By Jeff King
Songwriters, composers and music publishers develop long-standing relationships with their performing rights organizations (PROs) that span entire careers and encompass all of their business development. This includes all of the ups and downs, and in the case of publishers, purchases and sales of song catalogues, as well as changes in staff.
For most music creators and music publishers, their PRO is a major constant. Through boom times, recessions, wars, the emergence of new technologies, and evolving demographics, SOCAN and its predecessors have been there. But just being there is not enough; a PRO should be expected to do more than that. I’m not talking about the benefits and value proposition of SOCAN. Those are easy to check out on www.socan.ca. What should your expectations of your PRO be?
This is the big one, the foundation of all relationships. We’re talking about your copyrights, your creations and the trust that you’ve placed in SOCAN to administer your performing rights properly. You must expect that your information will be handled appropriately and discreetly, that smart business arrangements will be made, and that your distributions will be timely and accurate.
Essentially, governance is the process around decision-making, and the implementation of those decisions. Good governance can be hard to describe, but you’ll know bad governance when you see it. You should expect your PRO to have well-defined Board of Directors selection criteria, along with appropriate mandates on management and “managing management.” Just to let you know, SOCAN was the winner of the Conference Board of Canada’s National Award in Governance in the not-for-profit category the only year we entered.
You need your PRO to be able to explain where the money comes from and where it goes. SOCAN currently distributes approximately 86 cents out of every dollar as royalties, and we’re working hard to improve that figure. In addition to financial transparency, operational transparency should also be expected. Distribution Rules, policies and procedures, data sources and the like need to be available to you in clear and easy-to-understand language.
You should expect your PRO to move at the speed of business. This includes service, of course, but also includes bringing new products and services to market.
Respect and Dignity
You have a voice and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Your PRO has to be responsive and clear, even if the answer is no.
Your PRO should be looking for way to help make your life easier, not harder. From helping you make contacts and connections, to getting to the bottom of international performance royalties queries, SOCAN can take the lead. Of course, your success is your own doing, but your PRO should take the worry out of performing rights administration.
Remember, SOCAN is a member-owned organization, similar to a credit union or mutual insurance company. Our members own the organization, and the Board of Directors and management are ultimately accountable to them.
These expectations are an integral part of SOCAN’s culture already. However, we’re continuing to make strides to improve SOCAN further and raise the bar for performance rights management.