After the Federal Government tabled legislation to update The 1991 Broadcasting Act on Groundhog Day, SOCAN CEO Jennifer Brown sees an early spring of hope for Canadian songwriters and composers.
Now that "The Online Streaming Act," or Bill C-11, will legislate foreign services to play by the same rules as traditional Canadian broadcasters and put the onus on streaming giants like Spotify, Apple Music and Netflix to invest in - and promote - our culture, Brown - whose organization licenses music performing rights fee from around the world, which are then distributed to homegrown songwriters and music publishers - is feeling optimistic.
"Definitely the introduction of the online streaming and the amendments to the Broadcasting Act are really important for us," Brown told FYIMusicNews on Friday. "We really want to see streaming services participate in the promotion of Canadian music, but also the financial support programs, participating in that and making sure that they're fostering the creation of Canadian music. So, we see this as a really positive step in the tabling of the Amendment."
Brown says since all the major streaming players have been in the market "for almost 10 years, it's really important that they contribute to the Canadian ecosystem."
"With the discoverability, the showcasing and the promotion of Canadian music, we want to really make sure that Canadian music and Canadian stories are easier to find," she explains.
Brown indicates that a key to that success will be making sure that "we get emerging, and middle-class creators exposed on their platforms as well."
"It's about making sure that there is an audience for Canadian music. We want to make sure that Canadians, even as listeners, have that experience on a regular basis, where they're introduced to Canadian music."
Adding that she was encouraged by Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez reaching out "so quickly" to address the situation, indicating that "this is critical and important to heritage," she's also hoping the proposed legislation will solve another dilemma:
At the moment, the amount of digital media royalty distribution to Canadian SOCAN members is hovering around slightly less than 10%, while traditional media distribution averages 33%, a distribution disparity of 69%.
The new legislation should offer Canadian creators a larger slice of the digital streaming pie.
"There is about $100M of domestic collections coming in from streaming services, but only a fraction of that does stay in Canada as distributed to our Canadian songwriters and composers," she admits. "We want to see that number grow and we're putting it out there that with the showcasing, that can help grow that number and also make sure that our emerging songwriters see a path towards building a career in Canada."
While Brown is confident the new legislation will be passed, she says there could be risks should, for some reason, the Bill is defeated.
"Music is an important part of our collective identity," she explains. "Without the updates, there could be a risk for new Canadian music. If you don't have an audience at home; if you don't have an infrastructure at home; I'm not sure where we would see our emerging songwriters and composers really finding a reason to get into this market."
Brown says SOCAN, as an organization, is getting back to basics.
"It's a subtle shift, but before we were really focused on being more of a tech player locally and globally. I really made sure with the team - one that I'm really happy with - that we're really focused on our core and making sure that we're here for our members and that we're really a service organization.
"It's a complicated business and I think that SOCAN being here for our writers and our composers and our publishers to help connect the dots and really provide that service for them in Canada, and ensure that we have a good Canadian ecosystem."
In 2020, SOCAN distributed more than $348 million in royalties to the company’s 175,000 members.