Episode 11: How to play someone’s music on-site and online

Lisa Desjardins (LD): You're listening to Canadian IP Voices, a podcast where we talk intellectual property with a range of professionals and stakeholders across Canada and abroad. Whether you are an entrepreneur, artist, inventor or just curious, you will learn about some of the real problems and get real solutions for how trademarks, patents, copyrights, industrial designs, and trade secrets work in real life. I'm Lisa Desjardins and I'm your host.

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the individual podcasters and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

You've listened to the first few seconds of the tune Odd World composed by Christos Hatzis. This particular version or arrangement was created by Ben Duinker, played by the group Architek and recorded by Denis Martin. These people are all involved in the creative process of making music and have copyright to their work. They decide who can perform and reproduce their creation, and as with any other intellectual property right, anyone wanting to use that intellectual property would need to either license or buy it.

In this podcast, will demystify some of the IP rights procedures and licenses for playing someone else's music, be it in a gym, on a TV, or online in a podcast. By law, permission to publicly perform music in business is not automatically granted when you purchase CDs, MP3s, subscribe to online music services, stream music and so on. Doing this only allows you to use the music for private, so noncommercial purposes. So to play music in public events or in a business, you need to buy one or sometimes more licenses and the price or royalty you pay will depend on how you're using the music. Sounds complicated? To help me explain how all of this works, I'm really happy to be joined by James Leacock who is working at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, SOCAN. James, it's a real pleasure to have you in our podcast. Welcome!

James Leacock (JL): Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here.

LD: I know you've been working with music and music rights for a long time. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and the kind of work that you do at SOCAN?

JL: Sure thing! My wife and I we live in Milton, Ontario with our 2 sons. Personally, I'm a songwriter and a musician and I've had the good fortune of working at SOCAN for the last 20 years, which is a long time. I've had a number of roles at SOCAN. A lot of them leadership roles in general licensing, our concert department and currently I'm responsible for SOCAN’s domestic royalty collections of almost $300 million in the media and new media area. So my team and I at SOCAN work to ensure that music used on radio, TV and the Internet is properly licensed and that those fees collected are distributed back to creators and rights holders. So as a musician and a songwriter myself, it's a very rewarding job.

LD: So I'm going to tell the listeners the idea of this podcast topic actually started when I called SOCAN to get a license to play the song in the intro and we had a discussion. Can you explain the process for me and the people who are looking to play a tune from someone else online? What is it that we need to do when we're going to play someone else's music online?

JL: Sure, well, similar to what you said in the intro, these licenses are not automatically granted when you purchase music or you subscribe to a streaming service. So what you need to do is you need to clear these rights for the use that you're going to do online. So in particular for a podcast let's say, you need to ensure that you're clearing the public performance right. You also need to ensure that you're clearing a reproduction right as well. And what that means from a SOCAN perspective is you obtain a license for the use of you know the song in a podcast and SOCAN licenses cover you for any of the music that you want to use, so virtually the world repertoire of music. The fee is calculated based on what types of revenue the podcast or the online use generates. And yeah, and then there's minimums as well too. So if you're not commercial let's say, the license fees a minimum could be $20 for the entire year, up to $100 for the entire year for use in a podcast. So the SOCAN license that we administer covers you for the territory of Canada, and also for the music that you use. And in addition to that public performance license, you also need to clear a reproduction which means you know the copy that you make as you're prepping your podcast and putting that music together, and oftentimes you'll have to go directly to the rights holders in order to clear those rights.

LD: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned the other rightsholders because with copyright there can be a lot of people involved and I thought we could maybe unpack some of these other people that are involved in the copyright for, for example, our podcast tune. So, the song Odd World is in fact originally composed by Christos Hatzis, and we're going to listen to the original tune and then compare it with the arranged tune.

The second tune is a recording, and so an arrangement by the Montreal group Architek. This arrangement was created by Ben Duinker and recorded by Denis Martin in a completely different location using different instruments. So I have a composer, performers, and creator of an arrangement, as well as the recorder. Who do I need to ask for what here and who can help? This is getting complex.

