CMRRA board director, Daniel Lafrance, describes himself as a man on a mission. A mission solely defined by his intrinsic drive for the discovery of new talent and doing better business.
With nine ADISQ Publisher of the Year awards firmly under his belt, each day and task are more like personal challenges pushing him forward rather than strenuous work.
Lafrance is General Manager of Éditorial Avenue, a Montreal-based music publishing powerhouse known for the quality and diversity of the songwriters it represents.
Ninety per cent of their roster consists of Quebec writers, including popular music icons Jean-Pierre Ferland and Claude Léveillée. The remainder come from France and the United States.
Éditorial Avenue also acts as a sub-publisher for over 450 European catalogues from France, Italy, Portugal, and Belgium and is sub-published in more than 40 countries.
Examples of the exceptional francophone, anglophone, and hispanophone talents Éditorial Avenue represents include Pierre Lapointe, Loco Locass, Lhasa De Sela, Éric Lapointe, Alex Nevsky, Peter Peter, Amylie, Mathieu Holubovski, Jason Bajada, Salomé, Daniel Bélanger, Damien Robitaille, Les Respectables, Bran Van 3000, Loud Lary Ajust and Ariane Moffatt.
Many of their artists, like singer-songwriter Alex Nevsky and rap group Loud Lary Ajust, are enjoying great success and industry recognition both at home and abroad.
“We really develop our writers. We invest effort, money, and years – sometimes two, three, four years – to build up the career of our writers.” Daniel Lafrance explained.
Éditorial Avenue typically signs between three to five new writers each year. To support them, they will purchase much-needed items like a laptop or guitar, rent rehearsal space, provide financial advances, supplement touring costs, and arrange valuable co-writing trips to Paris or Los Angeles.
“For artists who write their own songs, we will try to make an album with them and shop it to all the labels to get a deal. Sometimes we produce the albums and make a distribution deal,” he said. “If you believe in a writer and in the songs you produce then you have to go all the way.”
According to Lafrance, one of the common industry challenges Quebec artists face is a lack of visibility on popular download and streaming services.
“It’s tough to have a certain visibility or to be on the first page of Apple Music or Spotify. You will not see Quebec artists, you have to search for them,” he said. “Most of the time it’s the very well-known artists that are there or newcomers with majors that have more power to get some exposure.”
While Lafrance acknowledges that Quebec enjoys a strong local market, times have changed over the last five years as local industries like Quebec’s have evolved into a global market.
“You have to be patient, you have to find new ways of doing things, you have to create very good and very original music, if you want to sell something in today’s market,” said Lafrance.
Despite this, Lafrance remains hopeful for the future.
“Although the market has fallen, local artists are still appreciated here in Quebec. People see them on television, at concerts, in magazines, and hear them on the radio,” he explained. “Quebec has a star system that’s working very well.”
Lafrance himself started out as a guitarist and music teacher before choosing to study Archaeology at the Université de Montréal. After spending time working on an archaeological site in Mexico, he decided to return to Quebec to pursue his first love of music.
For the next six years, Lafrance played guitar, produced albums, booked shows, promoted, and toured with his band. He went on to found his first music publishing company in 1976 and in 1981 narrowed down his focus to just publishing and managing artists. Ten years later he became a music publisher exclusively.
Lafrance has been a client of CMRRA since 2008 and was recently been involved in the development and launch of CMRRA’s new tariffs covering the reproductions of musical works embodied in audiovisual productions.
“As distinct from sync rights, CMRRA’s new tariffs are about the broadcast mechanical in AV,” Lafrance explains. “We are very excited to be able to offer this new tariff for the first time.”
The tariffs license the “post-synchronization” copies made by broadcasters and audiovisual services to deliver audiovisual content to end users, and to allow those users to make additional reproductions on their own devices. Each time audiovisual content is reproduced by a television broadcaster or a service or their users, so too is the music contained in that content.
Television broadcasters and audiovisual services derive significant value from these copies, and they should, accordingly, obtain licences and pay royalties for the copies they make.
Aside from CMRRA, Lafrance has served in various advisory capacities for other industry bodies like the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, MUSICACTION, ADISQ, CINARS, SODRAC and APEM/PMPA. He is also a published author.
Éditorial Avenue recently celebrated its 16th anniversary. Back in 2000, Lafrance joined two other respected Quebec music publishers and producers, Rosaire Archambault and Michel Bélanger, also owners of Audiogram Records, to create the company. He has been at the helm ever since.
Now a team of seven in Montreal, they also employ Jean-Valère Albertini on the ground in France to augment the discovery of new francophone talent, land deals, and introduce French writers to Quebec.
In 2013, Lafrance’s career achievements were recognized by APEM/PMPA’s Christopher J. Reed Award, an honour which holds a special place in his heart.
His love for the industry is palpable. “I am not working,” Lafrance says convincingly. “I am just trying to reach some goals. It drives me and I don’t know where it comes from but I’m like that, I’m just like that. I’m on a mission.”