CMRRA held its Annual General Meeting on September 24 and Gary Furniss, President of Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada, was re-elected to the CMRRA Board of Directors and reappointed as Chairman of the Organization.
We caught up with Gary to chat about the Sony/ATV roster, the current environment for publishers and songwriters in Canada, and his work with CMRRA.
Gary Furniss began heading up Sony/ATV Canada in 1993 after working as a producer and recording engineer with Juno Award winning artists including Junkhouse and many of the artists signed with Sony Music Canada. Over the years he and his team have worked with many great Canadian songwriters including Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida, K’naan, Three Days Grace, LIGHTS, MacKenzie Porter, Our Lady Peace, Fefe Dobson, Billy Talent, USS, Anjulie, Arion, Tom Wilson, Protest the Hero and producer/writers like Tawgs Salter, Brian West, Dave Thomson, Jon Levine, Rob Wells, Phil Deschambault, and many more.
Gary is proud of his team at Sony/ATV which includes David Quilico, Janet Baker, and Mishelle Pack. ”On the creative side of the business, they are always discovering new talent, and on the administrative side, they constantly look for new ways to generate revenue for songwriters, including being extremely proactive in promoting the catalogue and finding synch opportunities in film, television, video games and new media”.
It is an exciting time for Canadian music and for songwriters in particular, with their songs being exported all over the world. “Pick up Billboard, Rolling Stone, NME, or any music publication today” says Gary, “and you will see many Canadian artists and songwriters featured.”
The Sony/ATV team has been working with a lot of its writers ever since the company was formed over two decades ago. Many of those artists have enjoyed international success, industry awards and long standing careers. Gary points out how important it is for all publishers to foster talented songwriters through artist development early on in their careers. The publishing revenues earned from successful songs ultimately benefit both the creators who are well established in their careers as well as the next generation of writers who are just starting out. “The revenues generated from successful songs and catalogues enable publishers to reinvest in emerging talent. These songs continue to make a positive impact on the music industry in Canada for years after their release.”
“Sony/ATV is especially passionate about discovering emerging songwriters and helping them develop their creative talent through co-writing opportunities and studio time, among other things.” Gary is especially excited about newly signed Sony/ATV songwriter Arion – a recording artist with Capitol/Astralwerks Records – who will be releasing his debut album in 2016. Arion is already an established Dubstep-remixer. He has impressed key industry execs, songwriters and producers with his unique voice and inspired songwriting. Sony/ATV is excited to be a part of the next phase of Arion’s career and to support his future international success.
Gary points to K’naan as an internationally successful Canadian songwritier. K’naan’s “Waving Flag” was heard around the world during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but few may know that the Toronto based songwriter was signed with Sony/ATV Canada eight years before that song was written and recorded. K’naan’s talent was clear all those years ago, and Sony/ATV along with Sony/ATV writer/producers Gerald Eaton and Brian West (collectively known as Track & Field Productions) and manager Sol Guy worked to help K’naan develop as a songwriter and performing artist. Again, the value and benefit of existing catalogues, and the revenues they derive, assist publishers, in investing early on and throughout a songwriter’s international career.
With this international success in mind, Furniss is disappointed that Canada has not fully embraced the importance of strong copyright protection for songwriters and composers. The Canadian government recently expanded the term of copyright protection for sound recordings and performers’ performances and Canadian publishers and songwriters have welcomed that change as a benefit to the entire music industry. However, there is still much concern that the same expanded protection is not yet afforded to songwriters, composers and their publishers. “We simply ask for all copyright protection terms in Canada to be in line with international standards that have been in place for years. For musical works this means life of the author plus 70 years.”
The next generation of Canadian songwriters will be short changed if we don’t get this right.” says Gary “If the term of copyright for musical works is not brought in line with international standards, it will be future Canadian songwriters who will continue to suffer from this failure, along with the Canadian music publishing community who will not have the adequate resources to support them.”
CMRRA is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and the Board of Directors are entering into an intensive strategy review process along with the Executive Management Team. While traditional mechanical royalties continue to decline, the Board is looking to the future and emerging music users. Services such as Google Play, Spotify, and Apple Music have launched in Canada in recent years and the CMRRA continues to negotiate licensing terms and rates that are on par or often better than those known globally.
“As a client, our relationship with CMRRA is terrific and we’re pleased with the many benefits offered by CMRRA’s new Licensing Distribution System. As Chair of the Board of Directors, I am acutely aware of the organization’s drive to continually increase efficiencies, and its concentration on the development of new business opportunities. CMRRA is determined to maximize value for creators and publishers in order to secure a solid future for a new generation of creators.”
“Along with the newly elected Board of Directors, I look forward to working together with CMRRA President Caroline Rioux and the very dedicated CMRRA management team as everyone continues to focus on being at the forefront of our clients’ needs and on advancing the interests of rights management for all stakeholders.”