JL: For sure, and I'll kind of give 2 examples. So let's say you were using this song. Let's say you owned a cafe. You would get SOCAN license for the background music used in your cafe and we would clear that song for you for you to play as as often as you like. When you move in an online area, there's additional rights that are implicated. So again, I was mentioning there's the performance right. There's the reproduction right. And there also might be a synchronization aspect, which means that if you're taking audio and you're marrying it with video, let's say… or, you're taking audio, and you're marrying it with a theme or a story like in a podcast; you have to make sure that you're asking permission to do that.

So in the case of Odd World, we have the composer, right. So that's SOCAN represents the composer. We also represent the publisher for their performing, right. And for the reproduction right you need to contact all the rights holders involved. So for Odd World you would be reaching out to the composer who may be represented by a publisher, or it might be a separate publisher. You also have to look into… again, the particular version that you're using is arranged so all of a sudden now there's another creative aspect and another potential rights holder that you do have to reach out to, because even though it was composed by Christos, the arrangement portion by Ben might include different themes that could be covered under copyright. And then you have to look at the recording itself. So is it represented by a label, and if so, you might actually need permission from that label as well too if you're using that particular version. So there's a lot of different people that you need to contact in order to clear these rights. So it's not as straightforward as you might think.

LD: I definitely agree, and I think the lesson here is for anyone planning on doing something like this is to try to find these things out to see who really are the composers? Who has made the arrangement? And… is there a database or someplace where people can go online to try to find these things out?

JL: For sure! On our website www.socan.com there's access to a public repertoire that you can search. You can put in the artist name you can put in the composer, you can put in the name of the work or the song and search through all our database to see who the publishers are, who the rights holders are. It won't give you a personal information or contact information, but it will give you the names so that you can start your search in your journey to contact these people and clear those rights.

LD: Yeah, and by the way; if anyone is wondering about the original tune and the arrangement I just played: yes, we have the permission to play all of these too and for that we are very grateful. Now let's talk about some more about the copyrights and how to access them. If I want to play them either as a song, so play it as a cover or play as a song in a background on my restaurant and let's say there is someone who you do not represent… I'm assuming that you're probably going to get a lot of questions and it is a performer that you don't represent. What would you tell them?

JL: Well in public, so not online, SOCAN licenses and represents virtually the world repertoire of music. So our licenses are what we call blanket licenses and they will cover you off for the territory of Canada for any music that you want to use. So for performing rights you don't have to go to 2 different places we can cover you off at source, and one thing to mention too is that there's an organization called Entandem, and it's a SOCAN Re:Sound company and what used to happen before was a business owner like, let's say a cafe or a restaurant, would have to go to 2 sources to obtain licensing for their use in public. Entandem makes that easy, and it's a one stop shop where you can go to obtain a license that covers off both the rights holders that SOCAN would represent and also the rights holders that Re:Sound would represent.

LD: Okay, so it's more of a streamlined access point. These days, especially over the last 16 months or so, we have online concerts and I can imagine that could complicate things a little bit. Can you explain what kind of rights the person will need to clear and what permissions or license they would need if they stream the music online?

JL: For sure, when you're using music online, as I explained, there are a number of additional copyrights that are implicated. So if we look at normally an in-person concert, you would simply get a public performance license through SOCAN or Entandem, and that would be all that you need.

When this use moves online and as a result of the pandemic, there's been a huge shift for these businesses to move online to try and generate revenue and stay alive, essentially… There are additional copyrights to consider, so in addition to the SOCAN license, you also need to obtain a license for the reproduction, which includes in a lot of cases the synchronization as well, which means you're marrying audio with video and you're putting it online. There's permissions that are required for that.

So essentially, if you're promoting or having an online concert, you've essentially turned yourself into a mini television studio. You're not only doing this in person, you're now broadcasting this on the Internet and you do have to make sure that you clear all those copyright hurdles. So in this case, if SOCAN you would contact us. We would put a performance license in place if it's a ticketed concert, the license fee is based on the number of tickets that you sell. If it's a free concert, the fee is calculated based on what you're paying the artists or the performers. And the thought behind that is that if there are folks that are being compensated for performing this music, the creators need to get compensated as well, so that's why the fee is structured that way, based on performer fee.

