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Download (PDF, 662.06KB) - Canadian Music Publishers Association

Summer 2001

I n s i d e

Mentoring our successors

CMPA president Robert

Ott on the importance of

mentoring and education.

/ P2

Whither WIPO?

We must wa ke go ve r n m e n t

up to the fact that the new

millennium demands new

legislation to protect

intellectual propert y. / P3

Publishing News / P4

Profile: John Alexander

John Alexander and MCA

Music Publishing were

behind Billboard’s Album

of the Decade for the

1990s. / P6

Bird Soars at Thompson’s

John Bird, the CMRRA’s

first Chairman, recalls his

life in music publishing.

/ P7

Questions for Ron Proulx

Music supervisor Ron

Proulx offers some controversial

opinions on the

value of music copyrights.

/ P8

Jimmy Rankin’s first solo album is out July 17

F e rneyhough to UMPG


ody Ferneyhough has been

named Director of Creative

Operations of Universal Music

Publishing Group Canada. He

assumed his post June 4.

“During my interview process

it was made clear that the company

wants me to find and sign

exciting new talent,” says

Ferneyhough. “We’ll be going

out and bringing in bands and

writers, and looking for catalogue

and sub-publishing opportunities

from around the world.

Throughout his long career

as a member of the Rankins

and now as a solo artist,

singer/songwriter Jimmy Rankin

has elected to retain full ownership

of his copyrights. Until

recently that decision represented

something of a mixed blessing.

Rankin earned

100 per cent of the

royalties due from

his approximately

50 recorded works,

“but with international


in particular we

found we simply

w e r e n ’t getting

the cheques we

thought we should

be getting,” says his

business manager

and wife, Mia Nishi

R a n k i n .

We’ll also be looking to increase

synchronization opportunities

for our catalogue of titles. Our

goal is to make Universal Music

Publishing Group even more

competitive within the Canadian

music publishing industry. ”

Ferneyhough arrives at UMPG

following four and a half years

at Peermusic Canada where he

was Creative Manager. “It broke

my heart to leave,” he says, “but

I felt I needed to take this

o p p o r t u n i t y. ”

Rankin looks to CMRRA for

international collection help

In an effort to “capture”

those missing royalties the

Rankins signed up with

CMRRA last fall for mechanical

collections outside Canada.

“Domestically it’s easy enough

for us to administer because

we just signed mechanical

licences directly with EMI

Music Canada,” says Nishi

Rankin. “But The Rankins

albums were released in many

territories and we just weren’t

getting the royalty cheques. So

being able to sign up with

CMRRA just for international

royalty collections was a good

alternative for us.”

Nishi Rankin concedes that

a major music publisher might

be able to deliver more

exploitations for the Rankin

catalogue (now numbering

100 titles), Continues page 2

New money,

no deta i l s

Canadian Heritage Minister

Sheila Copps was in

To ronto May 2 to announce a

major new funding initiative

for Canada’s cultural sector.

The minister pledged more

than $500 million of new

m o n ey over the next thre e

years, $28 million of wh i ch has

been earmarked for the music

i n d u s t ry. Or so it appears. Th e

announcement was conspicuo

u s ly devoid of detail beyo n d

the suggestion that the money

would be used to “ n u r t u re

writers and composers, for the

d evelopment of new artists and

re c o rdings, for cro s s - c u t t i n g

p rojects affecting the industry

and for the pre s e rvation and

digitization of significant

Canadian musical wo r k s .”

Copps is expected to

expand on her commitment

June 26 during a speech in

Halifax, although as CIRPA’s

Brian Chater notes, “ E ve n

then we probably won’t be

given a lot of detail. They may

announce components of the

package but I’d be surprised if

they committed to anything

concrete until they get it past

the Tre a s u ry Board, wh i ch

they’re unlikely to do before

June 26.”

Sony/ATV Music Publishing is

now online with a searchable

song database at

Mentoring and education cornerstones of

CMPA A message from CMPA president Robert Ott

The modern music publisher

has a powerf u l

potential to launch and

perpetuate successful artist

careers. Our efforts to educate

the industry about this fact

are gradually meeting with

success. Music publishers are

now a primary contact for savvy

artists, managers,

attorneys and

record companies

and not an afterthought.


explosion of potential

avenues of exposure

and revenue

for music copyrights

will strengthen this

trend, and our need

to be educated.

Education and

mentoring have

therefore been set

Sharing the knowledge at Canadian Music We e k .

Top: BMG Music Publishing Canada’s Robert Ott; out as cornerstones

Center: Michael McCarty (EMI Music Publishing of the CMPA’s mandate.

