A national association of professional music composers and producers for film, television and media

Cue Notes

Vol.7 No.2 – Summer 2019

View From The Podium
by John Welsman, President

Lately, it seems our days are filled with troubling news and uncertainty. And people don’t like uncertainty. Confronted with it, we sometimes cling to what we know, to ways that have always been, and sometimes we are led to make hard, fast and final decisions.

Without question, what causes the most uncertainty for screen composers is the ongoing issue of performing rights royalties from AV streaming. Those of you who’ve been in this field for more than a few years know that a hugely important part of compensation for our work comes from downstream revenue, performing rights royalties and from reproduction rights. And those of you whose films or series are playing on Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu have probably been staring at your SOCAN statements with a kind of stunned wonder. You might be asking yourself “How do these numbers work? They represent only a fraction of what I would expect from traditional broadcast. Will they be going up anytime soon? Will I receive more significant amounts from foreign territories for these services?”

Your SCGC Board is VERY focussed on this issue. Our Digital Distribution Committee, known as the DigComm, has made AV streaming one of its main areas of concern and is studying the problem and searching for solutions.

As SOCAN has much of the data from AV streaming royalties, we’ve enlisted their help in compiling and analyzing the numbers we’re seeing. For SOCAN to be able to study a composer’s numbers on representative projects, analyze the results and report to the DigComm, a number of steps are required. First, we must identify with SOCAN those members who have shows on the streaming services. Once identified, we need to ask for their permission to let SOCAN study their revenue internally, do the necessary analysis, and report back to us. It’s important to note that no actual amounts will be shared with SCGC, and at no point will a member’s actual numbers be revealed. When SOCAN reports to us, they’ll use representative numbers and percentages only. For example, they might state ‘what was $1000 for x series on traditional broadcast is $150 from x streaming service’. Or they’ll use comparison percentages to illustrate an upward or downward trend. The resulting data will allow SOCAN and SCGC to do the necessary planning for the future to look for solutions to increase AV streaming revenues, and to close the gap between what we’ve seen from traditional broadcast and AV streaming.

I’m pleased to report that the leadership at SOCAN now acknowledges the magnitude of the problem we’re facing and is committed to studying the data carefully, and working with us to find possible solutions to the problem. I hope we’ll soon have the information and data we need to be able to move forward with confidence.

On another front, we’re learning that those same streaming services mentioned above are proposing buyouts for scores with more frequency, offering what may seem like a large amount of money as an up front fee with no participation in any downstream revenue whatsoever. Faced with offers like these, we’ll have to ask ourselves “am I prepared to give up all potential downstream revenue for this project? Could this possibly be a better deal than waiting for the downstream revenues to arrive, hoping they’ll increase over time?” This model turns our entire system of compensation on its ear. We are hearing that when composers have countered that they’re not interested in this kind of deal, or they name too high an up front fee, the services tend to back down.

We’ll be discussing this more at the Guild but, in the meantime, I want to encourage each of you who receives such an offer to stop and consider carefully what you’ll potentially be throwing away by accepting. And if you don’t know, take the time to try to find out – make an educated decision.

Your Music, Your Future is a group of music creators, like ours, concerned with this trend. Check them out and consider signing up. Let’s continue the conversation about all of this, and be our best educated selves when considering full buyout offers.

John Welsman

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Presenting on the Hill

By Ari Posner

In September of last year I was asked by the SCGC to present testimony to a Heritage Canada committee in Ottawa. This committee was formed specifically to gather evidence and make recommendations to the federal government regarding copyright reform.

Fortunately I did not have to go alone and was joined by my very clever colleague and friend Paul Novotny. Currently a doctoral student in musicology, Paul has an MA in Composition and has also done extensive studies in Cultural Policy. Leading up to our Ottawa visit, Paul worked tirelessly to prepare a Key Note presentation that he and I rehearsed at length until it was whittled down to a “tight ten”. Like a good band preparing for a tour, we were soon ready to hit the road. And before long we found ourselves playing the biggest gig of our lives as we appeared in front of a group of 30 some odd politicians to talk about the value gap and how it’s affecting screen composers today.

By the date of our appearance, the committee had been sitting for quite some time and already heard testimony from many different people in our industry. In fact, just weeks before us, none other than Bryan Adams was quite possibly sitting in my very chair. (Little did he know!) Many of the folks in the room were very knowledgeable about the issues we came to discuss. But it was a real eye opener to see that others were very new to the department and really just coming up to speed on so many different things. For me this highlighted the complex challenges we’re facing as we stare down the barrel of the tech revolution. The importance of simplifying our message struck me in a sobering new way.

