Royalties not paid |  French-speaking composers claim 2 million SOCAN

Royalties not paid | French-speaking composers claim 2 million SOCAN

“It’s like your employer saying to you, ‘I’m sorry, I made a mistake and gave more to the gang at the warehouse than the gang at the office…’ That’s fine, but can we readjust that?”

Updated yesterday at 23:45

Pierre-Marc Durivage

Pierre-Marc Durivage

Less affected than other artists by what appears to be a community bug in the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) radio royalty redistribution model, Andréanne A. Malette says she is just as frustrated by the losses. it supported solely by the context of the case. “Personally, I’m not really complaining, I’m not the type to hit it off, but it’s really flat to be told what it is,” says the singer-songwriter. If the artists are mobilizing like this, it is because it is something important for everyone. »

Thirteen artists from here signed an open letter on Tuesday denouncing that they were deprived of part of the radio royalties to which they were entitled between 2019 and 2021. The singer-songwriters claim to have lost about 2 million dollars. SOCAN, which asked to answer our questions by email, argues instead that its calculation method introduced in 2019 allowed it to pay an average of 807 Quebec members more per quarter, an increase of 23%. “As a result, many more SOCAN members with a small music catalog now receive 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 she received the royalty check from her last November. “As an artist, it is relatively difficult to know what happens each month. The money comes, we are happy or we are disappointed, she says. But suddenly, in November, the royalties went up, in my case it was 38% of my previous check. Since it was pretty quiet on my end and I didn’t have any new songs playing on the radio, I thought something was 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, backed by economists, the error deprived French-speaking artists worldwide of 45% of their royalties for more than 18 months. According to him, the error occurred when SOCAN decided to add 200 radio stations to its main royalty distribution group, the one whose content is analyzed at all times with SOCAN Nielsen’s BDS (Broadcast Data Systems) technology: the other basin works at the old one. , dreaming.

According to Mr. Murphy, only 10% of these 200 stations added to the BDS pool are in Quebec; therefore, the French content was completely drowned out. Francophone artists, absent from the airwaves of Anglophone stations, have seen their royalties drop drastically.

“Quebec contributes between 21 and 23% of the license fees in the country,” explains Murphy, who represents the interests of some 200 artists in the province. However, when SOCAN decided to include the analysis of these 200 radios in the BDS pool, the market proportion 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, David Murphy continues. They thus pay more in royalties although they count very few in number of radio passages. However, the value of a ticket is the same everywhere in Canada. Finally, SOCAN has changed its methodology so that the dollars paid by broadcasters here are redistributed to rights holders broadcast here. »

Instead, SOCAN says it has simply updated its distribution rules to reflect progress in better identifying and matching performances. Therefore, it is not about compensating anyone: “The retroactive recalculation of the distribution of the 18 months would include debits for thousands of authors, composers and music publishers, including more than 3000 French-speaking members based in Quebec”, writes the SOCAN.

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

Mr. Murphy is about to file an application for leave to launch a class action lawsuit in the hope of getting compensation, an approach backed by the Association of Music Publishing Professionals, which, however, says it hopes the case resolved soon.

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