CMRRA Board Director, Vivian Barclay, is a modern-day renaissance woman.
An intellectual powerhouse, she is versatile, skilled in many areas, and gifted with a diverse set of interests that truly inform her purpose. Above all, she has an undeniable passion for the music business.
Like many of her peers, Barclay describes her journey to music publishing as a fortuitous accident. It began while studying for a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in radio and television at Ryerson University.
“I was very much into sound and music as it related to film so originally I was going there to produce commercials but then I switched to audio production,” Barclay explained.
Shortly after graduating in 1995, she joined local community radio station CKLN-FM in production, before taking to the airwaves herself as host of her own show.
Barclay would subsequently spend the next three years as Program Director at the station before moving on to work for Toronto-based event and entertainment company, Jones & Jones Productions.
An opportunity to join Warner/Chappell Music Canada’s copyright department presented itself in 2001.
“At the time, I looked at it as a way to learn catalogue,” she said. “Being a music supervisor dictates that you know a large catalogue so I looked at it as an education.”
Barclay then spent two years at the head office in Los Angeles before returning to Toronto to head up the company as it re-established itself in Canada. She was appointed General Manager in 2008 and is supported by a team in Los Angeles and New York.
Together, they are responsible for the administration of the company’s global catalogue, which includes household names like Cole Porter, Katy Perry, Radiohead, Muse, Led Zeppelin, Kendrick Lamar, Michael Bublé, Jay Z, Beyoncé, and Canadian catalogues such as Spirit of the West, Gordon Lightfoot, and Gordon V. Thompson.
Barclay also works directly with a diverse and talented roster of Canadian songwriters and artists like Jully Black, Barenaked Ladies, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, Saukrates, PartyNextDoor, Tomi Swick, Aaron Goodvin, and newly-signed Donovan Woods.
From the outset, Barclay and her team work closely with new signs to ensure they are in an environment that best allows them to grow as creators.
“We work with our artist/songwriters to help them develop their own sound by setting up co-writes or by introducing them to labels, managers, or agents so they make connections of their own to industry,” she explains.
“If it’s a songwriter who’s not an artist, then it’s a different set of things, you’re trying to help them build relationships, build a network, introduce them to other songwriters, producers, and A&R people at different labels, management companies, or agents who are looking for songs.”
The Canadian office is backed by a worldwide network of affiliates in over forty countries, each working together closely to support and promote their writers.
“We spend a lot of time talking to territories where we think our songwriters and songs are going to make sense and territories that are successful and have always been for Canada, like Australia, Germany, and Japan,” she explained.
Increasing awareness of music publishing as a profession is a task Barclay champions through action. She lends her voice to a number of industry boards, including CMRRA, SOCAN and the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA). Barclay has served terms on the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), MusiCounts, and Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame boards.
“Part of my job is creative and I deal with typical A&R functions but part of my job is also sitting on boards and dealing with industry issues to make sure our songwriters and our business is protected within that local environment,” she explained.
Warner/Chappell Music Canada is a CMRRA founding partner and Barclay herself a board director since 2005. She credits the agency as a valuable platform to carry out important industry-wide agreements.
“With CMRRA you have the power of numbers instead of just going out by yourself as a company to try and strike deals,” she said. “Because we belong to a collective, we’re often able to make better deals as you’re able to represent the catalogue as a whole.”
Securing the right for music publishers in Canada to license directly to digital providers was an important milestone for CSI (CMRRA-SODRAC Inc., a CMRRA joint venture with SODRAC), one that sets them apart from other collectives in North America, Barclay notes.
CSI licenses the reproduction rights of CMRRA and SODRAC to various music users, including radio stations, background, and online music services. Together, they represent the vast majority of songwriters and music publishers in the Canadian marketplace.
When asked about issues currently facing the industry, Barclay points to the ever-increasing speed of business and digital innovation.
“There are new ways people are inventing every single day to use music and a lot of times they don’t necessarily think upfront about how they are going to compensate creators and rights holders,” she said. “We need to be better about inserting ourselves into those conversations right at the beginning.”
A regular speaker at local and international industry events, she has also lent her expertise to new generations of aspiring students at Metalworks Institute, Ryerson University, Trebas Institute, and Durham College.
Barclay serves as Chair of the Board of Phemphat Entertainment Group (Honey Jam), and is a member of the Toronto Council for National Association of Black Female Executives in Music & Entertainment (NABFEME).
When not climbing mountains, she volunteers with Habitat for Humanity GTA as a Women Build Ambassador, and has worked on the Jimmy Carter Work Project and Habitat Canada’s Global Village program. She also supports Food for the Poor Canada (FFPC).
In spite of her natural talents and built-in drive for success, Barclay is humble and credits her rise through the ranks with being in the right place at the right time.
“I truly believe that a lot of our world comes down to knowing when an opportunity presents itself,” she confides. “The difference between most people is who takes better advantage of an opportunity that is put in front of them.”
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