Sitting behind a drum kit in his early twenties was when CMRRA Board Director, Craig Horton, had his first ‘a-ha’ moment. A talented drummer from Ottawa, he was performing with a pop/rock band in Kingston at the time.
“We were at a college gig with a thousand kids and a big hall of people drinking beer and having fun and I’m sitting there thinking, wow, someone’s making a lot of money here and it’s not me,” Horton recalls.
It was a pivotal moment that compelled him to enroll in Fanshawe College’s Music Industry Arts program, the only one of its kind in Canada in the late seventies.
“I soon realized I didn’t want to be a recording engineer or a record producer but I was really enjoying the business classes at Fanshawe so I transferred to Western University to study economics.”
A few years in, Horton moved to Canada’s West Coast for the summer and reached out to Lynne Partridge at the local Performing Rights Organization of Canada (PROCAN) office for some career advice during his first week.
A fortuitous meeting led almost immediately to a dream job travelling Canada’s three western provinces and the Northern Territories talking to songwriters about the music business.
“Lynne Partridge was a great mentor,” he recalls. ”She taught me so much about not only the music business but just business itself and logic and how to treat people.”
Horton worked with Vancouver’s PROCAN team for four years before launching Horton Music Publishing, an independent music publishing company he headed up for the next twelve years.
In 2004, while contemplating a new life path on vacation in Thailand, he was approached by Nettwerk Music Group for a Publishing Administrator role.
“Back then, Nettwerk had a small publishing catalogue based mostly on songs they had acquired because the songwriter was also a recording artist signed to the label,” says Horton.
Fast forward twelve years and Horton is now an integral part of the Nettwerk team as Director of Business Affairs and Royalties Administration.
“Because I came with more knowledge than simply publishing admin, over time, I got involved in doing mechanical licensing for the record label and helping in the broader area of copyright,” he says. “Now my role is more rights management.”
Today, Horton is supported by a team of eight, who together oversee the administration of Nettwerk’s growing catalogue of 30,000 copyrights, including Super Furry Animals, Teenage Fanclub, 10,000 Maniacs, the Justin Time jazz catalogue and the entire Electronic Arts game soundtrack catalogue.
The company also boasts a diverse and talented roster of Canadian and international songwriters including Sinéad O’Connor, William Fitzsimmons, Ria Mae, The Pack A.D., Ladytron, Great Lake Swimmers, Hey Ocean!, Chromeo, Airbourne, Neil Mason, Banners, Gojira, Royal Canoe, Trivium, Willa, MF Doom, and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus.
As one of only a handful of pure Canadian-born music entities, Nettwerk Music Group occupies an unusual spot in Canada’s music publishing landscape.
“We sit in that middle space between the multinationals and the Canadians and because we’re still small, it’s a lot easier for us to give people personal attention,” Horton explains.
Based in Vancouver, Nettwerk enjoys a global worldwide footprint with offices in Germany, United Kingdom, Los Angeles, Boston, Nashville, and New York.
“What separates us from most other companies is an international perspective,” he says. “We’re not just a Canadian music publishing company, we’re a company that focuses everywhere.”
Nettwerk is also defined by its ability to act nimbly and embrace advances in digital technology. In fact, the company was one of the first to offer MP3 downloads well before Apple Music launched in Canada.
“We have people who are real keeners on the future and want to know what the next thing is before anybody else does,” says Horton. “It’s important to have people on your team who don’t want to be stuck in yesterday.”
Nettwerk typically signs between 15 and 20 new writers worldwide each year, a quarter of whom are Canadian, and provide financial advances, demo funding, and assistance with costs to offset rent, for example.
“How we work with new writers really depends on the relationship we have,” Horton explains. “Understanding what motivates them, understanding what they like, what they can and can’t do, who they want to write with, and getting them in with as many people as possible.”
A CMRRA board member since 2007, Horton serves as chair of the Finance Committee and is a member of the Executive Governance Committee. He also serves on the SOCAN and SOCAN Foundation boards.
“From a client’s perspective, we use CMRRA as a safety net,” he says. “We deliver our catalogue and have confidence to know that CMRRA can take care of that paperwork for us, do the heavy lifting, the collection, and calculate royalties payable.”
Horton believes CMRRA is headed in the right direction by expanding its tariff base to include reproductions of musical works contained in audiovisual content and exploring new opportunities to augment its business model.
“The battle that we have, especially in the publishing industry, is how we manage big data, how does that get processed,” he says. “There are all kinds of opportunities in other territories for anybody that has the ability to analyze massive amounts of metadata and I know CMRRA sees those opportunities.”
CMRRA recently completed its first distribution of online music royalties using its new Licensing and Royalty Distribution System (LDS), an important step forward in quality data management.
Publishers now have access to more information than ever before in CMRRA’s statement outputs, including fields to provide each publishers’ own proprietary account numbers, work numbers, and associated writers.
Summary amounts are inserted at each of the work, publisher, and file levels in order to provide easier means of balancing statements to payments. New summary reports will make this process easier still, while also providing more analytical breakdowns of the payable royalties according to different metrics.
Horton’s sentiments on the importance of managing and understanding data from online services is underlined by how strongly he feels about songwriters being paid and treated fairly.
“I’m all about getting paid and there are so many ways now for businesses to launch that use music and someone forgot to tell them that in their business model they’re supposed to include a line item in their profit and loss projections to pay for music,” he says.
It’s a viewpoint that echoes back to his early days as a drummer.
“There I am sitting at my drum kit at a show in Kingston saying someone’s making money here and I’m not making very much,” he recalls poignantly. “I realized then I wanted to learn how the music business worked and how to make a living at it.”