May’s Front of House features Andrea England, Associate Director of Publisher Engagement and Strategy. Andrea is deeply involved in both the artistic and business aspects of the music industry and is the founder of the event Four Chords and The Truth.
Last year you were promoted to Associate Director, Publisher Engagement & Strategy, how is it being at the forefront of publisher engagement, and why is it important? What does your day-to-day look like?
Yes, it’s a bit of a full circle moment for me, to be interacting directly with, and in support of, our publisher, administrative, and self-published clients in this more outward-facing way. After working behind the scenes on their behalf for many years, first in royalties, then licensing, then as a business analyst and product manager of the web services portals, I’ve always been inspired and motivated by the fact that everything we do at CMRRA, ultimately, ends with royalties in the pockets of songwriters, and that that enables and supports song creation. As a writer and music fan, and someone who truly believes music can create positive change and add value to the human experience, that still gets me up on those mornings I wish I could sleep in!
Every day is different for me. About ¼ of the time, I’m traveling across Canada and the U.S to represent CMRRA at events and conferences and/or to visit our clients; and the rest of the time I’m doing the same here in Toronto, sometimes virtually, but most often in person. Otherwise, I’m connecting with new and existing clients virtually via webinars, working with our Operations and IT Teams to ensure our client-facing web services (CMRRA.ca, CMRRA Direct and the Unclaimed Works Portal) are meeting our clients’ evolving needs.
Along with our Publisher Services Manager, Marianne Anderson, and the CMRRA Communications and Executive teams, we’re planning the ways in which we can continue to increase meaningful and results-driven publisher engagement. In addition to my publisher-related duties, I’m on the Privacy Committee, Health and Safety Committee, and am co-lead of the DEI Committee, which is a very fulfilling part of my work: action-based allyship is the only kind of allyship, in my opinion, and I’m grateful that I’m able to work alongside such a great group of change-driven committee members.
Can you tell us about some of the events CMRRA is going to be a part of in the coming months?
We have so much coming up this Spring and Summer: from May 3-8th we’ll be at the ECMAs in Halifax, from May 15-18th at Music Biz in Nashville, from May 31-June 3rd, I’ll be at the Canadian Song Conference in P.E.I., from June 5-10th we’ll be participating in Canadian Music Week (CMW) in Toronto, June 6th we are co-presenting Inside the Song with Music Publishers Canada and the JUNOS, from June 12-15th we’ll be attending various events during Song Week in New York City, and in July we’re planning publisher visits in Montreal and Vancouver.
Outside of CMRRA you’re also a successful singer-songwriter who has penned songs with the likes of CCMA Female Artist of the Year, Meghan Patrick, and earned a U.K. gold record for a cut with former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger. What’s your favourite part of the songwriting process?
It’s the amazing creators I get to work with, many of whom have become dear friends over the years. Also, I’m not going to lie, it’s still pretty awesome to hear something you’ve created or co-created pass the lips of an extraordinary vocalist or see someone shed a tear when your lyrics move them. A song can really make a difference in someone else’s life when they need it the most. There is something very satisfying about feeling a feeling – yours or someone else’s – and being able to articulate it (lyrically and musically) in a way that resonates and has a meaningful impact.
Being the founder, curator, and host of the popular songwriter series Four Chords & The Truth, what inspired you to create this event?
So many of the songs we create, and the co-writers we create them with, go unheard. Until and unless they’re cut, the audience doesn’t get to experience them, and may never get to experience them in that original way. Songwriter circles, or “rounds” as they’re called in Nashville (where they were founded) feature songwriters telling the stories behind their songs and playing them acoustically in the way they were written; and while these “rounds” have been common in folk and country circles, this is not really the case in other genres (except at music industry events). At the same time that I was noticing this, I was writing a lot with a longtime collaborator and dear friend, Liz Rodrigues. Apart from being a great songwriter, she’s one of the most incredibly gifted singers out there; but she’s so busy writing for the likes of Celine Dion, Eminem, and others, that she rarely performs in public herself – and there were really no rounds featuring pop and hip-hop writers in Toronto on the radar of the general public at that time. So, I decided to host one; but what to call it? Harlan Howard called a country song “Three Chords and the Truth,” and I joked that, if I was also going to feature pop songs and other genres of music, that I would need another chord….so “Four Chords and the Truth” was born.
After six years and 21 successful events at the Dakota Tavern, you’re moving the event to the brand-new TD Music Hall this year. What can we expect this year, and in the future from the series?
My hope is that I can present the same uniquely intimate musical experience – our “big show in a small room” – to even more song fans, but in this slightly larger, fully accessible, state-of-the-art room, purpose-built for immersive sound. In addition, with three dressing rooms, a beautiful green room, tech team, a great stage, etc., I think that the experience for songwriters will also be exceptional. Our general format will still be the same, five songwriters and three rounds of songs – and some surprise guests, of course – but I do have more dates to announce, along with a pro songwriter camp for Four Chords and the Truth alumni, a brand-new merch line, and maybe even a spin-off series!
Someone said recently, Four Chords and the Truth isn’t a show, so much as a vibe; and I really do hope that’s true and that it continues, because for a few hours on a few nights a year, I get to build and then experience a night filled with great songs, great songwriters, great love and respect for the craft, for a great listening audience, most of whom wouldn’t even drop a pin for fear it would make a sound!
Seeing how much those nights – those songs – really do matter to people, brings even more meaning to the work I do – the work we do – during the day at CMRRA; because when we keep the royalties flowing, we keep the songs flowing too.
And isn’t that why we’re all in this business to begin with?
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