Unpaid Redemptions | French-speaking songwriters claim 2 million from SOCAN

“It’s like your employer saying to you, ‘Sorry, I made a mistake and I gave more to the gang in the warehouse than to the gang in the office…’ OK, but do we can readjust that? »

Updated yesterday at 11:45 p.m.

Pierre-Marc Durivage

Pierre-Marc Durivage
The Press

Less affected than other artists by what appears in the community to be an error in the radio royalty redistribution model of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), Andréanne A. Malette says she is just as frustrated by the losses sustained only by the context of the case. “Personally, I’m really not complaining, I’m not the type to go to bat, the more it’s really bad to be told that’s what it is,” says the singer-songwriter. If artists are mobilizing like that, it’s because it’s something important for everyone. »

Thirteen local artists signed an open letter on Tuesday denouncing the fact that they were deprived of part of the radio royalties to which they were entitled between 2019 and 2021. SOCAN, whose request responds to questions by email, supports instead that the method of calculation introduces in 2019 the permission to pay an average of 807 Quebec members more per quarter, only with an increase of 23%. “As a result, many more SOCAN members with a small catalog of music are now receiving royalties,” reads the response from the organization’s spokesperson.

Andréanne A. Malette fully shares the grievances of Louis-Jean Cormier, Gilles Vigneault, Elisapie, Corneille, Vincent Vallières, Cœur de pirate and company. She herself saw that there was something fishy when he received his royalty check last November. “As an artist, it’s relatively difficult to know what goes in each month. The money arrives, we are happy or we are disappointed, she expresses. Not all of a sudden, in November, the royalties went up, in my case it was 38% from my previous check. Since it was pretty quiet on my end and I didn’t have any new songs playing on the radio, I figured there was something wrong. »

Deprived of 45% of their royalties

It was David Murphy, president of a company specializing in the management of musical and audiovisual rights, who brought the problem to light. According to his calculations, supported by economists, the error globally deprived French-speaking artists of 45% of their royalties for more than 18 months. The error would have occurred, according to him, when SOCAN decided to add 200 radio stations in the main distribution pool of royalties, the one whose content is analyzed at all times thanks to BDS (Broadcast Data Systems) technology. of Nielsen — the other basin works the old way, by means of a probe.

According to Mr. Murphy, only 10% of these 200 stations added to the BDS pool are in Quebec; the French-language content was therefore completely drowned out. French-speaking artists, absent from the airwaves of English-speaking stations, have therefore seen their royalties kicked brutally.

“Quebec contributes between 21 and 23% of the broadcasting rights in the country,” explains Mr. Murphy, who represents the interests of 200 artists in the province. However, when SOCAN decided to include the analysis of these 200 radios in the BDS pool, the proportion of the market was not respected.

“Quebec is a very different market from Canada. There are far fewer radio stations here compared to the population, but they are big and reach a lot of people, continues David Murphy. They thus pay more in royalties although they count very few in number of radio passages. Or, the value of a passage is the same everywhere in Canada. Finally, SOCAN has changed the method by which the dollars paid by broadcasters here are redistributed to the rights holders who are broadcast here. »

Instead, SOCAN says it has simply updated its fazn distribution rules to reflect progress in better identifying and matching performances. No question therefore of compensating anyone: “The retroactive recalculation of the distribution for the 18 more would include debits for thousands of authors, composers and music publishers, no more than 3000 French-speaking members based in Quebec”, writes the SOCAN

“I’m not asking to debit the artists who received more money, it’s SOCAN’s mistake,” reacts David Murphy. We must compensate those who have been cheated. SOCAN has a reserve fund that has been used to deal with losses in the past, including joint ventures that went bad. They put an end to these projects, it appears in the financial statements, we are talking about millions in losses. »

Mr. Murphy is preparing to file an application for authorization to institute a class action in the hope of obtaining compensation, an approach supported by the Association of Music Publishing Professionals, which nevertheless says that it maintains that the The case will be settled soon.

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