By Vince Degiorgio – This was originally published on November 6, 2017 in The Hill Times.
OTTAWA—When Minister Joly published her long awaited Creative Canada policy framework, one part in particular spoke to me and to my fellow music publishers and songwriters: the focus on export.
It’s not unusual for me to walk into a night market in Taipei and hear three songs I wrote in English translated into Mandarin.
But, even if you follow the music scene, you may not have heard of me. That’s because I’m on the songwriter-music publisher side of the business—not a performer.
I’ve had songs recorded by international stars in 11 different languages and sold over 30 million units in innumerable countries. In fact, I worked on a record with Caro Emerald which was number one for eight months in Holland and went platinum plus in the U.K. This all eminated from my travels to export our songs and work.
Owing to imagination, drive and endless travels abroad, my company, Cymba (an acronym for Crushing Your Music Business Apathy), has become one of the most pro-active and creative music publishing entities in Canada, with an unprecedented global reach and a focus on the international market.
While performing artists receive widespread attention for obvious reasons, it’s actually the music publishing industry that continues to be the spine in the body of the music business in this country.
Some say a music publisher is a manager of songs, others say the job of a publisher is to breathe new life into existing songs or to create songs that work in other markets.
As a publisher, I now work with a roster of writers to share my experiences. My colleagues invest in thousands of Canadian songs and songwriters who are heard daily on the radio, on streaming services, in video games and in film and television productions around the world.
With the federal government identifying cultural industries and their innovative export pursuits as key elements in Canada’s modern economy, the work of music publishers is assuming greater importance.
Spearheaded by many small- and medium-sized companies, the sector is growing and expanding its reach, especially when it comes to making sure Canadian songs and songwriters are heard across the world. Music publishers in Canada represent $280 million a year in revenues, with the export share now reaching two thirds of the value.
To highlight these achievements and ensure that federal decision-makers are aware of the issues that are crucial to our continuing success and viability, I and other representatives of the Canadian Music Publishing Association, along with our global counterparts in the International Confederation of Music Publishers, are gathering in Ottawa this week. We will be holding meetings and discussions with cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament and federal government officials.
The federal government has announced investment of $125 million for Canada’s first Creative Export Strategy. We welcome this funding and recommend that a portion of this future trade money be directed to a fund that benefits all music companies, including music publishers who are driving growth with their world-leading export activity.
Our other main concern is Canada’s copyright legislation. We support enhanced protection of creators’ intellectual property and fair compensation for those who help contribute to Canadian cultural content and therefore would like to see a full review of the Copyright Act.
Canada’s current law is out of step with most of our major trading partners.
Besides achieving consistency with international norms, strong copyright protection promotes the underlying purposes of copyright law and provides tangible economic benefits, by increasing the resources available to music publishers to invest in the creation of new Canadian songs and Canadian songwriters.
Improving copyright protection is vital if publishers and the creators they support are to continue to give this country’s unique talent and storytelling prowess the exposure it deserves, both at home and internationally.
The global market offers tremendous possibilities for those with the imagination and commitment to explore and develop the opportunities. Our music publishers have already demonstrated the capacity for vibrant, innovative growth. But looking ahead, we need to build a strong domestic foundation if we are to continue to hear our Canadian songs around the world.
Vince Degiorgio is president of Cymba Music Publishing and Chairman of the board of directors of the Canadian Music Publishers Association.