It is in our

Canada) and David Basskin (CMRRA/CMPA); Gary

Furniss (Sony/ ATV Music Publishing Canada). best interest as

music publishers to ensure that

we nurture rising talent in

music publishing’s business

aspect, as we have long done

with creators. Music publishing

is not a “sexy” career choice,

possibly because it has not been

very well understood within the

the industry. People talk about

the need for a star system in

Canada for artistic talent, and

I’d argue that the situation is

no different behind the scenes

where the deals are actually

done. Knowledge about our

business coupled with experience

will ensure a positive

future for music publishers and

their artists.

Besides leading and participating

in industry conferences

and panels, music publishers

have poured energy into creating

the newsletter you are reading.

This is our second issue

and we’re pretty proud of M u s i c

Publisher Canada. The newsletter

is a principle tool in our

drive to make the CMPA a

forum for, among other things,

informing and uniting our

membership towards common

goals such as the education and

the protection of copyright. I’d

Rankin Continued from cover

like to take this opportunity to

salute the efforts of the CMPA’s

Membership Action Committee

who continue to volunteer their

time and talent to further the

interests of our industry. Special

thanks to the core of people

that have brought this newsletter

to fruition: Tony Tobias, Pat

Campbell, Gary Furniss and

John Redmond. Thanks also to

David Basskin, to our very capable

editor and referee

Christopher Jones and to all

those who take the time to contribute.

The response to our

inaugural issue was extremely

positive. We look forward to

your continued feedback and a

constructive future for music

p u b l i s h i n g .

“particularly with respect to feature films, but also in terms

of seeking covers for Jimmy’s songs. It’s something we’ve kind

of put on the back burner because we’ve been busy with

other things.”

When sync requests come in, Nishi Rankin turns to former

Rankins manager and lawyer Chip Sutherland who reviews contract

terms and ensures that “everything is as it should be.”

Not that there’s much chance the songwriter’s wife would

ever get taken to the cleaners. A former New York investment

banker and Wharton School alumnus, Nishi Rankin received

her MBA from Dalhousie University in 1997 — her thesis was

on the Canadian music retail industry.

Presently things are heating up at Rankin headquarters on

Gottingen Street in Halifax as the team prepares to deliver Jimmy

Rankin’s first solo album, Song Dog, due July 17. EMI Canada will

distribute the record for Rankin’s own Song Dog Music.

Music Publisher Canada

is published four times per year

by the Canadian Music

Publishers Association

320 – 56 Wellesley St. W.

Toronto, ON M5S 2S3

Phone 416-926-1966

Editor Christopher Jones

Page Layout jonesy digital art + design

Executive Editor Pat Campbell

CMPA Membership Action Committee

Pat Campbell (Wa rner/Chappell Canada),

Tony Tobias (Pangaea New Media), Gary

F u rniss (Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Canada), Robert Ott (BMG Music

Publishing Canada), John Redmond

The opinions expressed herein are not

necessarily those of the publisher.

CMPA Membership: Members of CMPA are entitled to vote for

the election of the Board of Directors of CMPA’s licensing subsidiary,

the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency

(CMRRA). An active member is entitled to four votes and an

associate member is entitled to one vote. Active membership is

for music publishers who own and/or administer catalogues in

active use in Canada ($400/yr). Associate membership is for

those who have a general interest in the business of music publishing

with inactive catalogues ($100/yr). Membership fees are

tax deductible and all members receive a subscription to Music

Publisher Canada.

2 Music Publisher Canada / Summer 2001

Slow and slower: Canadian copyright re f o rm

in the 21st Century

By David Basskin

Canada’s music publishers have long

ranked the reform of Canada’s outdated

copyright legislation as their

top priority in Ottawa. From 1924 to 1988,

the country ’s copyright law remained

unchanged, which wasn’t such a problem

while the world revolved at 78 rpm. Digital

recording devices, satellites, computers —

they were all the stuff of science fiction

until, eventually, they came to market as

new products that changed our daily lives.

In the 1980s, after labouring mightily

on, what else?, a study, the Government

issued a long-awaited report, “From

Gutenberg to Telidon” (anybody remember

Telidon?), followed by an extensive

round of public hearings. The upshot was a

decision to move ahead with copyright

reform covering a very broad range of

issues. But a funny thing happened on the

way to the Commons: the tide of opinion

turned against single, omnibus legislative

packages. Too difficult. “Phases” of legislation

would henceforth be called for.

