A new year almost always brings a sense of hope and promise and this couldn’t be more true for CMRRA Board Director and Montreal-based Bloc-Notes Music Publishing founder, Diane Pinet.
“A lot of things are going to change in our industry this year,” she said. “We’re a little bit on the down curve right now but it’s going to go up and it will be a very exciting year.”
Having launched her music publishing business in the mid 80s, Pinet certainly has the industry experience to make this call.
Her journey to music publishing started while undertaking medical studies to be a doctor at C.É.G.E.P. Saint-Laurent in Montreal. Passionate about music, she produced concerts in her spare time.
When a student strike temporarily halted her academic studies, Alain Paré of Productions APA, a booking agency for Québec and European French-speaking countries, approached her with an offer.
“It’s funny how destiny sometimes changes your life,” she muses. “I started working for Alain and did a lot of touring which helped me understand how a booking agency works and how to develop a band.”
Her path eventually led her to the Performing Rights Organization of Canada Limited/Société de droits d’exécution du Canada limitée (SDE/PROCAN), a precursor to SOCAN. She became responsible for songwriters, publishers in Quebec, and French Canadians across Canada.
“I decided to go to SDE/PROCAN because it was something I had no clue about, especially copyright, but I was both intrigued and seduced by it, and because I knew the artistic industry,” she said. “Back then, concerts and booking was one field, and copyright and writers was something else. Today, everyone’s together.”
While Pinet credits her seven years at SDE/PROCAN as a great learning experience, she flirted with the idea of a career change into the advertising and publicity world.
“I had an offer and I was leaving and some writers said, ‘Diane, it doesn’t make any sense, you have so much experience, why don’t you open your own company?’” she said. “It’s funny, they convinced me.”
Pinet launched Bloc-Notes Music Publishing in 1985 and immediately started working with Marc Durand (Bloc Notes was administrating his catalogue), manager and publisher of Canadian band and international sensation, Men Without Hats, as well as their label, Alert Records, and a new artist at the time, Kim Mitchell.
“It was done really, really fast,” she said. “One day I was going into publicity and the next day I was opening my own company. Back then, we didn’t have many barriers.”
Right from the start, Pinet turned to France to build a robust international catalogue. For five years, she pretended she had a male boss to gain credibility in an industry then dominated by men. Hierarchy was very important, and only a few woman had their business.
Immediately following her first trip to France she signed (Clousseau) Virgin Music Publishing France for representation in Canada, her first international liaison. Many deals followed, including one with BMG Publishing for the representation of numerous territories in Canada.
Today, Bloc-Notes has almost 100,000 English and French titles in its catalogue and a diverse roster of musical styles ranging from electronic and world music to pop, country, rock and hip-hop.
“I’m also really proud to say that I represent Warner Chappell Music France in Canada,” she said. “They have an excellent roster and we are working a lot with their catalogue.
Pinet also recently signed a sub-publishing deal with Warner Chappell USA.
Bloc-Notes songwriters, composers, and artists include notables such as Betty Bonifassi, Sally Folk, Bobby Bazini, Tino Izzo, Ariel Coulombe, Fred St-Gelais (SOCAN writer of the year), Bobby John, Diane Cadieux, Maryse Letarte, Patrick Bouchard, Eric Collard, Stéphane Dufour, and Justin Toito.
Her team is also behind countless collaborations with artists like Céline Dion, Faith Hill, Luc Plamondon, Patrick Bruel, Gerry Boulet, Gipsy Kings, Cirque du Soleil (René Dupéré), and Marie-Mai, to name but a few.
Many long-time Bloc-Notes songwriters such as Tino Izzo, Diane Cadieux, Bobby John, Fred St-Gelais, Stéphane Dufour have been certified gold, platinum, and won countless SOCAN No. 1 Song Awards. Songwriters-performers Bobby Bazini, Sally Folk, and Betty Bonifassi, among others, have also faired extremely well at Bloc-Notes.
Pinet is supported by a team of five who are not only experts in their respective fields but help create Bloc-Notes’ cozy and family-like atmosphere, a drawing card for many writers.
“My writers are my partners, in a way,” she said. “I pick them and I have to have a relationship with them, I have to believe in the writer and have a vision. If I don’t have a vision, I’m not going to sign them.”
Pinet tailors her approach to each songwriter based on individual needs and helps them produce demos, book studio time, and travel to writer’s camps both in Canada and around the world.
“Some writers just want to concentrate on their album and others have finished an album and are ready to co-write or pitch,” she said. “Each writer is different; you can’t put them in a box.”
Sync is also an important line of business for Bloc-Notes, and one that’s quite demanding.
“Pitching is the hardest job to do,” she admits. “You have to be very tight on the follow-up because if the client doesn’t like the song, you have to write another one fast to replace it for a commercial or a film.”
Being a successful music publisher is about finding the right balance between two key things, she says, the writers and their songs and copyright administration.
“If you have fantastic copyright and you don’t have the songs, you’re not going anywhere,” she says. “On the other hand, if you have a fantastic artist but your copyright isn’t top notch, you will have a problem.”
In an industry that’s rapidly evolving, Pinet has to pivot and change direction at lightening speed.
“Music publishing is very interesting because every day you have something new,” she said. “You think something will happen today and then you completely change your way of working.”
Looking ahead, Pinet notes that streaming has taken over the musical landscape.
“We’re going into a completely digital world,” she said. “Physical is going to stay important to artists in certain niche markets because not everybody buys digital and vinyl’s have also made a resurgence for audiophiles but we have to think digital and that forces us to think differently in the business.”
In addition to her role on CMRRA’s board, Pinet is also a board director with the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA) and active on many industry committees. She has been recognised with several Publisher of the Year Félix Awards which are given out by the Association du disque, de l’industrie du spectable québécois (ADISQ).
While some in the industry are more shy to change, Pinet embraces the future.
“I’m very excited to see where we’re going to be in 2018 and hope we’re going to be much further along,” she said. “Publishers across the country are closer now and everybody is working for one goal.”