by Isabelle Speerin
Four years ago, Amy Eligh took a leap of faith and accepted a new role to head up the music publishing arm of Arts & Crafts, a boutique Toronto-based independent artist services company. “It was a great opportunity to expand my skill set,’ said Eligh, who is their Director of Publishing and Licensing, “I wasn’t just doing creative, I could run the publishing company and learn every aspect of it, which I’ve always wanted to do.”
It’s been almost 20 years since Arts & Crafts entered the Canadian music scene and advanced the rise of indie rock as home to well-loved Canadian acts like Broken Social Scene, Feist, and Stars. In recent years, the company has expanded their highly curated roster to new genres, like hip-hop and neo-classical.
“The majority of our roster is Canadian,” Eligh said. “We find having relationships with artists and songwriters here in Canada is really important and we want to support them.”
Small but agile, Arts & Crafts stands out by being one of the only music companies driven mostly by artists who are also songwriters. And, beyond that, “we don’t have catalogue, essentially,” she mentions, “all the songwriters we work with are in the business in Canada or the US and are still working, still young, and still making an impact.”
In addition to representing works by musical collective Broken Social Scene, the company roster includes Jordan Klassen, Aaron Allen, Josh Ronen, Dan Mangan, Connor Price, Old Man Saxon, The Northern Pikes, Fleece, Noah Reid, Thom D’Arcy, Molly Johnson, Taylor Knox, Jason Collett, Lo Talker, Wine Lips, Megan Bonnell, Absolutely Free, Do Make Say Think, Laroie, Sarah MacDougall, Theo Alexander, Farideh, Evan Arntzen, Emma Beko, Caleb Chan, Brian Chan, and neo-classical pianist, Jean-Michel Blais and many more.
Arts & Crafts also represents the solo works of the late Canadian rock singer-songwriter, musician, writer and activist, Gord Downie, the frontman of beloved Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip. While many of Downie’s works are deeply woven into the fabric of Canadian society, Eligh recalls one extraordinary album that was hugely impactful because it shed light on a dark period of Canadian history and was subsequently adopted by many Canadian schools as teaching curriculum.
“Secret Path by Gord Downie put a spotlight on the atrocities to Indigenous children and families at residential schools,” Eligh said. “Gord’s talent at storytelling and his commitment to change and accountability started a real movement and awareness and I admire him for insisting that Canada pays attention.“
Secret Path is an album of ten beautifully written poems Downie set to music and released in 2016. The poems are based on the story of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy who ran away from his residential school near Kenora and later died from hunger and exposure to the harsh weather. His death in 1966 sparked national attention and provoked the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools. All proceeds from the album are donated to the Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation.
Eligh’s journey to music publishing started in Belleville, Ontario, Canada. “I had an amazing music teacher in high school,’ she said. “I was terrible at the clarinet, so I tried every other instrument in the room and the one that fit was the trombone, which was odd, but it worked!”
Following her dream to be a musical theatre pit musician, Eligh moved to Toronto to study Jazz Performance at Humber College. “I was playing trombone in a couple of bands, but I ended up developing a joint disorder in my jaw called TMJ syndrome, and it got really bad in my final year.”
Despite unsuccessful surgery to fix the problem, Eligh graduated from the program, and then switched gears and enrolled in the Music Industry Arts program at Fanshawe College. “In my first week I thought I was going to drop out but then Terry McManus started talking about music publishing and I found it really interesting because it touches on every aspect of the music industry,” she said. “I felt like publishing would give me a lot of different skills and keep things interesting.”
Through the Fanshawe program, Eligh landed an internship with Casablanca Media Publishing/Red Brick Songs, who then hired her full-time in 2005. She spent over a decade with the company, first on the royalties and copyright teams, and later directing the sync and creative services team.
She is quick to acknowledge the many talented female mentors and colleagues throughout her career that have helped shape the music publisher she is now. “Women supporting women is so important,” she shares. “Especially in publishing because it can sometimes be an island; not a lot of people understand what we do. At Arts & Crafts, I rely greatly on the support of my colleague Chloe Benner, who makes sure everything runs smoothly.”
Eligh spends her days drawing up contracts, pitching songs, arranging co-writing opportunities for songwriters, developing writers, hosting camps and scouting for new talent. “I am very, very lucky I get to do a ton of different things in my job,” she said. “I’m 16 years in and I still get to learn new things all the time, it’s pretty awesome!”
In March 2021, when CMRRA launched International Collections services, partnering with the Mechanical Licensing Collective (the MLC) for the US market and with London, UK-based IMPEL for markets outside of North America, this caught Eligh’s attention. The new services allow Music Publishers and self-published songwriters to have their repertoire properly registered and administered by CMRRA to ensure that digital mechanical royalties flow efficiently from these new territories. It’s another example of how the music industry is evolving their services to help companies manage an increasing amount of data effectively.
Arts & Crafts enlisted CMRRA to administer their collections with the MLC in the US. “We have a small team with a real focus on creative,” Eligh said. “CMRRA has done a great job on the mechanical side in Canada so we thought we would give them a shot for MLC in the US.”
Eligh joined the Music Publishers Canada Board of Directors in 2018 and is Vice-Chair of the FACTOR Board of Directors which provides funding to support the Canadian music ecosystem. She lives in Pickering, Ontario with her husband Ryan Eligh, an award-winning sound designer and musician.
#withIMPACT Music Publishers are the heart of our industry. In 2021, we’re highlighting eleven Music Publishers with impact. We’re also discussing songs. We acknowledge that there is not one measure that quantifies a song’s success, so, we’re discussing all the ways we can think of qualifies as impact – songs that started revolutions, launched movements, were the catalyst for change, started love stories or just plain inspired.
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