Which brings us to 1988. Phase 1 was in

front of parliament with at least one issue of

huge importance to CMPA members: the

end of the two-cent compulsory mechanical

license. CMPA’s “Two Cents Too Long” campaign

was a great watershed for the organization

— and the end of the compulsory

license opened up the way for direct and

effective negotiation of the rates and terms

of mechanical licensing between CMRRA,

on behalf of its members, and CRIA, on

behalf of the major labels.

Although long overdue, Phase 1, was

nonetheless a good start. The Phase 2

reforms would be along “imminently”

according to senior politicians and officials.

Nine years of intense lobbying later, the

Phase 2 package finally made its way to the

House. The Phase 2 package contained several

necessary changes, most notably the

introduction of the blank tape levy, which

will shortly start putting money in the pockets

of CMPA members and the songwriters

they represent.

Senior officials and politicians reportedly

d i d n ’t like the Phase 2 experience. The

intensity of the lobbying they experienced

apparently convinced them to shelve multiissue

legislative packages in favour of dealing

with copyright issues on a case-by-case basis.

N o w, nearly four years after the passage of

Bill C-32, nothing further has happened. Why

does this matter to music publishers? It matters

because there are still vitally important

issues before us. First and foremost are the

WIPO Copyright Treaties of 1996, which

Canada was instrumental in helping shape. By

signing the treaty in 1997 Canada was saying

Songwriters and music publishers have been “knowledge workers”

since the dawn of our industry. Copyright law is the best tool we

have to preserve and enhance our viability, but the tool is getting

rusty. Enough rhetoric — it’s time for action!

We must wake government up to the fact that the

n ew millennium demands new legislation to pro t e c t

intellectual pro p e r t y. Our livelihoods depend upon it.

to the rest of the world’s copyright communities,

“We’re going to revise our laws to bring

them up to the standard of the treaties.”

The most important issue addressed in

the treaties is technological, requiring signatory

nations to provide effective legislative

protection against interference with

“technological protection of works” — in

other words, strong legislative teeth to fight

the hackers and crackers whose nefarious

deeds could keep the development of a

meaningful e-commerce market in music

from developing.

Such “anti-circumvention” legislation

was quickly passed by the United States in

the form of the Digital Millennium

Copyright Act. After its own complex and

controversial process, the European Union

has passed such legislation for adoption by

member states of the EU. Whither Canada?

Despite having been told that the implementation

of these treaties is the government’s

top copyright priority, nothing has

happened! And because of the government’s

post-Phase 2 reluctance to consider

omnibus legislation, every other copyrightrelated

issue has to wait until the WIPO

treaty implementation legislation is drafted,

discussed and sent to the house. It’s a discouraging

prospect because aside from the

WIPO treaties, there’s plenty else on the

copyright agenda.

The term of copyright in almost every

country is now the author’s life plus 70

years. Canada is one of the few countries

remaining at life plus 50. This means that

songs by Canadians are discriminated

against in life-plus-70 territories. Only

Parliament can address this shortcoming.

The Internet presents everyone in the

music business — including publishers —

with a long list of concerns. The Napster challenge

is but the first of many that will rock our

world. Yet we’re told that Parliament can’t

touch these subjects until the treaty implementation

process is completed.

This is a situation which cannot and

must not continue. CMPA is actively working,

both on its own and in conjunction

with other groups representing the performing

arts and entertainment industries

in all their facets to push the government to

get moving. In the face of an ever-increasing

pace of change, sitting on our hands is the

last thing we can afford to do as a nation.

Politicians never seem to tire of making

speeches about how “we’re all knowledge

workers” and we “live in the knowledge

e c o n o m y.” Enough rhetoric — it’s time for

action! Songwriters and music publishers

have been “knowledge workers” since the

dawn of our industry. Copyright law is the

best tool we have to preserve and enhance

our viability, but the tool is getting rusty.

Two cents was too little for far too long

and we won that battle. We can win these,

too, but we can’t do it alone. There’s never

been a more important time to take an active

role in your association. CMPA is the only

organization in Canada which speaks and

acts for the interests of music publishers. If

you own or administer music copyrights,

you’re a publisher, and you should be part of

C M PA. Let’s speak with the loudest, and

most effective voice we can, to get officials

and politicians to listen — and to act on

these vitally important points.

David A. Basskin is president of the CMRRA

and Executive Director of the CMPA.

