OTTAWA — The body representing Canada’s songwriters and composers has revealed that, on average, musicians writing their own material earned just $67 last year in royalties from national broadcast services.
SOCAN, which collects royalties from musicians such as Drake, Joni Mitchell and Down with Webster, said Canadians overall earned record royalties from streaming platforms last year.
The nonprofit collects payments from radio stations, TV channels and digital platforms, including Spotify, YouTube and streaming services.
It said, in a new financial report, that for the first time in its history, licensed music collections are expected to exceed $416 million per year. These figures will be confirmed in an annual report in June.
Despite a boost from the pandemic that caused more people to stream music at home rather than going out, Canadian songwriters represented by SOCAN collected an average of just $67.14 in royalties from streaming services. Canadian digital broadcast in 2021.
In an interview, CEO Jennifer Brown said that while hit artists such as Drake and The Weeknd are played regularly, Canadian musicians who aren’t as well-known may struggle to be promoted in Canada.
She said legislation before Parliament that would force streaming platforms to add more Canadian music to playlists in Canada would give musicians a career boost and support to get started.
Bill C-11, which is currently being debated, would require digital platforms, including Spotify and YouTube, to promote Canadian music in the same way as traditional radio stations, which must give time airtime to Canadian music.
But because digital platforms and radio operate differently – with platforms allowing people to choose what they listen to and when – the bill is likely to provide some flexibility on how to promote the work of Canadians. .
Brown said it’s important for emerging songwriting talent as well as listeners that platforms “featured Canadians” to help them get discovered and reach a wider audience.
She predicted that SOCAN’s collections from digital platforms will soon exceed collections from more traditional sources, such as airtime on radio stations.
Brown said the revelation that Canadian musicians earn so little on digital platforms may not convince young artists that they should pursue a career in music.
The organization collects the royalties due to it and distributes them to the singer-songwriters.
This includes royalties from streaming platforms such as Netflix, including for themed tunes written by Canadian songwriters and composers.
Amin Bhatia, an Emmy-nominated composer whose work includes the score for “Anne with an E,” a popular TV adaptation of “Anne of Green Gables,” said the law needs to be modernized so streaming platforms are also considered as broadcasters.
He said composers received far more royalties when their work was shown on a broadcaster, like CBC, than on a streaming platform when they only received pennies.
“I’ve been doing this for about 30 years. My royalties dropped when the contracts went online by 80%,” Bhatia said. “If a show is a hit on network television, everyone benefits. This success is shared. Bill C-11 will reclassify broadcasters as broadcasters and help grow the industry.
The bill would also require digital platforms to contribute financially to support Canadian musical talent, including helping to fund support for “infrastructure” such as recording studios, Brown said.
YouTube has warned that forcing it to promote the work of Canadians rather than carefully curated content tailored to individual tastes may not lead to an overall selection of more Canadian content.
This could, due to the way its algorithm works, cause some Canadian content to be promoted less actively outside of Canada, where many Canadian artists make the bulk of their money.
Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet Law at the University of Ottawa, said that “forcing” platforms to “power” Canadian content could suggest it is less popular than it is and downgrade it by the algorithms of streaming platforms.
He warned that the bill could impact the amount of revenue Canadian musicians earn from outside the country on digital platforms.
But Brown said the bill’s measures would not only introduce more listeners to Canadian music they might not have heard of, but increase the royalties Canadian musicians can earn.
The rights management body, whose members include Michael Bublé, Gordon Lightfoot and the estate of Leonard Cohen, raised $135 million last year from the use of internet music alone.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 31, 2022.
Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press