The fact that Jodie Ferneyhough is now in his 13th year as President of the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA) is vivid testimony to his importance in the Canadian music community.
He brings the same dedication and enthusiasm to his industry roles as he does to the triathlons and Iron Man events he regularly competes in. We caught up with the man on the move this week in Nashville, where he was having meetings on CCS business.
CCS Rights Management is the firm Ferneyhough set up five years ago, after he left his 10 year long gig as head of Universal Music Publishing Group in Canada. As its website describes, “CCS provides a full suite of rights management services, including music and non-music intellectual property management. From copyright and licensing to administration of master rights to brand management and artist representation, CCS is deeply involved in all aspects of rights management in order to provide exemplary service to its clients.”
As head of the company, Ferneyhough has found it necessary to log those air miles. “In running two of the biggest publishing companies in Canada over the last number of years [Universal and peermusic], you don’t work on such an international basis. You concentrate more on Canada."
“Now being on my own and building the company, I also have to build a lot of relationships from scratch. That is really interesting and also daunting. You literally have to get onto a plane and go meet these guys and then you keep building on that. I go to New York, London, LA, and Nashville on a regular basis.”
A recent extended trip to LA brought a positive result. Last month CCS hosted its first artist showcase there, at industy haunt Soho House. Performing short sets there were CCS clients Terra Lightfoot, Kayleigh O’Connor, Jacquie Neville (The Balconies) and Nate Daniels (CAIRO).
“That showcase was a long time in coming,” Ferneyhough reports. “We finally got to the point with our roster and the amount of copyrights we have and the growth of the company that it was time for this. I was very pleased with the result. The audience actually kept quiet for the 40 minute set, a rarity in LA!”
CCS clients/artists include the late Glenn Gould, Randy Bachman, CAIRO, Terra Lightfoot, Tim Chaisson, Chad Brownlee and more. The company has expanded into artist management, with Kayleigh O’Connor, The Balconies, and CAIRO on that roster.
“We do manage some acts, partly out of necessity because we know the direction we need to take the band and the steps needed to get there. I don’t need someone else getting in the way,” Ferneyhough explains.
“We like to be hands-on with all our clients. The more we are part of the artists career the more we can help. If we know three months out there’s a record coming, we can get involved in trying to get placements or use that helps it. The more involved we are, the better for the team.”
One example he cites is CCS’ partnership with Little Red Bungalow, the publishing arm of Mike Denney’s MDM Recordings label. “I have a joint venture with them and it’s great. It’s about everyone working together, and Mike fosters a great familial feel there.”
Ferneyhough notes that “CCS is a rights management company so we go beyond music publishing. We do all rights – ancillary, neighbouring, and so on. But I’ve always believed that the publisher should be an integral part of the artists career, whether with the artist directly or the label or other partners. We try as a company to go over and above being just the publisher.”
He is acutely aware of the importance of the administrative side, however. “The first thing I knew starting this company was that admin is king. If you do not have good admin you don’t have a company. That was the first thing I focused on, and my first hire, Katherine Perak, was to administer the copyrights.”
Then at a point where we needed the creative to step up, I started looking aggressively at artists and writers and corporate catalog, then I brought in a creative person, Jordan Howard.”
CCS currently has three full-time and two part-time staff, and Ferneyhough is careful that the company keeps growing on a manageable level. He does credit the Ontario Music Fund for important early support, noting that “it has very much helped me to flourish. It has definitely accelerated this company by about two years.”
He is clearly enjoying piloting his own ship now. “I wish to a certain extent that I’d maybe jumped out on my own five years before I did, but I did it at a good time. Those years of experience running Peermusic, I learned a lot from those folks, then I was running the largest music publishing company in Canada, amalgamating BMG into it, learning about admin and the art of the deal. That knowledge and the connections I have has made all the difference in the world.”
Prior to joining peermusic in 1996, Ferneyhough was a busy player on the Toronto indie scene. He managed popular punk band Pigfarm and The Monoxides, booked up to 20 bands across the country, and had a stint with Neill Dixon, running the music side of Canadian Music Week.
Throughout his career in publishing, Ferneyhough has been a passionate advocate for songwriters, composers and artists. “Without the publishers here you wouldn’t have a broadcast mechanical that is one of the highest in the world,” he stresses. “You wouldn't have private copying, something that brought in over $200 million in Canada over the past year, when the US only got $40 million. We have some of the highest rates in the world for downloads too.”
“I don’t relish putting on a suit and talking to a bunch of MPs in Ottawa. That is not my idea of a good time, but somebody’s gotta do it! I feel strongly that we have to represent the writers. Sure this is my job, and I make money doing this, but if I don’t have strong writer advocacy I don’t make any money either. It works for all of us.”
Ferneyhough’s commitment to the entire music industry here is best exemplified by his crucial role in establishing Unison, the benevolent fund for those in music. He co-founded it with Catharine Saxberg (now SOCAN's Head of International Relations) and recalls “I think it was seven years ago when we both sat down for coffee and wrote it [the idea] out on a napkin. That is what it is today. I served as President for four or five years, then Catharine took over and Derrick Ross is in as VP.”
After a long tough road, Unison is now fully active, as Ferneyhough reports. “We have a wonderful board, from across the country from all walks of musical life. We can now financially support people, whereas earlier we just provided counseling and services.
“It is sad we have to help our own people, but I couldn’t be prouder that the industry has really brought into this and really understands the need for it.”