Music Publisher Canada / Summer 2001 3

P u b l i s h i n



e w s

BMG writers ride

Wave of success

BMG Music Publishing Canada has signed

Niagara Falls, Ont.-based pop duo Wave and

writer/producer Ben Dunk to worldwide publishing

deals. Says BMG general manager Robert

Ott,“I am very excited to welcome Paul Gigliotti

and Dave Thomson of Wave, and Ben Dunk to

the BMG Music Publishing Canada family and to

our worldwide organization.”

Explains Ott,“I first heard this project when

Justin Gray from our roster brought in a threesong

demo of the band and played it for me.

The first track was “California” (the lead-off single

from the just released Wave debut disc

Nothing As It Seems) and 30 seconds in I knew I

was listening to a monster hit — more like

Tsunami! Paul is one of the best pop singers I’ve

ever heard. This project can stand with the best

in the world.”

Apparently Ott’s faith was contagious. The

young duo was signed to Warner Canada on

their first meeting with the label.The video for

“California” was added into heavy rotation at

MuchMusic immediately and the single quickly

bolted into Canadian CHR’s Top-10. The album

was co-produced by Ben Dunk, Justin Gray and

Rick Neigher and contains co-writes by both

Gray and Dunk.

Continues Ott,“It was apparent that Ben

Dunk was a cornerstone of the Wave project

and a serious talent as a songwriter, producer

and musician. Ben had two record deals with

Sony in the past, and would have been welcome

on any major roster, so the fact that he chose to

come to BMG is gratifying.”

Wave principals Paul Gigliotti

(left) and Dave Thomson

Luke McMaster (left)

and Rob James

Writing trip opens new avenues to

UMPG’s McMaster & James

Awriting trip to Toronto from

their native Winnipeg has had

a big impact on songwriters Lu ke

McMaster and Rob James. UM P G

c r e a t i ve manager Linda Bush

o r g a n i zed the odyssey and paired

McMaster & James with accomplished

TO songwriters Ju s t i n

Grey (BMG), Brian Howe s

( UMPG), Robbie Patterson (Pe e r ),

David Martin (Sony/ ATV), Ben

Dunk (BMG) and Chris Burke

G a ffney (Chrysalis). Bush says the

Web access gives new Morning

Music library a boost

As the North American sub-publisher

for Ring Musik

(Frankfurt), Morning Music has

teamed up with johnny5 artist promotion

to create a new music

l i b r a ry collection culled from

Ring’s Happy Records. Producers,

music supervisors and editors can

feedback she got from the

Hogtown writers was tremendously

positive and she’s hoping

McMaster & James will be called

upon to contribute to future writing


Judging by recent demos the

McMaster & James sound has

matured considerably since the

release of it’s “nearly gold”Vik/BMG

debut. The pair’s sophomore effort

should be out in first quarter 2002

with a single arriving late this year.

access the music at

According to Jean Anfossi,

Manager of Creative Services at

Morning Music, the collections

have been very successful since

their launch in March 2001.

“Having a presence on

enables us to e-mail the URL links

for immediate access when producers

need to audition music,” he says.

“Last week, a producer from the

Edmonton-based Great North

Productions had a urgent request

for a sound alike of Rodriguo’s

“Concerto De Aranjuez” for a docum

e n t a ry. The license fee for the

original piece was enormous so she

needed an alternative. After a short

search we concluded that

“Concierto Por Christina” from our

HR-Spanish Collection was in the

same style. We emailed her the link

and she had instant access to the

piece. After auditioning the song,

she then sent the Web link to the

Toronto producer for final

approval. In the space of a few minutes,

both producers had access to

our suggested alternative. We then

proceeded to license the track at a

rate within the budget.”

Morning Music and its partners

have already logged 100,000 downloads

on the six HR collections —

Smooth Guitar, Spanish Guitar,

Electronic, Romantic, Swing and

Classical Serenades — which can be

accessed through

4 Music Publisher Canada / Summer 2001

Writers’ Rooms

Studios add value, “help foster careers”

So n y / ATV Music Canada

may not have pioneered

the concept but when it

comes to writers’ rooms, the

company is definitely at the

head of the class. The sprawling

Sony Canada complex in suburban

Toronto features no fewer

than four dedicated writers’

rooms, each a small digital studio

available on a first-come

basis to the publisher’s roster of

writers. “The concept started

back in 1995 as a bridge to the

Sony Oasis main production

studio,” says Sony/ATV Canada

president Gary Furniss.

S o n y / ATV writers Prozzak,

Tom Wilson, The Philosopher

Kings, Adam Gregory, David

Martin, Chantal Kreviazuk,

Edwin, Amanda Marshall and

guests have all taken advantage

of the rooms to create some

Hitmaker David Martin works some magic in one of Sony/ATV

Canada’s four dedicated writers’rooms. The concept has caught

on with music publishers.

musical magic.

