The staid world of music rights collectives has been turned on its head in the past several years, in large part driven by Canada’s composers and authors performing rights society SOCAN, which has broadened its reach through acquisitions of Quebec mechanical rights agency SODRAC, US-based music data company MediaNet, and US digital rights management firm Audiam.
The landscape is shifting and, with the changes, turf wars have become inevitable as a consequence of declining sales revenues and snowballing IT costs resulting from requirements to track, process and database tens of millions of items of metadata, driven by vast song catalogues.
In an almost unprecedented move that underscores the seismic shifts in the rights agencies’ topography, CMRRA President Caroline Rioux has written an open letter to the agency's clients. Her message is reprinted in entirety below.
September 06, 2018
“Dear CMRRA Client,
“In a time of increasingly rapid change in our industry, and with new competitors vying to license and administer the reproduction right in Canada, I am writing to convey to you that CMRRA is still the right choice for music publisher clients like you.
“We’re the right choice because CMRRA is the most reliable resource and steadfast advocate for music publishers in Canada. As an advocate, we fight to ensure your business model as music publishers can continue to flourish. We also fight to protect the value of the reproduction right on many fronts, securing hard-fought tariffs and favourable licensing terms. We’re the right choice because we have been instrumental in attaining some of the highest royalty rates in the world and establishing productive relationships with our licensees that promote the prompt payment of your royalties. And we’re the right choice because our powerhouse team is 100 percent committed to providing you the best value for the collection of your hard-earned royalties.
“I also want to be clear about what we are not. We are not working for the interest and profit of third-party investors. We are not leveraging your royalties to create a conglomerate that seeks to be all things to all people. And we are not building an organization that will compete against your interests as music publishers and undermine your business model.
“We are all in for you: laser-focused on growing the value of your music and your business, and strategically aligned with SoundExchange to increase efficiencies, leverage technology, and put more royalties in your hands quicker than ever before.
“There is and has always been a “do it right” insistence across the company and in all that we do. We have a tradition of doing our work with a quiet confidence and tenacious spirit—no spin, no boasting. We continue in this manner, true to who we are, but understand that we must seize this moment to stand up, speak out, and demonstrate our strength and our full commitment to you.
“In that spirit, I want to encourage everyone across the industry to understand that the entry of new players looking to compete with CMRRA may not, contrary to their assertions, increase efficiencies and streamline the licensing process for licensees in Canada. Rather, it opens the door to a fragmented marketplace that may, as we have seen in the U.S., lead to inefficiencies, delays in payment, conflicting claims and, ultimately, more confusion and administrative demands for licensees.
“CMRRA has led the business of licensing, collecting, and distributing reproduction rights royalties for more than 40 years. We have a proven track record in addressing the complexities of work-by-work royalty invoicing and back-claim processes. Unlike PROs, which collect royalties by way of blanket agreements, we have had to master the unique challenges of identifying our represented repertoire prior to receiving payments from our licensees. We have created a robust work-by-work invoicing model that seamlessly integrates a globally unique quarterly back-claim process that greatly expedites the payment of royalties by licensees. For more than a decade, we have also administered the licensing and invoicing of CMRRA and SODRAC’s joint repertoire as a one-stop shop for the online music services and broadcasters that do business in Canada. Unfortunately, this unique collaboration with SODRAC can no longer be maintained given the divergent business interests now at play following its acquisition by SOCAN.
“CMRRA remains, to this day, the expert and leading player in this domain with true strength in numbers, as we represent, by far, the majority of music publishers and rights holders who do business in Canada. CMRRA is supported by a committee of well-versed, experienced music publisher clients (the Canadian Publishers Committee is appointed by the Canadian Music Publishers Association), who provide valuable direction to ensure CMRRA continues to meet the needs of rights owners and the industry.
“We welcome continued constructive dialogue and hope that we’ll have the opportunity to talk to many more of you someday soon. We invite you to reach out to anyone on our executive team, myself included, to discuss your questions. Please know that all of us at CMRRA value you, your music, and your rights and, without a doubt, we will continue to fight for you.”