SOCAN also administers reproduction rights for a small share of the market here in Canada, primarily the Francophone market. So if you are having an online concert and there's francophone content, we might be able to clear those reproductions and synchronizations for you. So it would be one place where you come to SOCAN, and we could essentially help you clear all those rights at once.

If not, you would have to contact all those rights holders for each song that you want to have in your online concert, similar to how you cleared the one song for the podcast.

LD: I can guess that's going to be quite a bit of homework to pull through before I can actually stream that concert.

JL: And it's daunting for people and at SOCAN we do understand that we want to make it easy for people. We want to try and be a source of information to help guide them through the process because people are still just trying to keep their business floating and to put music out for people to enjoy it… And online concerts are a great way to do that, but again, it's just a bit more of a complicated path with the additional copyrights that need to be cleared, and oftentimes these presenters, or these promoters, or sometimes these venues... they're great partners with, SOCAN on the performing rights side for concerts in person, and it just gets confusing when it goes online because sometimes they don't understand how long it might take to clear the rights that are needed.

LD: Ah yeah, and I think, well… I mean, we're talking about this as if it's really complex and complicated and a hurdle but really, when we're talking about intellectual property rights, I think the the key message is really: this is intellectual property. This is someone’s creation. This is someone's business… and they should be compensated. So we should talk a little bit more about compensating the copyright holders and all those people associated with that. It is their work. It is their creations. It's not ours, so we need to compensate them. And I know that there are systems too to kind of calculate… you mentioned some of those. Can you explain the typical cost and fees related to playing music created by someone else?

JL: For sure. I want to touch on what you said about the small businesses and that copyrights need to be respected. One of the things that we often say is you know creators and composers are small businesses as well too; they rely on the royalties and then the revenue that their their music generates or hopefully generates to make a living. So you know SOCAN and Entandem partner with over 100,000 businesses across Canada to provide licensing for the music that they use. And then those fees turn into royalties that are distributed back to the creators, which is one thing that's really great, because especially in these times they're really counting on any sort of revenue that would come in for them.

And maybe we can use the example of a cafe that might have some background music and maybe they hire a local musician to come in with a guitar, let's say… How the fees would be structured around that would be for the background music license. There's a minimum fee, it's I think it's about $100 for the year and it's calculated based on the size of the cafe. So if the cafe is about, let's say 1,000 square feet, then there's a calculation where they take the square footage, they multiply it by the rate and then it generates the annual fee for live music in that cafe. The license fee is calculated based on what they're paying their, the performers or their artists. I believe the rate is still 3%, so again, if someone spending you know $1,000 a year on music, then the the license fee is 3% of that.

And then that's kind of, you know, collected by SOCAN and distributed back to creators here in Canada and around the world.

LD: Are there any other artists that should contact SOCAN?

JL: Yes, creators, visual art, visual artists, painters, designers, SOCAN can help to potentially represent your art as well here in Canada and around the world. Let's say you were a painter in Calgary and you had a repertoire of paintings that you've sold. SOCAN could represent you for your paintings.

And let's say they were, they were going to be featured in the museum and they wanted to do an advertisement using your painting. They need permission to do that. Oftentimes, maybe they contact the artist directly, but SOCAN can help facilitate a conversation and represent you for those rights as well here in Canada and around the world.

LD: If I'm a musician, do I have to register my copyright?

JL: What we would say, as SOCAN is: that that's up to you. We don't protect your copyright. While we advocate for your copyright through lobbying, our job is not to protect your copyright. Our job is to administer the public performance right that you provide to us through our licensing regime.

So while we do battle infringement and we have a legal department that handles infringement on a large scale, for individual copyright infringement, that's not really what SOCAN’s mandate is. But we what we do say is that if you want to protect your copyright, the best way to do it is to register it, right?

LD: If I'm a musician, a Canadian musician, and I've created songs. What should I do?

JL: Number 1 become a member of SOCAN. Register the songs with us for performing rights. Join us for reproduction rights. In some cases we can also represent you for synchronization. Video games… SOCAN does it all, so that would be step one. Register your works with us. It doesn't cost anything.

You can do it online. It's very easy.