Warner/Chappell Canada

GM Pat Campbell is another

great believer in writers’

rooms. “In fact,” she says,

“when were looking for new

office space in 1998, the main

reason we selected our present

location is because there was a

custom-built studio already

there. We’re doing whatever we

can to help foster the careers of

our writers.”

Peer Music Canada and EMI

Music Publishing Canada have

also recently invested in recording

facilities dedicated to the

creative brainstorming process.

DO NOT PASS GO —Talk about racial profiling! When Montrealbased

writing/production team Iratik tried to deposit their

advance check from a newly-minted deal with EMI Music

Publishing Canada, the teller got suspicious and called the cops.

Iratik members Jeremy Barryman, Kent Austin and Raul Campued

were actually hauled down to the police station where calls to

Toronto and New York were placed to verify the truth of their

story. That oughta give the boys something to write about.

Payback time for Colin Linden

Colin Linden’s reputation as a first-rate songwriter, producer

and guitarist has earned him roles on discs by a

wide range of artists including Bruce Cockburn, Lucinda

Williams, Colin James and The Band. Some of those big

names have returned the favour with guest appearances

on Linden’s latest Sony Music Canada album Big Mouth,

which features performances by Williams, Cockburn and

Keb Mo.

Linden is Warner/Chappell Canada’s longest contracted

writer, having signed with the publisher back in 1987.

At last count W/C’s Linden catalogue had reached 140

titles, including co-writes.

Linden and Keb Mo’s song

“God Trying To Get Your

Attention,” was recently preformed

by Mo on the hit TV

series Touched By An Angel.

The song is also featured on

Keb’s album Slow Down.

Linden performed at

Carnegie Hall June 13 as part

of the Oh Brother Where Art

Thou concert.

Colin Linden is Warner/Chappell Canada’s longest contracted writer.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY STONY PLAIN — Stony Plain boss Holger Petersen threw himself a week-long party at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern in April to

celebrate the 25th anniversary of his label and publishing company. Pictured with Petersen at the gala party are the members of Stony Plain act

The Holmes Brothers. In June Petersen’s “contributions to Canadian music, public broadcasting, and the Canadian arts industry” were recognized

by Alberta’s Athabaska University, which bestowed an honorary Doctor of Letters degree on the label boss. Congratulations Holger!

Music Publisher Canada / Summer 2001 5

Bird Continued

their students.”

With the passing of Gordon V.

Thompson, Bird assumed a higher

profile within the Canadian indust

ry. He inherited Thompson’s seat

on the CAPAC board and was later

elected president of the organization.

Bird was also one of the nine

founding Canadian music publishers

who each put up a $15,000

guarantee to secure the loan that

was used to launch the CMRRA

in 1975.

“Up until that time the Harry

Fox Agency was doing all the collecting

in Canada,” recalls Bird.

“ E v e ry other developed country

had their own collective except us.

The NMPA / H a r ry Fox Agency was

delighted to see the CMRRA go

ahead because they didn’t have the

resources to really police things in

Canada and they knew it. They

even kicked in $10,000 to help get

us started.”

Bird was named Chairman of

the inaugural CMRRA Board of

Directors: “They wanted someone

from a 100-per cent Canadianowned

company to chair the first

board, so they put me in — it wasn’t

because of my sparkling personality,”

he laughs.

Nineteen eighty-eight marked

the end of an era as Gordon V.

Thompson was sold to Canada

Publishing. Bird agreed to stay on

as a consultant, and did so again

when Warner/Chappell bought

the catalogue in 1990. He finally

retired from the business later

that year. Today Bird channels his

energy into community initiatives

like his local Kiwanis Club where

he overseas a weekly newsletter.

He still serves on the boards of the

Elmer Iseler Singers and the

Kiwanis Music Festival.

Asked what he considers his

greatest achievement, Bird is sanguine:

“Without being conceited I

think I did pretty well. We built up

a very respectable Canadian catalogue,

we built our own building,

paid it off and had no debt. I had

a really good staff and I enjoyed

my time there. What more can

you ask?”

Publishing seeded Morissette success

John Alexander and MCA behind Billboard’s Album

of the Decade for the 1990s By Christopher Jones

Music publishing was responsible for

the biggest music success story of the

1990s, specifically MCA Music

Publishing and its creative head at the time,

Canadian John Alexander. Jagged Little Pill, the

28 million-selling collaboration between MCA

songwriters Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard,

almost certainly would not have happened had

both writers not been signed to the same music

publishing company. Furthermore, it was

Alexander’s persistent faith in Morissette that

ultimately delivered her to Ballard’s door.

