to 11,000), and our likes on Facebook by 74 percent (more than 17,000) to reach you more efficiently and effectively, wherever you are.
We’ve reinvented ourselves by appointing bold, experienced and strategy-minded executives in 2013, with fresh ideas and great expertise.
Gilles Daigle joined the SOCAN team in March as General Counsel and Head of Legal Services. Gilles’ reputation and knowledge in the area of copyright are unsurpassed, and his years of working alongside SOCAN as our external legal counsel at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP have seen him represent SOCAN in numerous legal proceedings before the Copyright Board of Canada and the Courts.
Michael McCarty was appointed in September to the new role as SOCAN’s Chief Membership & Business Development Officer. Mike is working to extend SOCAN’s place as a vital leader among global music rights organizations, and is responsible for leading innovation in our Membership department to envision, create and deliver cutting-edge services to current and future SOCAN members.
And in November 2013, we announced that Catherine Saxberg would join SOCAN in January 2014 as Head of International Relations, working to create even more opportunities for SOCAN members beyond Canadian borders. She’s working with our International team to manage relationships with partner Music Rights Organizations around the world, particularly the larger ones that provide more than 90 percent of SOCAN members’ international royalties.
In the past year, we also reinvented ourselves by engaging a specialized communications partner to more effectively engage decision-makers to advocate for the interests of our members at the highest levels of federal and provincial government. In matters such as Canadian content, copyright reform, and the effects technological change has on music, among others, SOCAN will be at the table to represent our members when the decisions are being made.
SOCAN is not only reinventing itself, we are reinventing what a music rights organization is and can do.
Our constant reinvention will remain continuous and ongoing.
SOCAN is facing tomorrow today.
Throughout 2013, SOCAN has been striving not only to reinvent itself, but to actually reinvent what a performing rights organization can and should be. With many bold initiatives, SOCAN’s board and staff have been actively working to ‘raise the bar’ for performing rights in Canada and set an example for PROs around the world.
Over the past year, the SOCAN Board of Directors’ various committees – Executive Governance; Risk Identification & Management; Tariff, Licensing and Distribution; and Membership – dedicated much time and energy engaged in a myriad of tasks, including monitoring and reviewing our 2013 budget and forecasts; drafting the 2014 budget; managing SOCAN’s investments and other financial activities; evaluating CEO Eric Baptiste’s performance; reviewing our distribution rules; overseeing our many member events, including our AGM and awards ceremonies; and reviewing our communication strategies, policies and activities.
It’s very clear that YouTube is one of the most widely used outlets for online music and, throughout the last year, SOCAN’s management team and board has been actively investigating, negotiating and initiating new ways for members to earn royalties in this evolving landscape. In addition to directly collecting YouTube license fees (under tariff 22D) and distributing YouTube royalties for the first time in November 2013, SOCAN initiated its collaboration with Audiam, a company that aggregates and further monetizes music uses on YouTube to facilitate an additional royalty stream. SOCAN made its first distribution on behalf of Audiam in November 2013, and early predictions show that this source of revenue is growing by as much as 700% since the last quarter alone.
In an effort to operate more efficiently, SOCAN underwent a thorough review of staffing needs and was able to reduce headcount by 13.5 percent, thereby significantly lowering annual expenses, while maintaining and even improving high levels of service and performance.
Retirements in certain key positions enabled SOCAN to add new faces to the executive team, such as Michael McCarty –a former member of the Board of Directors – to the position of Chief Membership Officer. Michael’s enthusiasm, keen appreciation of the needs of our members, and ability to energize the Membership Department was instantly apparent. As a result of Michael’s hiring, his vacant seat on our board was filled, according to SOCAN’s bylaws, by Neville Quinlan of peermusic for the remainder of this board term.
On the legal side, we were extremely pleased to bring in Gilles Daigle as SOCAN’s general counsel. Gilles brings many years of copyright litigation experience with Gowlings (SOCAN’s external legal firm), which has allowed for a seamless transition following the retirement of Paul Spurgeon.
Other significant SOCAN activities included the restructuring of the Licensing Department by outsourcing smaller general licensing accounts, aggressively expanding SOCAN’s social media footprint, as well as the further formalization and the renaming of the ACCORD group, formerly known as the ‘Like Minded Organizations’ (LMO), a group of industry creator and publisher stakeholders whose aim is to help facilitate a common voice on industry issues, educate the public on the value of music, and to help ensure that creators are able to make a fair and sustainable living in the music industry.
SOCAN’s affiliation with the Canadian Songwriters’ Hall of Fame (CSHF) grew substantially in 2013. Throughout the year, significant work was done forming partnerships with the National Music Centre in Calgary to begin work on a physical presence for the CSHF, and with Magic Lantern Media to develop content for a substantial education project aimed at public and private schools in English and French Canada. This initiative will teach the value and cultural significance of Canadian music and, specifically, the impact of songs and songwriters. The CSHF has also been busy designing an elaborate new website to be re-launched in 2014, and has several other new initiatives in the works.
All in all, SOCAN’s success in 2013 was a direct result of forward thinking and reinventing the way we do business to make us more proactive, efficient, adaptable and prepared to face what lies ahead in the constantly changing music industry landscape. We’re confident that the path we’re on will continue to benefit our membership tremendously, as we continue to reinvent SOCAN and the definition of a PRO.