Step 2. Try and figure out other revenue sources for your creations. If it's trying to get them into podcasts or whatnot: try and get your music out there so that when SOCAN’s collecting all these royalties from all these different uses and businesses, your content is being monetized somehow and we can collect that and give it back to you. So that's kind of step 1 and step 2.

And then step 3 from a copyright perspective, it is a bit expensive if you're an independent musician, but registering your copyright, that sounds like a good idea to do in the event that you needed to lobby for it or someone uses it or whatnot, at least you have those protections in place. And again, I think it depends on where you are as a creator, right? If you're just starting out, you probably won't register your copyrights; you might start with some of the lower cost items. But then you know if you sign a publishing deal and whatnot. There's different options for you from a copyright perspective.

And again, it's about to me it's about protecting a copyright, and it's about making sure that you can generate income from it, right? So if you're creating stuff not that everything has to be a commercial venture. But if you want to be a songwriter and a creator and that you want that to be your job and your career, you have to treat it like a business.

LD: Yeah, yeah. Good point. Very good points. I'm glad you mentioned small businesses because those of us who have worked in other industries… these kind of arrangements and common royalty rates and the business models are kind of known to people. But I sense that sometimes when it comes to music, we tend to forget it. Just because there's just nothing really that we touch with our hands, we just pick it up by years and we enjoy it and assume somehow that that some of it is going to be for free.

JL: That, that's right. And business owners. You know they have to obtain a business license to operate in their municipality, they have to get a liquor license to sell alcohol, so businesses are used to obtaining licenses for different types of operation and uses in their business. You know they have to pay for salt and pepper and napkins for their clients if they're a restaurant. Music is the same thing: there's a value to it. It enhances businesses. If you're in a, in a restaurant and you know, if there's light jazz playing, you might stay longer, you might order some dessert. You might you know, stay for drinks afterwards or something like that. So there's a value to music for these businesses and they use it strategically as well, too, which is, it's great. It's great for the creators. It's great for the business. It's really, I guess a symbiotic relationship there, but at the same time there's a cost for it. And then that's basically what SOCAN and Entandem try, and you know, educate and help people be aware of that.

LD: It's a good explanation that you gave there and thanks for giving that whole perspective of how music is just part of the offering for many businesses and that it's an added value to retain and perhaps keep their clients for a little bit longer as you say.

JL: And it's no different than the podcast, right? Again, it's an audio platform. It's an audio medium. Our voices hopefully are interesting, but at the same time, if there's some music or some cues, or an intro, it makes the product more interesting and it creates an ambiance or a vibe for the listener, the same way that jazz music or upbeat music in a retail store creates that ambience in a brick and mortar business.

LD: Yeah, absolutely. To wrap things up: if someone wants to play someone else's music, what is the first thing they need to do?

JL: They need to contact SOCAN or Entandem. SOCAN for any online uses, and Entandem for any in-person uses once we get back to opening things back up. If you happen to contact SOCAN for an Entandem reason, we're sister companies, we’ll help point you in the right direction, but definitely contact one of us and we'll definitely point you in the right direction. So for SOCAN, www.socan.com, for Entandem, www.entandemlicensing.com. You can also Google search for SOCAN or Entandem and be provided with phone numbers and email addresses and all that good stuff.

LD: Fantastic… James. Thank you so much for clarifying some of these complex concepts for us. It's been a real pleasure to have you in our podcast.

JL: Very glad to have participated and I appreciate you considering me for the podcast. Thank you.

LD: You've listened to Canadian IP Voices where we explore intellectual property. In this episode, you met with James Leacock, who is the manager of media in SOCAN’s licensing department. James explained how SOCAN administers and protects the performing and reproduction rights of more than 160,000 songwriters, music publishers, composers and visual artists. If you have participated in creating a song, an album or any musical piece that's been recorded, performed or published, join SOCAN to receive the money that you've earned. To get a license to play music at an event online or in your business, contact SOCAN. Visit www.socan.com for more information.

Finally, let me also express my most sincere appreciation and gratitude to SOCAN and also to Christos Hatzis, Ben Duinker, Denis Martin, as well as Marybeth Coscia-Weiss and Ross Hendy at Promethean Editions for your support of this podcast.