John Alexander is far too Canadian to take

direct credit for Morissette’s star turn. But he

signed the singer when she was a mere14 years

old and paid the freight for her first two albums

and the initial Jagged Little Pill sessions. Contrary

to popular myth, Alanis was not signed to MCA

Records Canada for her first two efforts;

Alexander couldn’t convince his affiliate label

to take a flier on her so, with the blessing of

MCA Publishing president Leeds Levy, he

financed the discs with publishing money and

leased them to Hot Mustard Records, an MCA

Publishing imprint.

“The very first record company dollars that

came to Alanis,” relates Alexander, “were from

Maverick, which picked up Jagged Little Pillafter

it was recorded. Alanis’s career, up till and

including Jagged Little Pill, was financed entirely

with publishing money.”

A l e x a n d e r ’s faith in Morissette is legendary.

He continued to back the artist even after her

sophomore album (1992’s Now Is the Ti m e) sold

only half as well as her platinum debut disc,

1991 ’s A l a n i s. With the unrecouped publishing

advances mounting Levy’s successor John

McKellen questioned Alexander about the signing

but ultimately backed him when he said, ‘Just

leave it to me, I believe this thing is going to

work.’ Thankfully we rode it out,” says

A l e x a n d e r.

Why the tenacious belief? “From the very

first meeting I had with her I saw that she was a

very focused individual who had a talent for

music and had enough inherent drive to see it

through in terms of a career,” remembers

Alexander. “I think some of that rubbed off on

me. When you meet someone who believes in

herself that strongly it’s difficult not to believe

in her too. And when you’re in the game of trying

to spot talent, if you get the feeling that

someone is going to succeed you want to stick

with that person.”

Alexander didn’t personally set up the

Morissette/Ballard collaboration; he was running

the creative department of MCA Music

Publishing from New York at the time and

asked people in his LA office to arrange some

collaborations for Alanis with company writers.

Glen Ballard, already famous for his work with

Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul and Wilson

Phillips, was one of the writers who agreed to

give the 20 year-old kid from Canada a shot.

“There are writers whose names I won’t

mention, who said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have time.’ ”

recalls Alexander. “And you can bet they’re

kicking themselves now. Alanis and Glen connected

on an almost chemical creative level

and we just left them alone to make the record.

Glen’s a nice guy, certainly his motivation was

not, ‘Oh boy, I’m going to make tons of money

off this.’ He’s just the kind of artist who never

predetermines whether someone is talented or

not until he’s met and worked with them.”

In 1997 Alexander left MCA to steer the creative

department of US performing rights society

ASCAP where he is now Senior Vice President

of Creative Affairs and Membership, directing

day to day operations and long term planning.

John Alexander (left) signed Alanis Morissette

(pictured here with writing partner Glen

Ballard) when she was 14 years old.

Alexander says he’s particularly pleased that

he and Alanis remain fast friends and professional

allies: “I’m certainly proud of the success

s h e ’s had and I’m proud that I was able to help

start her off at a time when she needed it, and to

be able to continue to do so today [Morissette is

an ASCAP writer]. Jagged Little Pill was B i l l b o a rd’s

Album of the Decade for the ’90s — it’s pretty

nice to have your name on that kind of a record.

And it’s nice to be able to go biking down the

beach here with her and still be the close friends

that we are. Because sometimes in this business it

d o e s n ’t work out that way. ”

6 Music Publisher Canada / Summer 2001

L o o k i n g B a c k

By Christopher Jones

B i rd soars with Gordon V. Thompson

A chronicle of the history of music publishing in Canada is long overdue. Thus, the CMPA and

writer Christopher Jones have undertaken to relate the story as told by those who have helped shape

the industry. This issue we talk to John Bird, former president of Gordon V. Thompson Ltd. and

founding Chairman of the CMRRA.

Modern music publishing bears

scant resemblance to the business

John Bird fell into more than half

a century ago. In the late 1940s, when he first

went to work for Gordon V. Thompson Ltd.,

the publishing business rose and fell according

to the whims of a piano-playing public

eager for the latest sheet music titles from

Broadway and Hollywood. Some perf o r m-

ance royalties trickled in from CBC and the

few commercial radio outlets that existed in

those days, but for the most part Gordon V.