I told the committee that the reason the SCGC had asked the likes of me to testify, was largely because I’m a screen composer pretty much smack in the middle of my career. At 48 years old, I’m hardly a newcomer finding my feet, nor am I a veteran in the autumn of my working years. In fact, with three kids and still a sizeable mortgage, I am quite frankly, someone who can’t afford for the engine to run out at this stage of the game.

But in many ways, that is exactly what’s happening to the middle class in our ecosystem. Of course, it’s hardly unique to the world of composers and songwriters. But I wasn’t really there to talk about truck drivers, grocery stores, factory workers, or any of the myriad other industries that are being painfully disrupted by the break neck, exponentially increasing, and largely unchecked pace of big tech.

Paul and I illustrated to the committee that in the 20th century, we functioned under a model where our whole ecosystem was largely underwritten by advertising. But in the 21st century, we are moving rapidly towards a subscription based system that prides itself on little to no advertising. Under the old model, besides ever shrinking creative fees, composers get remunerated over time by the content distributors, with down-stream monies that are based on a percentage of their advertising revenue. Under the new model (Spotify or Netflix for example) consumers can have unlimited access to massive volumes of content for anywhere from nine to thirteen dollars a month. Composers are still remunerated over time by these distributors, but based on a payment per stream system that, as it turns out, amounts to very insignificant remuneration unless you have streams that are in the hundreds of millions or more. Follow this model to it’s logical economic conclusion, and you have a system that can’t nurture or sustain new and unique artists and the long arc it can take for them to develop and blossom. As a result, the consumer ends up with a very homogeneous selection of music and entertainment that is built for the masses and spoon fed to them easily.

Now as creators, Paul and I pointed out to the committee that we’re hardly “anti-Spotify or Netflix”, for these are undeniably wonderful and efficient ways for content to be both delivered and consumed. And in fact, more content is being created and consumed today than ever before. But the revenue is being redistributed in a shockingly unbalanced way. The old model, though not perfect, has checks and balances, rules in which the government and copyright play crucial roles. The new model…well we’ve all heard the term, “Wild West”, which is really just another way of saying every cowboy for themselves.

I firmly believe we are at a point in history not dissimilar to the industrial revolution in the early 19th century, where government is needed to intervene in order to bring back balance and ensure fairness. But here’s at least part of the rub: tech moves frighteningly fast and evolves in an ecosystem where the motto is, “if we can, we should”. Conversely, government moves slowly, taking into account numerous angles and opinions in order to create regulations that are balanced and fair to as many as possible.

One thing that’s clear is that there’s no putting the brakes on technological progress. In fact, as Yuval Noah Harari aptly points out in his work Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow “…nobody knows where the brakes are”.   “Scientific research and technological developments are moving at a far faster rate than most of us can grasp.”

So with no meaningful way of slowing down or stopping, all we can really do is figure out how to adapt.

Our ten minutes in the lime light were over as quickly as they began. In the Q&A that followed our presentation, some insightful questions were asked. As we did our best to give succinct answers, Paul made a very salient comment that I think really landed in the room. He pointed out that copyright needs to remain “agnostic” when it comes to technology. In other words, no matter the means by which content is delivered to the consumer, without the shepherd of copyright to protect the rights of creators, the system breaks down into chaos very quickly.

It’s not all doom and gloom mind you. There have been very positive signs with the recent passing of the EU Copyright Directive that will give creators the ability to protect their rights, as well as the unanimous bi-partisan passing of the CASE act by the Judiciary Senate Committee in the USA. This too will serve as a positive tool for creators to protect their works. Hopefully now, it’s Canada’s turn to take a stand.

Only weeks before writing this piece, the Heritage Committee’s report was published, and in it were 22 recommendations to the federal government as they try to bring copyright laws up to speed with the rest of the world. I’m happy to say that the report was overwhelmingly in favour of better protecting creators’ rights in the digital era.

Maybe, just maybe, the SCGC helped move the needle a little that day.

(Much thanks to Paul Novotny, Marvin Dolgay and John Welsman for their insights.)

Composer Spotlight: Mark Korven

Home Base: Toronto

Instruments Played: Guitar, violin, bass, drums, Bodhran, duduk, sarangi, nyckelharpa, apprehension engine

DAW of choice and favourite feature: Logic. Favourite feature is auto save.

Favourite score and/or composer, and why: The Shawshank Redemption (Thomas Newman). Newman combines such originality with incredible technique, and expression. I particularly love his use of dissonance to give a greater depth to emotion.

