11 Reasons Why Musicians Should Love Canada

By Jeff Price

There are a multitude of reasons to love Canada, but there are eleven in particular that musicians should take note of, and they all come from the Canadian performing rights organization, (PRO) SOCAN.

Although not perfect, SOCAN is a shining example of how a performing rights organization should work for songwriters. The rest of the world should sit up, take notice and follow its lead.

(For those not sure what a PRO is, read more about it here.)

1) SOCAN, like most PROs, is a not for profit entity that is owned by its publisher and writer members.  And this is more or less where most of the similarities stop with other PROs.

The 18 members of its Board of Directors are determined by open elections.  This does not mean that board members are voting to appoint other board members, or people are volunteering to be on the board. Any member of SOCAN in good standing can run to win one of the 18 spots on the Board.

Although other PROs have similar models, I’ve never seen a PRO have such an open process that did not substantially stack the deck in favor of pre-existing board members.

You can click here to check out the candidates and see the process in action; they are having elections this week.

2) SOCAN does not take any deductions on international incoming revenue.

If you are a member of SOCAN, and your song is publicly performed outside of Canada (lets say Germany), the German PRO (called GEMA) will collect the public performance money.  GEMA will then take a % of this money as its “admin fee” and then pass it back to SOCAN. SOCAN then pays it to its member.

Now here’s the amazing part: whereas every other PRO in the world (like ASCAP, BMI, PRS, GEMA, etc,) takes an additional second admin dip of about 3% – 6% of the songwriter’s foreign money that, SOCAN takes NO additional SECOND fee to get this money back to its members (the only other PRO I could find that does this is STIM, the Swedish PRO).

There is no law or requirement for SOCAN to do this, they just choose to.

This means as a SOCAN member, you will make more money off of foreign public performances than just about any other songwriter affiliated with their local PRO.

3) SOCAN takes no percentage of the songwriter’s money as a “cultural deduction.”

A “cultural deduction” usually happens with European PROs.  This is a discretionary deduction taken from a songwriter’s money by the local PRO to use for “cultural purposes.”  And yes, the definition of “cultural purpose” is about as vague as you think it is: parties, supporting local bands, promoting bands, or other things that may fall into shady categories.  The amount they choose to take, and what they choose to spend it on, is determined by their Board of Directors.  Songwriter members get no say, their money is just taken.

SOCAN (along with ASCAP/BMI/SESAC) takes no cultural deductions of any sort.

Kind of a no brainer to me.

4) SOCAN provides royalty calculators to help its members estimate and understand the royalties they will earn.

I can find no other PRO in the world that does this. SOCAN members can plug some info into an on-line calculator and it spits out how much money they should expect to be paid.  For example, enter how long your music appears on a TV show/station and if it’s theme music, background music, etc, and the rate calculator will estimate the royalties generated.

Members can use this info not only to know how much they should expect to be paid, but also to do deals.  For example, a member could choose to lower or raise the synch license as they see the income via public performance.

Not to mention when the songwriter’s statement shows up they can compare what they were paid with what they told they were going to be paid.

This is a huge level of transparency that no other PRO provides.

5) SOCAN also provides more transparency in its royalty statements.

On SOCAN’s on-line royalty statements, SOCAN members can see a deep level of itemized detail.  For example, they see a line listing of each and every individual TV public performance, and the amount each one of those performances generates.

In addition, the rates posted on SOCAN’s website appear to be the actual rates they charge the TV stations, retail stores, radio stations, internet services, etc.  There do not seem to be two sets of royalty rates—the ones posted on-line and the “real” ones that no one knows.

There is even a license fee calculator to help music users estimate license fees.

You can view SOCAN’s rates here.

6) SOCAN’s unidentified performances are posted online.

About 2% of what is reported to SOCAN for radio play is not indentified. This means that SOCAN cannot match the information to one of their members—they do not know to whom to credit it.

Unlike just about every other PRO in the world, SOCAN posts a list on its website asking for its members to identify whose public performances they are. Once that gets figured out, the songwriter gets paid.

7) SOCAN posts a “Missing in Action” list for the members they cannot find due to a change of address, death or some other issue.

You can view the current MIA list here.

May as well check to see if you’re on it.  If so, there’s money waiting for you.

8 ) SOCAN has no “black box.”