Thompson and his handful of Canadian contemporaries

buttered their bread with the

profits from sheet music sales.

There was little or no domestic music

industry in Canada prior to and for many

years after World War II. Gordon V.

Thompson made most of its revenue trading

in titles from MGM Pictures and later

Columbia Pictures, and works it licensed

from other US publishers: A secondary

focus was on piano methods and educational

folios. The pop sheets, like books and

CDs today, were returnable; retail stores

could send back unsold copies within a set

period of time and Gordon V. Thompson

would in turn send them back to the original

US publisher for credit.

John Bird landed at Thompson’s following

a recommendation from his brother

Bailey, who worked as a salesman for the

company. John had been playing euphonium

and conducting a Canadian Air Force

band, experience that would serve him well

as a music publisher. A few years after arriving

at Thompson’s, Bird agreed to join a

University of Toronto band that was in need

of an euphonium player: “I knew that every

one of those kids was going to become a

music educator and they’d need music for

their programs. That’s where I got to know

a lot of them.”

Sitting comfortably in his well-appointed

Toronto home, the 77-year-old Bird’s eyes

twinkle as he fondly recalls some of the highlights

from his career helping build Gordon

V. Thompson Music into a venerable

Canadian music publishing institution.

Although he started at the company “filling

ink wells and sharpening pencils,” it wasn

’t long before Bird was travelling from

coast to coast on the CPR, stopping wherever

the company had accounts with music

stores. Bird’s train pass was the result of a

typical bit of “sandbagging.” Thompson

knew a fellow who did PR for the railroad

and “this guy fancied himself a bit of a poet,”

recalls Bird. “So we asked [composer]

Freddy Grant to write him a piece called

“Coming In On the CPR,” and we put a picture

of the CP Banff Springs Hotel on the

back cover. We didn’t sell 10 copies of that

song, but it was all the PR guy needed to get

us free passes on the train.”

Bird enjoyed his life on the road but his

knack for the business soon brought him

back to Toronto full-time where he became

sales manager and later, general manager of

the operation. Bird’s rise in the company

was a classic case of talent being recognized.

Says one of his business colleagues: “John is

a very bright, funny guy and it was always a

pleasure to work with him. His common

sense and experience, leavened with his

sharp sense of humour, make for a class act

all the way.”

In the late 1950s as his influence in the

company expanded, Bird approached “Mr.

Thompson” with the suggestion that the

company start building its own domestic

repertoire to counter the heavy reliance on

large contracts like the one with MGM. “Mr.

Thompson didn’t hesitate for a minute,”

recalls Bird, “he just said, ‘Go to it.’ ”

“So I started going out meeting the composers,

finding works to publish. We developed

the Elmer Iseler Choral Series, 100

titles, all Canadian. I’d call on the music

stores and find a piano method, let’s say, that

e v e rybody was buying and go after it.”

In the 1960s Bird redoubled his efforts at

catalogue building eventually securing the

print rights to huge homegrown hits like

Hagood Hardy’s “The Homecoming” and

Bobby Gimby’s “Ca-na-da,” which sold 75,000

copies. In the early ’70s church connections

helped Bird land one of the most lucrative

projects of his career, co-producing and publishing

the Canadian Catholic Book of

“John is a very bright, funny guy,” says one colleague, “and it

was always a pleasure to work with him. His common sense and

experience, leavened with his sharp sense of humour, make for

a class act all the way.”

Worship – Volume 1. Gordon V. Thompson

sold half a million copies of the pew edition

and 50,000 copies of the choir/organist version;

volumes two and three would duplicate

the success in the 1980s and ’90s.

In 1965, following the death of Gordon

V. Thompson, the company’s board of

directors appointed Bird president of the

operation. One of his major initiatives of

the period was to build the company a permanent

home. He cannily reserved the

third floor for a studio that was used to

showcase new titles and was made available

to groups like the Piano Te a c h e r s

Association, among others.

“ We let them use the space free of

charge,” says Bird, “and I made sure the

retail store was well-staffed when those folks

were due to be leaving. They’d come downstairs

and buy music books and whatever else

they needed for Continues opposite page

Music Publisher Canada / Summer 2001 7

QUESTIONS for Ron Proulx

Music supervisor Ron Proulx has published a 40-page booklet

titled “Get Your Music Into Movies and Television.” He spoke to

CMPA about the often competing interests of music publishers

and film/TV producers.

What motivated you to write the book?

