Q&A with Ian Mackay, President of Re:Sound Music Licensing Company
CIMA President Stuart Johnston recently asked Ian MacKay, President of Re:Sound Music Licensing Company, to discuss his organization’s work on behalf of artists and record companies, and how independent labels can ensure they are compensated for their performance rights. Johnston is a member of Re:Sound’s board of directors, representing Canada’s independent music community.
SJ: For CIMA members not familiar with your organization, what is Re:Sound?
IM: Re:Sound is the Canadian not-for-profit music licensing company dedicated to obtaining fair compensation for artists and record companies of all sizes for their performance rights. We do this by licensing businesses to use music, including commercial radio stations, satellite radio, restaurants, gyms and just about any type of business that uses music. What that means for labels and artists is that Re:Sound advocates on their behalf, collects royalties from the businesses that use music and then distributes those royalties on a track by track basis.
SJ: How do Canadian-owned independent labels fit in into the Re:Sound mix?
IM: We represent indie labels and artists in all of our work. The independent community has a strong voice at Re:Sound. Let me use Re:Sound’s board of directors as an example. The board is comprised of two colleges: the performer college represents our performer member organizations, while the maker college has representatives from indie labels, as well as the three major labels. Currently, the indie label representatives on the Board include Gord Dimitrieff, Lyette Bouchard and yourself, which makes up 50 per cent of the record label representation on Re:Sound’s board. Indie labels are signed up directly with Re:Sound or they’re represented through CONNECT or SOPROQ.
We are also proud of the transparency in our operations – we publish an annual report that includes our fiscal results every year – so all rights holders, from the major labels to startups, can see they’re well-represented. After all, the money Re:Sound collects isn’t ours, it belongs to the artists and labels.
SJ: What is Re:Sound doing to increase payments to rights holders?
IM: We’re always looking for ways to increase the amount of money we collect, or “bring in” and likewise, increase the amount of money we “pay out” to rights holders as royalties.
To bring more money in, we launched Entandem, a joint licensing venture with SOCAN that allows businesses to pay their Re:Sound and SOCAN licenses in one place. This creates a “one-stop” shop and will grow revenues as more businesses secure Re:Sound licenses. Making licensing efficient and convenient encourages business to use music ethically, which results in greater royalties for artists and labels.
We’ve also worked closely with CONNECT to deliver more royalties to labels. By simplifying distribution methodology and eliminating duplicative processes, we reduced costs by one-third for the indie labels represented by Re:Sound and CONNECT and eliminated a layer in the distribution process for them. Indie labels signed up with Re:Sound (for performing rights) and CONNECT (for reproduction rights) can enter their data once, not twice, to obtain royalties collected by both organizations. This means more of every dollar goes to the label’s bottom line and less time spent entering data.
SJ: What about your advocacy work, and how can that help the indie community?
IM: Re:Sound advocates on behalf of all the rights holders we represent, indie and otherwise, to ensure they are fully and fairly compensated. Often this work is done in partnership with other music industry organizations, including through the Canadian Music Policy Coalition, Music Canada, ADISQ and CIMA.
We participated in the Copyright Act Review, where we joined other rights organizations to advocate for fair and effective copyright in Canada. We will continue to seek an end to the exemption of commercial radio stations from paying royalties to artists and record labels on their first $1.25 million in advertising revenue per station. We’re also seeking an end to the exemption of royalty payments to performers and creators when recordings are used in film and television soundtracks. These changes together would put about $53 million a year into creators’ pockets, where it rightfully belongs. It was rewarding to see these recommendations included in the Shifting Paradigms report from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and reassuring that Parliament and policymakers understand these issues and their importance to the Canadian music ecosystem.
SJ: Is there anything else in the works to increase payments in the future?
Entandem – as I’ve mentioned – is a part of the strategy to get more money in. While the Copyright Board sets the rates, Re:Sound advocates on behalf of member organizations and direct assignees to obtain fair rates to allow music creators to thrive and grow in Canada.
To get money out, more efficiently and at lower cost, we constantly look for best practices in other jurisdictions and for opportunities to make our own processes more efficient. Our work with World Independent Network (WIN), the organization connecting and supporting independent music trade associations globally, and IFPI, which represents the recording industry worldwide, on RDx (Repertoire Data Exchange) is a great example. RDx will create a single global data source covering both indie and major labels’ repertoire. Re:Sound is one of three international MLCs (and the only one from Canada) involved in testing RDx and contributing to its development. RDx will ensure Canadian labels get all the royalties they are owed, from wherever they are collected globally. And this will improve timeliness, accuracy and efficiency – which should ultimately return more royalties to rights holders.
In house, we’re ensuring our distribution systems can handle the huge increase in data. We processed more than 1.8 billion sound recording performances (plays) in 2018, a number that will grow this year. By processing data more efficiently (and accurately) we’ll remain best in class moving forward and get more money back to rights holders. This is an incredibly complex project but an important one for the organization and the rights holders we represent.
SJ: It sounds like some positive developments are in store for the future but, for today, what do our members need to do to get paid for their performance rights?
IM: To put it simply: sign up. Labels can sign up directly with Re:Sound or through our member organizations, CONNECT or SOPROQ. A good way to get started is to visit our website at www.resound.ca.
SJ: Is there anything else you’d like CIMA members to know about Re:Sound?
IM: I’d like to give a shout-out to the team at Re:Sound. Every single member of our team is committed to delivering more back to creators. Our core values – Fair, Performer and Maker Centred, Transparent, Efficient and Dynamic – represent this commitment and we live and work by them every day.
SJ: Ian, you recently announced that you’ll be leaving Re:Sound in the coming months. Any highlights?
IM: There are many, Stuart. As my tenure with the organization comes to a close, I know I will leave the organization in a strong place – we’ve achieved 250% growth in the past decade, expanded revenue sources and achieved significant cost reductions through efficiencies. In 2009, our international collections were zero, in 2018, they totaled $9.5 million. With the strong management team in place, I am confident Re:Sound will continue to grow, and the organization and its rights holders will continue to succeed.
SJ: Thanks, Ian, for sharing your insights with our members through this interview. As a Re:Sound board member, I can attest to the great work done by you and your team to include the indie community in decisions and initiatives that affect them, and for your efforts to maximize royalty payments to our members and all rights holders.