Most recent accomplishment: The Lighthouse directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch).

Hobbies and pastimes: Screenplay writing, photography, world musical instruments

Best piece of advice: Always leave a good trail. (John Welsman)

Alternate career path, and why: Film maker because I love movies above all else.

animation
2019 SOCAN Awards
Antonio Gradanti
"lele" contemporary ballet
Our Dance Of Revolution
Academy Talks: Amin Bhatia
Honey Bee
Slaight Residency 2019
Tina Guo AMA

AWARDS:

Canadian Screen Awards

TV – Best Original Music, Fiction

Robert Carli – Murdoch Mysteries

Todor Kobakov – Ransom

Todor Kobakov – Cardinal **Winner

Trevor Morris – Vikings

Amin Bhatia and Ari Posner – Anne with an E

 

TV – Best Original Music, Non-Fiction

Darren Fung – Equuis: Story of the Horse **Winner

Mark Korven – The Kingdom: How Fungi Made our World

Phil Strong with Laurel MacDonald – You are Here: A Come From Away Story

 

TV – Best Original Music, Animation

Steffan Andrews – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Derek Treffy and Greg Fisher – Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You

Neil Parfitt – Ranger Rob

Daniel Ingram and Jonathan Evans – Esme and Roy

 

T.O. Webfest

Best Music:

-Antonio Naranjo, Erica Procunier, Elizabeth Hannan – ‘Detention Adventure’ **Winner

-Iain Gardner – Deep Six

SOCAN Awards

Domestic Music TV Music Awards – Non-Fiction

Greg Fisher and Derek Treffry – BORDER SECURITY: CANADA’S FRONT LINE **Winner

 

Achievement in Made-for-TV Movie Music

Michael Neilson – “Newlywed and Dead” and “My Daughter’s Disgrace” **Winner

 

Rosie Awards

Best Original Musical Score (Drama under 30 minutes)

Chad Blain – ‘Karaoke Mamas’

 

Best Original Musical Score (Drama over 30 minutes)

Mike Shields – ‘Roxy’

 

Best Original Musical Score (Non-Fiction under 30 minutes)

Alec – ‘Harrison Travel Alberta – Summer Anthem (2018)’

Mike Shields – ‘Armistice100yeg – In Flanders Fields’

 

Best Original Musical Score (Non-Fiction over 30 minutes)

Alec Harrison – ‘The Nature of Invention’  **Winner

Alec Harrison – ‘Wolves Unleashed: Against All Odds’

Chad Blain – ‘The Radicals’

Mike Shields – ‘Making Coco: The Grant Fuhr Story’

 

ASCAP Screen Music Awards

Top Television – Cable

John Sereda – ‘When Calls The Heart’.

 

Leo Awards

Best Musical Score Motion Picture

Schaun Tozer – Rabbit *Winner

 

Best Musical Score Television Movie

Peter Allen – Truly, Madly, Sweetly **Winner

Matthew Rogers – Falling For You

Mark Lazeski – No One Would Tell

 

Best Musical Score Short Drama

Sean William – Small Fish **Winner

Matthew Rogers – Girl On A Bus

Scott Thompson – A Typical Fairytale

Dave Chick – Extra-Ordinary Amy

Michael Neilson – Giltrude’s Dwelling

 

Best Musical Score Feature Length Documentary

Daryl Bennett – I Am MLK Jr. **Winner

Mark Lazeski – Design Canada

Michael Richard Plowman – Letter from Masanjia

 

Best Musical Score Short Documentary

Daryl Bennett – The Bailey Experience

David F. Ramos – Purple Horse

 

Best Musical Score Documentary Series

Christopher Nickel – Wild Bear Rescue – Wild, Wild Grizzly **Winner

Christopher Nickel – Highway Thru Hell – Above And Beyond

 

Best Musical Score Animation Program or Series

David Parfit and Marc Junker – Esluna: The First Monolith **Winner

Matt Davis and Caleb Chan – 16 Hudson – Monkey King

 

PREMIERES AND SCREENINGS

-‘Her Story (In Three Parts)’ premiered at a special event for International Women’s Day in Vancouver. David Federman wrote the score for ‘No. 1: A Simple Act’.

-Hal Beckett’s new contemporary ballet ‘Iele’ premiered.

-Peter Chapman scored “Riot Girls”. The film premiered at the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival.

-David Federman’s ‘Haru’s New Year’ screened at the Busan International Short Film Festival and the Seoul Guro Kids International Film Festival.