Black box money is money that a PRO has but does not know who the songwriters are that it belongs to, or where they are.  Therefore, the PRO gives this “unidentified” money away to other people or entities.  SOCAN does not do this.  The entire distribution pool is distributed each quarter with no money being held back to be given away later to the wrong people or entities.

God bless ‘em!

9) SOCAN has a creative suite of member benefits including houses in Los Angeles and Nashville donated by other SOCAN members. These are bedrooms in homes that are available for members at no cost to the member for up to two week stays (first come first served, and it must be booked in advance).

‘Nuff said.

10) SOCAN has online tools allowing its members to make and track queries.

For example, a SOCAN member learns his/her song is on TV in Greece and asks SOCAN to check it out for him/her.  The SOCAN member can track the progress of the query on-line.

In addition, SOCAN is actively pursuing ways to monitor international public performances on broadcast TV on behalf of its members.

This allows SOCAN to reach out to other PROs on behalf of its members to assure they are getting paid the right amount of money.

11) SOCAN made a freaking cool mobile app.

I’m just going to copy and paste from their website:

SOCAN has launched its new mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, offering its members and licensees 24/7 access to a wide array of functionality wherever they are. SOCAN members can now browse their catalogues, calculate their performance royalties and review their statements on the go. Whether in the studio, in a hotel room, or traveling to a gig, members can access their SOCAN account anytime, anywhere.

SOCAN licensees can also use a unique “licence finder” tool to determine which ones apply to their situation, and easily calculate their licence fees.

SOCAN’s app will soon be available for Blackberry and Windows smart phones. As members’ and licensees’ use of its mobile app increases, SOCAN will adjust it according to their input, improving its features and capabilities wherever possible.

The end result is a PRO that is providing a higher level of transparency, accuracy and openness resulting in more money going into songwriters’ pockets and an understanding as to how much money these songwriters should expect.

These seem like such obvious basic things, and yet, in the world of PROs and the collection of songwriter money, they are unique concepts.

The question is why…

Referenced Links:

Board Member Elections

View SOCAN’s Rates

“Missing In Action” List

SOCAN Mobile App

Summary of Distribution Rules

Summery List of Documents

  • http://twitter.com/Sacario Sacario

    My only question is, do you need to have residency in Canada to become a SOCAN member?

    • Jey

      Sadly Sacario, when you click on the signup button it says, ”

      If you’re a Canadian songwriter,
      composer, lyricist or music publisher, …. “

    • Gmo003

      Good question

    • Melody Hill

      Have to be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant.

    • Melody Hill

      Have to be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant.

    • s.soldjer

      yae i want to no?

  • http://twitter.com/Sacario Sacario

    My only question is, do you need to have residency in Canada to become a SOCAN member?

  • http://twitter.com/Sacario Sacario

    My only question is, do you need to have residency in Canada to become a SOCAN member?

  • Marty Lowman

    SOCAN rocks eh?

  • Marty Lowman

    SOCAN rocks eh?

  • Marty Lowman

    SOCAN rocks eh?

  • Geoff

    Hi Jeff, great article. Just a question regarding point 8 – if SOCAN don’t hold on to the money, and they also don’t know who it belongs to, then where does it go? If “the entire distribution pool is distributed each quarter with no money being held back,” as you say, wouldn’t some of the money being distributed belong to the songwriters who SOCAN couldn’t find?

    • Anonymous

      as explained to me, once they identify who the public performances belong to, they pay it out from the next payment cycle

      • Greenismygarden

        But they don’t do mechanicals – that’s a shame…..

        • Anonymous

          true – they are a PRO so only deal with public performances

          TuneCore does do global administration of mechanical royalties

          we can get them for you


  • http://twitter.com/BatemanPK PK Bateman

    Being a member of Socan, it’s like someone having your back 24/7. I can’t thank them enough!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=787374142 Tony Eno

    Love it and proud to be Canadian and be a part off Socan. @ Sacario yes you have to be Canadian, but you can have a Canadian Publisher. iGhost Writers The Music Lyrics Lab Publishing (a div. of Eno’s Ltd.) Eno’s Ltd. Publishing , on Facebook.


  • DC Cardwell

    Good ol’ Canada – they have a habit of doing things right! I’m a Canadian citizen so even though I live in Australia I could be tempted to switch to SOCAN!

  • Adam Carpenter

    ASCAP, BMI and SESAC needs to hear about this.

  • Andre

    maybe i should become canadian citizen ?!

