By Anne Richard
Question: What would be the best way to bring ordinary people to understand it’s only right to pay for the music they use?
Answer: Have music creators muster the courage to explain that royalties for the use of music is their livelihood. Period.
For songwriters, this revenue can bridge the gap between two album releases or promotional tours, allowing them the freedom to create new songs. For film and television composers, royalties as their main source of income, if not the only chance they have to invest in their own retirement income.
SOCAN members have much more credibility to defend their rights than SOCAN employees do.
Anybody can understand that artists need to make a living, just like everyone else. They, too, have to eat, pay rent and invest in their careers. Yet, when music creators get together with their fans or with the media, they tend to talk about everything but making money. Why is that? Is it because art is sexier than money? Maybe. Also, fans usually love to hear about how their favourite songs came into being or what happened behind the scenes during a successful tour.
Still, as songwriters, aren’t you concerned not just with your own art and image, but also about the growth of the music industry, and with being fairly compensated for your work? If you are, then every teenager and retailer who uses or consumes music must be told in no uncertain terms that paying for such use is fair remuneration for the people who create the music they enjoy. Nothing else.
On October 30, 1983, at the fifth annual ADISQ Awards, with millions watching the live broadcast, prominent SOCAN member Luc Plamondon made a courageous public plea for music creators’ rights.
Thirty years on, he’s still actively fighting for them. The appetite for public statements seems to be more prevalent in the Quebec arts community, as demonstrated again in 2010, when four busloads of artists drove to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, under the leadership of Plamondon and Robert Charlebois, to denounce the government’s copyright reform bill C-32.
Though they may be helpful, one-time mobilizations are less powerful than daily advocacy by songwriters and composers on behalf of music creators’ rights. They are already in touch with fans through Facebook and Twitter, onstage or in the media. This is where they can best be seen as the face of creators’ rights. Don’t forget – these are your rights.
If SOCAN members talk about SOCAN’s role, then the next time SOCAN reaches out to a new bar, or gets in touch with the owners of a new network or chain of boutiques to arrange for compensating songwriters, composers and music publishers fairly, they might associate us with their favourite artists. Our role would be facilitated, and the first beneficiaries would be our members themselves.