-David Federman scored Esmerelda’s Castle. The short screened at T.O.Webfest and was nominated for ‘Best Online Short’.

– Antonio Gradanti scored ‘Thirty-Seventeen’. The film screened at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver.

-David Federman scored ‘The Suitcase’. The film screened at the Kitchener-Waterloo Film Festival.

 

Canadian Film Festival Screenings:

Erica Procunier – Dancing Dogs of Dombrova **Winner best feature

Erica Procunier and Milen Petzelt-Sorace – Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping

Janal Bechthold – Pond Life

Dillon Baldassero – Nowhere

Casey Manierka-Quaile – Honey Bee

Janal Bechthold – Brave Little Army

Ben Fox – Nose to Tail

Dan Burns & Steph Copeland – Creep Nation

 

Canadian Film Festival Shorts Program Screenings:

Red Heartbreaker – Shuttlecock

Rebecca Everett – Christmas Green

Lukas Pearse – Duck Duck Goose

Erica Procunier, Craig McConnell – Home in Time Music

Neil Haverty – Be My Guest Music

Ben Fox and Michael Olsen – Darkside Music

 

HotDocs Screenings:

Medhat Hanbali – Inside Lehman Brothers

Ken Myhr – The Daughter Tree

Gavin Bradley – Our Dance Of Revolution

 

EVENTS AND APPEARANCES

-Janal Bechthold spoke at the ‘Women in Film & Television Toronto Industry Series’.

-Amin Bhatia was a panelist at ‘Academy Talks The Audience, The Value of Music On Screen’. The event was moderated by Suad Bushnaq.

-Gagan Singh gave a TEDx Talk about the ‘Anatomy of Producing Contemporary Music in Minutes’.

SCGC hosted AMAs (Ask Me Anything)

-Robert Kraft moderated by Gagan Singh

-Kenny Wood moderated by Gagan Singh

-Tina Guo moderated by Gagan Singh

-Salim-Sulaiman moderated by Gagan Singh

 

OTHER RELEASES AND NEWS

-Suad Bushnaq’s piece Ghadan ‘Tomorrow’ was performed by the Pembroke Symphony Orchestra.

-Tika, Simon Poole, Kat Burns, Iva Delic, Casey Laforet, and Anthony Wallace are the 2019 CFC Slaight Music Residents.

-Lesley Barber was interviewed by Variety and discussed the story behind the music for ‘Late Night’.

-Lesley Barber scored ‘Late Night’. The film was released into theatres in June.

-Simon Poole wrote additional music for First Generation Films documentary ‘The Artists’. The doc won the Canadian Screen Award for ‘Best Web Program or Series, Non-Fiction’.

-Dillon Baldassero was the recipient of the 2019 Christopher Dedrick Award.

Editor’s Picks
with Virginia Kilbertus

SOCAN and RE:SOUND partner up to create a single music licensing portal:

https://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/8510526/music-licensing-for-canadian-businesses-just-got-easier-with-the-newly-created

TV Streaming is about to get much more expensive as companies buy back their productions and create their own platforms:

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/jun/27/streaming-tv-is-about-to-get-very-expensive-heres-why?utm_medium=40digest.7days3.20190628.home

Pulitzer Prize for Music goes to Ellen Reid for her first opera, “Prism.”:

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-pulitzer-music-winner-ellen-reid-20190415-story.html#nws=mcnewsletter

Cannes 2019 Lineup: What films and filmmakers to watch out for, including 13 films by women:

https://variety.com/2019/film/festivals/cannes-announces-2019-lineup-terrence-malick-pedro-almodovar-1203192293/

AI is being used to match unclaimed royalties, and here’s how:

https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2019/04/02/ai-unsolved-royalties/

10 tips on what to do when a song, (or cue,) isn’t working:

https://www.bmi.com/news/entry/10-tips-for-switching-gears-when-a-song-isnt-working

If you thought Spotify’s low subscription rate was having negative impact on streaming royalties for musicians – now Amazon and Google are making music free:

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/amazon-google-free-music-spotify-824080/

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We welcome your suggestions for story ideas!
Email the Guild: info@screencomposers.ca

Cue Notes:
Virginia Kilbertus
: Editor
Nicholas Stirling: Layout, Web
Tonya Dedrick: Admin

“Taking Possession” is screening at the International Short Film Festival SHORT FORM, in Serbia! Congrats @federmusik! #composer @TakPo_1883

@SCREENCOMPOSERS • about 2 hours ago

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