Friday, November 16, 2007

SOCAN Paperwork & Reflection

Coming slowly to the end of the wrap-up. I've been organizing the Notification of Live Performance forms to submit to SOCAN. This is the organization that administrates the collection and distribution of royalties for the use of songs in Canada. Without going into too much detail, most- if not all- songs are copyright and will have a variety of stakeholders in the form of composers, authors, co-authors, and publishers. In Canada stakeholders are paid for the public broadcast or performance of their works via the licensing of broadcast systems and performance venues. That's a pretty general explanation, but it gets to the heart of the matter- Canadian copyright law recognizes that songs are owned, and provides some mandates to see that the owners of the songs get paid for their use in broadcast or live performance. Although these are not (in my opinion at least) huge tariffs, there remains plenty of debate by broadcasters, presenters, artists, composers, authors and publishers as to the fairness of the system, and how it can best be improved. If the system of auditing, reporting, collecting and distributing royalties is flawed and difficult to comprehend, it does implicitly recognize compositions as valued property and tries to ensure that it's creators and owners are compensated. Songwriters like Big Dave and myself, owners like Muddy's children and grandchildren, the Lomax family, and Dick Waterman. Anyway, that's where we are going in legal-cultural terms. So I am learning to deal more responsibly with this reality in the context of a high profile, national tour. This time- a pile of new paperwork.

Yes, I can submit Performance Notifications on line, but the onus of providing documentation for each performance would require the sorting and scanning of enough material- from ticket stubs to programmes, to reviews, newspaper ads, set lists and contracts- that I am not yet prepared to undertake this. Maybe next time. This time it's photocopies, staples and paperclips. I think for the next tour I will compile this stuff daily- on the laptop, after the show, with all the other stuff. Doing it all at once, post tour, has taken more time than I would of liked. But it's in the mail today, so the post-tour work is clearly coming to an end. And, what the heck, maybe Son's daughter, or one of his grandchildren, will get a little something- and perhaps it will make a difference. Who knows? Anyway, when we are all in the groove with this, it won't take long to do, and I think we'll be doing the right thing.

But, speaking of distributions, I was looking- again- at the way SOCAN collects play info from college and community radio stations, and I think there is a real need to revamp and reform the way this information is collected. As results of sampling are entirely reliant on chance, on random factors, no other business would survive- or be allowed to operate in this fashion. Particularly in this digital age. iTunes knows what cd I put in my drive- and yours- so to suggest that Canadian radio stations don't know/can't report what they play and/or that a database system could not manage these few hundred daily station submissions at a reasonable cost is getting pretty far-fetched. It's time to move from sampling to actuals. Sampling means that independent artists who have their songs featured on radio are, in fact, randomly compensated. Statistics -which explore or try to determine the quality of the sampling- are merely commenting upon the degree of randomness, and it's significance for the more predominant components. Chances may be greater or smaller depending upon a number of varients- but ultimately the payout is random and is supported by non-payments to the non-sampled artists. That's my view, and I'll be advancing it in more appropriate forums. Please don't get the idea from this post that I don't support SOCAN's work. I do- I'd simply like to help evolve certain aspects of it.

Aside from all this brain stuff, I've been processing piles (rather digital volumes) of snaps that various people have sent me of the Big Road Blues Tour. If you work your way back through the Blog, you'll see that I've added quite a few pics to nearly every date of the Tour. A few more pics to install, and I'll be done. And I think one more Blog to conclude the Big Road Blues Tour. I've been talking to Dave on the phone- he says "hi!" Dave will be back to Bud's on Broadway, in Saskatoon, SK, in a couple of weeks time. He'll also be going into the studio with his band to work on his upcoming acoustic album. And he's back at Times Changed in Winnipeg every Sunday night- so go see him if you happen to be in that part of the world. I'm hoping to be on my way to Nashville later next week. That's all for now- thanks for stopping by. — Doc

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