Making the most of Canadian Music Week

LicensedToPlay_CMW_ 2015_CS Published 05/28/2015

By Andrew Berthoff

I firmly believe that the best ideas are usually obvious ideas.

Throughout my career in communications and marketing, the best “Eureka!” moments have been when someone reluctantly mentions something so glaringly obvious that a flash of inspiration takes hold of the meeting. People stop suddenly, and say, “Yes! That’s it!”

It resonates immediately, and often it’s a kernel of genius that was sitting there so simply and obviously all the time, which no one realized, or, if they did, thought it was so stupidly plain to see that they were afraid to mention it for fear of embarrassment.

And so it was a few months back when the people on the SOCAN team were brainstorming ways that we might make more of our involvement with festivals and conferences. We wanted to try to go beyond the logo, program ads, banner-bugs and award-naming (all often valuable elements) to see what more we could derive from partnerships.

There were actually two simple, obvious “Eureka!” moments at the meeting.

The first: what if SOCAN worked with a festival to ensure that all of the venues were legally licensed with us? You might wonder why that would be an issue, but the reality is that, while most live music venues are keen to be an ethical and legal part of the music ecosystem, some might let their licensing lapse.

What if we partnered with a major festival, like Canadian Music Week, to see if we could confirm that all of their venues were Licensed to Play with SOCAN? And, once we felt good about that, provide a special designation to the festival?

LicensedToPlay_CMW_ 2015_CSThe result was a simple and obvious program that we think brought great results not only in terms of awareness of the SOCAN Licensed to Play initiative, but gave our friends at CMW something that they could benefit from – especially since CMW would enjoy a world first. CMW President Neill Dixon is a staunch advocate for the rights of music creators, and we worked together to confirm that the more than 60 performance venues were legally and ethically licensed. The result was a terrific joint program that benefitted everyone: SOCAN, CMW and, most importantly, our members.

The second “Eureka!” moment: What if we put together a social media campaign that encouraged SOCAN members performing at CMW showcases and shows to take a photo of their set list, and tweet it to our attention?

You’d think this was already happening, but in truth SOCAN became, to the best of our knowledge, the first performing rights organization to accept set lists this way. We worked with our Distribution team to ensure they were ready, and the result was that nearly 20 percent of eligible performances during CMW had their set lists tweeted to SOCAN. We were pleased at this rate of return.

SetList_2_InBlogLike the Licensed to Play initiative, this was a brilliantly obvious idea and, as an added bonus, cost us no more in “sponsorship” funds. We raised awareness with our members about the need to send in their set lists so that we can make sure that songwriters, composers and publishers are paid even more quickly and accurately. What’s more, artists engaged with their fans on social media, and said lots of nice things about SOCAN and CMW.

We look forward now to continuing similar efforts with other music festivals and conferences. Testament to each programs’ success is that SOCAN has been approached by other festivals that would like to be a Licensed to Play partner.

Licensed to Play is becoming the badge of honour that we want it to be: it’s good for businesses that use music legally and ethically to display the logo proudly.

The SOCAN team and I were proud of these initiatives. They started with the kernel of an idea – someone saying something like, “This might sound stupid, but what if…” and the room lit up. And you know that you’re on to something good when that happens. The best communications and marketing ideas are often the most obvious – and they often cost nothing, except a bit of inspiration, perspiration and positive thinking.

About Andrew Berthoff

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, as a bagpipe- and baseball-playing (not at the same time) teenager, Andrew Berthoff was an unabashed fan of Neil Young, April Wine and Rush, seeing the latter live no fewer than four times at Kiel Auditorium. With the tubular bells of "Closer to the Heart" going through his head while rounding third-base and thinking about the next piping competition, "home" eventually became Canada, where he slid in to in 1988. In Toronto, Andrew started a career in publishing as an editor with several trade magazines, before taking his communications and media skills to a career in public relations and marketing. He worked for many years to establish what is now one of Canada's top communications agencies before joining SOCAN as Vice President, Communications & Marketing in 2013. Still a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and Rush, and an active piper and editor and publisher of pipes|drums Magazine in his spare time, even closer to his heart are his wife, Julie, his teenaged daughter, Annabel, and his young West Highland terrier, Millie.

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