  • Gmo003

    Free health care and a PRO hat has your back…. I’m moving to Canada


    if only am in canada how i would have help SOCAN to make hell of money

  • http://www.paulgrenier.com/ Paul Grenier

    Been with SOCAN for a number of years, and the services they provide; the personalized customer service, the online royalty calculators, etc are the best. They even called me once and said they received an ambiguous and unclear performance notice from Germany with only my song title and few other details, but managed to track me down and confirm if it was actually my song and performance, which it was. Who else would ever go through this much trouble for their members?! I love u SOCAN! <3  

  • Joshwelz

    I work as a licensing rep for this wonderful company and have to say its always a pleasure seeing positive comments from members and the general public. This is why I do what I do!


    Why is it now more than ever,The vast majority of advancement for society are just ideas not being implemented throughout the Divided States of America,But are being acted upon elsewhere? I know that answer do you.I’m an Honored American but canface the truth when confronts me..

  • CanIndie

    Black Box….???? you’re being misled….They dump royalties they can’t identify into general pools so that they don’t have to do more research and chip away at their bottom line…..As a Member, READ your agreement/rules… than you’ll know who gets these royalties — the Avrils, Nicklebacks and Furtado’s.  So much for supporting indie artists….

    • Jeff

      The respective pools include everyone identified –  songs from all over the globe. Royalty recipients includes the most indie of the indies. Approximately 98% of Radio performances are identified and receive royalties.

      SOCAN looks after everyone.

  • AP

    Yes, SOCAN is very cool. BUT there’s a downside to being a musician in Canada. There’s a glass ceiling, in that being too successful isn’t a good thing, unless your name has a “Mc” or “Le” in it; Having a small population results in a limited market, so grants are well-used to produce indie artists up there. Issue here is those gov’t grant decisions are largely made on political reasons, not artistic merit and talent. My first-hand knowledge comes from being a Landed Immigrant for 10 years and finding some success as a musician/composer. Even if most of it was through the CBC and Global TV. I’m not saying anything against the many world-class musicians living there. I just did some big fun remote sessions with a few of my old colleagues up there. Canada’s just like everywhere else. It has its good and bad sides, so the picture isn’t exactly as rosy as painted.


  • Palmerstone

    Lets not get carried away here, Socan is good yes, but this talk of moving to canada??? They collect money for you that is it. You STILL have to go out there and make yourself a success, where would you rather attempt that, the U.S.A. 300 million? or Canada 36 Million??  

    Canada does not have what it takes to make stars, thats why they have opened homes in both Los Angeles and Nashville in attempting to create a chance, any chance for its members to have a shot at success. Your chance of getting a room in Los Angeles is as good as winning the Lottery, The canadian scene is dead so every socan writer is trying to get the free room. If you were to get the room in Los Angeles most likely you wont get anything done, your two week limit makes it completely unrealistic to be productive in a city where co-writes are constantly being rescheduled. Your best bet, move to Los Angeles get a job and stay there. Look at being the at least 9 to 12 months at a time to make some inroads in the industry, things move slow in L.A. It takes two weeks just to schedule a meeting with someone.One comment one here said, “free health care and Socan” I want to move to canada. Don’t fool yourself, We are HEAVILY taxed, both Socan and Health care are paid IN FULL by its taxpayers, period.

    • Jeff K

      SOCAN does not receive $1 in taxpayer funding and is completely self-sufficient.

    • Moneystacksceo

      Couldn’t have said it better, thank you palmerstone. 

      Any of you guys into Hip-Hop/Pop music visit moneystacksceo.com

  • Dale Perry

    It’s great to have such a force behind you in the music world. way to go SOCAN 

  • Long Time Socan Member

    I have been a Socan Member for 16 years. The largest problem with Socan has been overlooked entirely in this article. Unlike ASCAP and BMI (and most other PRO’s), Socan prohibits their composers from direct licensing their own performance royalty rights. What this means is that if you want to sell your performance royalties, you can’t. There is an entire world of royalty free music licensing that is inaccessible to SOCAN members which their American counterparts can and have been taking advantage of for many years. 

  • REPUGnant

    As another stated the bigest problem with SOCAN and most non USA PRO’s is the inability to direct licence. As direct licensing options become more viable for individuals, many will not sign with a PRO that does not allow it.

    Oh, and SOCAN does not payout on anything shorter than 60sec. Say goodbye to most tv/radio commercial revenue.