by Jon Dekel
By her own admission, Music Publishers Canada CEO Margaret McGuffin is a music lover not a music publisher. However, through her work as a consultant and work at CMRRA, she has built a long history of being “deeply involved in advocacy and copyright” on behalf of Canada’s music publishers. “I had the great fortune early in my career to work with music publishers on some of their initial tariffs at the Copyright Board,” she recalled. “I was involved in a number of tariffs as a consultant, including the first tariffs for radio stations and online services for what became CMRRA Sodrac Inc. (CSI) and the first tariffs for the Canadian Private Copying Collective.”
Five years ago, McGuffin was approached to become the Executive Director of Music Publishers Canada, then known as the Canadian Music Publishers Association. Formed in 1949, Music Publishers Canada is a member organization whose mission is to create business opportunities for its members and promote their interests and those of their songwriting partners through advocacy, communication, and education. With a strong background in government relations and advocacy, McGuffin felt it important for the organization to continue to be “the lead advocate for music publishers in Canada in terms of copyright reform, piracy and broadcast policy.” Since then, she has led a movement to not only rebrand but also expand the organization’s activities in research, export marketing and professional development.
“I think what music publishers do is a bit of a mystery in the Canadian industry,” she explains. “But we are a powerhouse and we are growing. Canadian songs and scores are heard around the world.”
From a global marketing perspective, McGuffin points out that in 2019, 79 per cent of the music publishing revenues accrued by Canadian-owned independent companies came from foreign sources.
“By all accounts, Canadian music publishing is a global success story and Music Publishers Canada is playing a leadership role to reach out across the globe and make connections,” she said, pointing to pre-pandemic trade missions to Germany, London and Copenhagen as proof of the importance of the organization’s work in the field. “Our trade missions always involve a B2B delegation of music publishers who are interested in meeting labels, other publishers, music supervisors and tech companies in the territories we go to as well as the Canadian songwriters and producers who travel for a three day song camp. It’s a great way to explore international opportunities.” Music Publishers Canada has also been able to successfully shift to virtual activities during the past year with its popular Meet the Music Supervisors series, its annual Music Tech Summit and a virtual song camp with the USA’s Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP).
Parallel to Music Publishers Canada’s international outreach, McGuffin’s goal is also to grow understanding and appreciation at home by getting music publishers out there to educate the rest of the industry. “We just launched our Music Publishing 101 and Music Licensing for Film and Television courses that we’ve been developing for a few years. We’re also always looking for opportunities to appear on panels — not just at music events, also at Primetime, Hot Docs, TIFF and Reelworld.”
Of the new initiatives created into Music Publishers Canada during McGuffin’s time, one in particular stands out for her – the Women in the Studio National Accelerator, which was born out of a noticeable imbalance of women in the studio. “According to a recent USC Annenberg Institution study, only 2.6 per cent of all producers are women and only 12.6 per cent of the songwriters were women,” she notes. “We felt that this was an area for us to provide leadership and mentorship.”
Now in its third year, Women in the Studio has already produced success stories, including Breagh MacKinnon, who recently signed a co-publishing deal with Concord Music, and Carmen Elle, who is writing music for a new TV series that will be airing on HBO Max and CBC. “There’s technical training in there but there’s also financial literacy and business skills training,” McGuffin said of the merits of the Accelerator. “When you move from being a songwriter to being a producer, you need to operate a small business that’s quite different from being an artist, so financial literacy and business training is important. We also provide training on building your brand and using social media to do that.”
“It isn’t just a seven month program,” she added. “It’s designed to create a community and a set of networks that continue past the initial Accelerator.”
Newly appointed as CEO of Music Publishers Canada in April, McGuffin also serves as a non-voting member of the CMRRA’s Canadian Publishers Committee, which oversees and maintains the advancement of the interests of music publishers’ business in Canada.
“I applaud the valuable work CMRRA does to ensure that Canadian creators and music publishers get paid at internationally competitive rates.” McGuffin says, coming out of this pandemic year, Music Publishers Canada plans to continue to advocate for a modernized Copyright Act as well focusing on the current CRTC Commercial radio policy framework review.
“We are advocating that the government [of Canada] prioritize copyright reform as a part of the sector’s long-term recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, including implementing term extension immediately and ensuring the private copying regime is technologically neutral,” she explained. “Copyright is messy and dirty and you can’t keep everybody happy. We need the legal tools to hold tech companies accountable and make sure they are paying royalties to songwriters, composers and music publishers. Copyright is their paycheck.”
[Editorial Note: We followed up with Margaret to find out if she could tell us about a song that had impact for her that she connected with over her years working in the music industry. She replied, “one of the great things about this job is that I get to immerse myself in the Canadian music industry and hear so many great songs. My favourite experience has to be the performance of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah at the 2006 Canadian Songwriters’ Hall of Fame by k.d. lang. I will never forget that night.” We’ve linked to the live performance of the song here. Incidentally, Hallelujah was written in its entirety by Leonard Cohen and is administered by Sony Music Publishing.]
#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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