By Jonathan Dekel
It may seem like another lifetime now, but CCS head honcho and long-serving president of Music Publishers Canada Jodie Ferneyhough wasn’t always sure there was a future in music publishing.
The year was 2010 and Ferneyhough, a veteran executive of both peermusic and Universal Music Publishing as well as a co-founder of the non-profit Unison Benevolent Fund, had hit a career nadir. “The bottom had completely dropped out of the business and job prospects were slim to non-existent,” he recalled.
Fortunately, like so many great success stories, Ferneyhough turned his rotten circumstances into inspiration, founding CCS Rights Management: a Toronto-based, globally-minded music publishing and rights management company whose roster now includes a variety of writers and TV properties, including multi-platinum selling writer/producer Gavin Brown, Warner/Atlantic recording artist Carys (Aviva Mongillo), Sonic Unyon’s Terra Lightfoot, the Glenn Gould catalogue (administration) and the Spin Master properties—including PAW Patrol. “It occurred to me that although we were administering and collecting income from publishing sources, there was an opportunity and a need to ensure the writers, artists and other copyright holders were collecting money from the many other sources of income that were available to them,” he explains. “This prompted us to establish a neighbouring rights department.”
Today, CCS is represented around the world by over 17 sub-publishers. “It was important to me to find the best partners for our roster,” Ferneyhough explains. “In some cases we work strictly with administrative-type companies but for the most part we seek creatively active partners to help with our writers’ careers. We look for companies that are highly connected to the industry in their territory, that can create opportunities for our songs.”
By his own admission, Ferneyhough “stumbled” into the publishing world. Before joining peermusic in 1996, he was on the other side of the table: managing the popular bands pigfarm and The Monoxides. After landing a publishing deal for pigfarm with peermusic, the General Manager reached out to ask if he’d like to take over the creative manager position. “My wife was pregnant with our twins, we had a 2 year old and the glamorous job of band management wasn’t paying the bills, so I took it,” he laughs. “Beyond the basics of publishing, I didn’t know much but I did know how to sign bands. I worked there for a number of years before moving to Universal Music Publishing.”
In 2001, Ferneyhough took a Managing Director position at Universal Music Publishing Group, where he would work for nearly a decade, playing a role in the careers of Canadian artists such as k-os, Sam Roberts, Jann Arden, Shania Twain, Mars Bonfire and Avril Lavigne. “Both companies were amazing to work for and taught me, in very different ways, how to be a music publisher,” he says.
That knowledge has served Ferneyhough well at CCS. Using Toronto as his headquarters, he says the industry is poised to be more global than ever and positioning a company with that in mind is paramount to success. “Songs are travelling more. Music from around the world is becoming mainstream and there are more audiovisual opportunities with the non-stop production of stories for traditional and OTT services.” (OTT stands for “over-the-top” which denotes streaming media services offered directly to viewers via the internet.)
“The US has recently passed the Music Modernization Act, which should help push out more money to the rightful owners. Spotify and YouTube continue to gain more subscription-based users. And India’s middle-class is fully equipped with cheap data and access to more music than ever in history.”
“As long as the digital service providers and other platforms continue to work to do the right thing and fairly compensate writers, there is now a strong possibility for writers to earn a proper living from their craft. Our real job will be, as it is now, to protect the writer.”
With that in mind, when he’s asked what the value of a song is, Ferneyhough offers, “The value of the song is immeasurable. I can’t put my finger on any one song and say this has more value than another. Each song ever written has meaning to someone. Songs transcend time, they bring you somewhere, they are your memories, good or bad.”
“Everyone listens to music whether at home, the car, walking, running. Everyone wants to use music for their projects and their films,” he continues. “It is what drives complete businesses like Spotify, Deezer and YouTube. The saddest part of that is they are willing to devalue music so they can earn more for themselves and effectively eliminate the value of the songwriter.”
To that end, Ferneyhough firmly believes that the direction of music publishing will continue to be advocating for stronger reform, protection of copyright and pushing back against those that feel copyright has no place. “The writer/composer should always be aware of the laws and tariffs and deals that govern them, but their real job is to create. Our job as music publishers is to be their partner, fight for copyright and make sure they are fairly compensated for what they do. The days of animosity between writers/composers against publishers needs to end. We are there for one another; without one you can’t have the other. I earn a living because my writers do.”
“It’s been very interesting to watch the industry rebuild itself,” he adds. “We have a long way to go, especially in the fight for better rates for songwriters and publishers and the ongoing battle with labels in what they think they should be paid. Frankly, each day brings new highlights for me, new opportunities, lost opportunities, but in the end the continued growth of this company really is the most exciting part of all this.”
Jodie Ferneyhough is a member of CMRRA’s Canadian Publisher’s Committee, the founder of CCS Rights Management and a co-founder of the Unison Benevolent Fund, which provides counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music community. “In these difficult times, if you need help either emotionally or financially please reach out. If you can please consider donating to the fund; Spotify is graciously matching dollar-for-dollar up to $10 million. Unison needs your support to help those of us in the music industry who are hardest hit.”
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