Whenever I’d call an indie artist

about licensing their music they’d

always have a lot of basic, honest

questions and I found myself reciting

the same information over and

over again. I thought it would be

great to have some kind of guide

that would answer the typical 20

questions. So over the Christmas

period about two years ago I just

wrote it all down. We sell the book

and a database of music supervisors

and music executives online at

How many have you sold?

Well under a million. It’s inching

towards platinum sales.

Many music publishers feel that filmmakers

nickel and dime them for the use of their copyrights,

that music is an undervalued part of a


Music supervisors work with the budgets

we’re given and we do the best we can with

what we’ve got. You always hear about huge

licensing deals like the Rolling Stones’

“Start Me Up” being used by Microsoft, or

such and such a song getting $200,000 to be

used in a movie. There’s a perception that these

uses are worth a fortune. But in Canada, we’ve never had the budgets

to make content with super-high production values, not just on

the music end, but right across the board: Script, director, shoot

days, lighting, locations, everything. If I had my way, music in all

shows would represent at least 3 per cent of the total budget rather

than the 1 1/2 to 2 per cent it typically does get allotted.

Why are music budgets so low?

I’d rather see the glass as half-full. For many years there wasn’t any

money for music in most Canadian productions — the producers

would ask the score composer to write source music or they’d use

music library stuff. I think the fact that people are hiring music

supervisors to pay attention to the music is a good sign in and of

itself. Clearly people in this country are now paying way more attention

to music and that to me is a big victory.

Half-empty or half-full, music budgets are still only half as much as they

should be.

Supply and demand ultimately determines the price of the music. I

know loads of indie bands who probably can’t get record deals

because the handful of A&R reps in this country don’t see enough

potential in their music to make enough money from it. But they’re

perfect for my purposes — they’ve got good songs that are well

recorded. And because the act is indie, I know I can probably

license one of their songs for anywhere from $100 to $1,000. The

upfront money may not be great, but there may be backend performance

royalties down the road and the band can use the exposure

as a PR hook to gain attention and further its career.

That’s like broadcasters decrying performing rights fees because they claim

they’re providing exposure, which in turn sells records.

To me the choice is: You can license this song for a lower fee,

get some activity on the thing and raise the value of your copyright,

or you can take a pass and make nothing. If I were a

music publisher I’d be putting my music into anything and

e v e rything anytime anywhere. Because those perf o r m i n g

rights dollars add up and if anybody can appreciate that it’s

music publishers.

There are certain music publishers in this country who see

eye-to-eye with me on this, and their track record speaks for itself;

their revenue has gone up and the activity of their domestic roster

has gone up. And whether or not they’ve been able to secure a

recording deal for a developing artist, they’re still recouping some

of their advances through those placements in film and TV. If

they had held out for top dollar the deal would have gone south

and they’d be making zilch.

I think most of the Canadian publishers ‘get it’ but I think

the licensing divisions at their head offices nix the deals

because they think the numbers are too low. New York and LA

are calling the shots in many cases. And I’m like Pavlov’s dog,

if I get turned down a few times, pretty soon I don’t even

bother making the call. I just find an appropriate indie act

for the job or an affordable track by an artist without a major

music publishing deal.

But by doing so aren’t you forgoing the value of audience

recognition that top-drawer talent can bring to a scene?

I’ll go to a filmmaker and say such and such a

track is going to cost us six grand. He looks at me and

says, ‘Ron, I’ve never even heard of this band.’ So that’s the fight

I’m caught in sometimes. People who work in the film business

are often not really big music people and they don’t know if a

band is dead cool or not. And they don’t really care either.

They’re looking for name value or for low dollars on something

they’ve never heard of.

Doesn’t it come down to a fundamental debate about the value of music?

I think publishers put too much value on the music by their developing

artists. Everyone agrees on the value of the Beatles or the

Rolling Stones. But ultimately I think it’s better to license than not

to. If somebody thinks they’re cheapening their catalogue by allowing

a song to go out inexpensively, I don’t know that that’s the case.

If I were a music publisher I think I’d be more concerned about the

way a song is used in a scene rather than just focusing on the fee.

I’m surprised that money is doing all the talking.

I also wonder about value publishers attach to standards. The

people who know those songs are dying. And I think music publishers

should be all over their catalogues trying to get activity for

those old copyrights instead of treating them as cash cows. Because

I believe those songs are going away and if the publishers don’t

make an effort to reintroduce the songs to a new generation, the

value of those copyrights will erode all by itself. Those songs aren’t

getting played on radio.

Ron Proulx is principal of Ron Proulx International and of

The Rights Company. Contact him at

or visit

8 Music Publisher Canada / Summer 2001

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