Part 1 of 2 Q+A with Terry OBrien of SOCAN; about SOCAN

MB: Can you tell me about SOCAN, when it started and what the company does?

SOCAN – aka the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada – is Canada’s Performing Rights Organization (generally referred to in the biz as a PRO)

SOCAN is a not-for-profit, member owned collective society. Our members are songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers.  SOCAN has over 100,000+ members.

SOCAN was created by a merger between the two previous Canadian PROs (CAPAC & PROCAN) in 1989/1990. CAPAC was established in 1925 and PROCAN (formerly BMI Canada) in the late 1960s. For more history go here:

SOCAN has reciprocal agreements with many other international PROs around the world and is a member of CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers –

SOCAN licenses music users in Canada for the public performance and communication right. This right is only one in the bundle of rights that comprises copyright as applied to musical works (i.e. compositions & songs). Songs & compositions are referred to as musical works (aka “a work”, “works”) in the parlance of the business.

NOTE: sound recordings are a completely separate category of copyright – which SOCAN does not represent, so one must always be mindful of this distinction. (see for info on Neighbouring Rights)

Licence fees are allocated to pools (i.e. audio/visual, radio. concert, general, etc.) according to the source, and royalties are paid to members and international affiliates for the performance/communication of their music, according to the SOCAN distribution rules.  SOCAN licenses music users in accordance with the Canadian Copyright Act under a system of tariffs as set by the Copyright Board of Canada.


More info on music copyright and tariffs here:

MB: What is the benefit in signing up with SOCAN?

The benefit is that the collective administration of copyright re: performing & communication rights, is the most effective and robust method for songwriters, composers and their music publishers to receive royalties for the use of their musical works on broadcast & cable TV, film, radio, live concerts, satellite radio and numerous other types of public performances and communication uses. Otherwise, it would be extremely difficult and impractical for an individual composer or publisher to track down payment for the use of their music. There is strength in numbers!

For music creators, joining SOCAN is usually a matter of when versus if.  Membership is free for songwriters and composers. Music publishers pay a small one-time fee to join. More info on applying for membership and the functions of SOCAN here:

For any questions about SOCAN and/or membership application, call toll-free (Canada & USA) 1 866 307-6226 or email us at:

MB: What kind of royalties does SOCAN collect?

SOCAN pays royalties for public performance and communication rights according to our distribution rules – which are available to members, for further reference, in the secure section of the SOCAN website. Members require a login name and password to access their account page.

At this time, the three main sources of performance royalties are for music used in TV and film (when the film is aired on TV), radio (commercial radio mostly) and live performances (concerts, festivals, bars & nightclubs).

Here is a summary of SOCAN’s 2011financial results;

SOCAN also serves as a distributor of private copying royalties to its members.  See for more info.

SOCAN does not license or distribute royalties for reproduction rights (i.e. print, mechanical, synchronization), nor for grand rights (theatrical and dramatic use).

MB: Are there any other benefits to being a SOCAN member?

SOCAN Representatives in Nashville and LA. Nashville and LA House provide free accommodation for up to two weeks for business and songwriting trips for members. Equipment insurance discounts. Discount on car rentals and travel accommodations. Member showcasing opportunities. Group banking program. Software, gear and merchandise discounts and discounts on recording studio rental

24 hour access to your account via the SOCAN mobile app

Get connected with SOCAN on social media – Facebook, Twitter & YouTube

For more information on any of these programs, please check out the Member Benefits page on the SOCAN website.

Read Part 2 of the article here: 

Posted in: Artist Consulting, Music Consulting, Uncategorized.