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What is a SOCAN license?

A SOCAN license gives your business or organization, the freedom and flexibility to use virtually any music you want – legally, ethically, and easily. Without SOCAN, you would have to get permission and negotiate a royalty with every songwriter, lyricist, and music publisher whose work you intend to play, or to have publicly performed. Instead, SOCAN simplifies the process by allowing businesses to pay a relatively small fee, often once a year to play all the music their customers enjoy hearing. These fees are then distributed as royalties to music creators in Canada and around the world, through reciprocal agreements with similar music rights organizations in other countries. To learn more about our Licensed To Play program, visit our Music Users page.

How does SOCAN’s Licensed To Play program work?

Licensed To Play is a long-term program with a core objective of encouraging businesses and their customers to think of music as an instrumental aspect of their experience. By displaying the Licensed To Play emblem proudly, businesses affirm that they put music to work ethically and legally, and recognize that music adds value to their business and their customers’ experience. Staying current with a SOCAN license enables an organization to be “Licensed to Play,” and upholds its support for those who create the music that their customers love.

Why do I need a SOCAN music license?

A SOCAN license grants your business permission to use music in a specific way, and it’s quite straightforward to work with SOCAN to obtain the right license to play music. When a business uses music, it’s adding value by using the work of music creators and publishers. Those who composed, wrote, and published the song are entitled to be compensated for the time, effort, and money they put into the creation and promotion of that work when that music is played in public. In accordance with Canada’s Copyright Act, any public performance of copyright-protected musical works requires a license. When a song is played in public, music creators (not just the performers) are entitled to be compensated – it supports their livelihood. Without SOCAN, you would have to get permission from every composer, songwriter, and publisher of every musical work you intend to use in your business –a feat that most of us have neither the time nor the means to achieve. This permission isn’t granted when you buy a recording, whether through a CD, downloading, etc., which only allows you to privately use the purchased music. SOCAN simplifies this complex process for businesses through licenses. A SOCAN license grants your business permission to use music in a specific way, and it’s easy to work with SOCAN to obtain the right license to play music.

Which SOCAN license do I need to play music in my business?

SOCAN has music licenses that cover almost every type of music use in business. Your business may need more than one license, depending on how you use music (i.e., one for background music, one for live music, etc.). Learn more about SOCAN licensing here.

How are license fees and rates determined?

SOCAN license fees are set by the Copyright Board of Canada, an independent body appointed by the federal government. SOCAN tariffs and the associated fees take into consideration the value of music to a business. If music is integral to your business and/or event (i.e., a dance club, or a concert venue), then it's worth more to your business. The rates that are set by the Copyright Board of Canada reflect this value. Each year SOCAN files proposed tariffs with the Copyright Board. Interested parties are then permitted to submit objections to SOCAN's proposals within a limited time. If an objection or concern is raised concerning a tariff, the Copyright Board may hold a hearing. After hearings are completed and amendments are made, the Copyright Board publishes the approved tariffs in the Canada Gazette.

If I don't use Canadian-made music, do I still have to get a SOCAN license?

Yes. A SOCAN license gives you permission to use copyright-protected musical works of SOCAN members as well as members of affiliated international performing rights societies from around the world. Through agreements with international performing rights organizations, SOCAN issues licenses for virtually all music used in public by businesses in Canada. SOCAN then transfers the corresponding monies to the appropriate society, and vice versa.

What is a performing right?

A performing right is the right to perform musical works in public or communicate them to the public by telecommunication. SOCAN members have assigned this right to SOCAN to administer (i.e., license and distribute royalties) and enforce on their behalf. Tariffs for performing rights are set by the Copyright Board of Canada.

What happens to the license fees my business pays to SOCAN?

SOCAN is a member-based, not-for-profit organization. All the royalties that we collect – less operating costs– are passed on to our members, and members of SOCAN’s affiliated international societies, who create the music that you use in your business and at your events.

What is the difference between SOCAN and Re:Sound?

SOCAN represents the performing rights of songwriters, composers, and music publishers (the people who created the compositions that are embodied in sound recordings) in their musical compositions. Re:Sound represents the performing rights in the sound recordings of artists and record companies (the people who performed and recorded the compositions that are embodied

We already pay the performers. Why do we have to pay SOCAN?

When you hire a band or a DJ, you’re paying for their services as performing artists, but not for the public performance of the music, that is, for the people who created the music being performed. Performing music and creating music are two separate types of creative work, and each deserves fair compensation, even in cases where the performers are also the creators of the works.

I already paid for the music (i.e., purchased a CD or download), so why do I need a SOCAN license?

When you buy a CD, or download music from a legal site, you gain the right to play music in private, but not in public. A SOCAN license allows you to perform that music in public.

I rent my venue to promoters. Shouldn’t they be responsible for paying the SOCAN fee?

Both the owner of the venue and the promoter can be held responsible for the unlicensed performance.

I think my event might qualify for a charitable exemption. What is my next step?

Section 32.2(3) of the Copyright Act allows for exemption from SOCAN license fees in the case where there is a performance in public of a musical work in furtherance of religious, educational or charitable objectives. Only performances by religious, charitable or fraternal organizations and educational institutions are eligible. For more information, see Examples of performances that would qualify for an exemption and complete the charitable exemption questionnaire.  If you have any further questions about SOCAN licensing, please contact us.

My songs have been performed internationally – what do I need to do?

First, make sure you’ve registered your songs with SOCAN. If they’ve been registered, then find out how (radio, TV, commercial, etc.), when (first air date), and where (country of performance) they’ve been publicly performed. You can refer to the Simplified Distribution Rules and scroll down to page 11 to see a chart of how, and on what kind of performances, the Top 12 international PROs pay. If your type of performance appears to be payable in the applicable territory, or if your type of performance and/or territory isn’t listed, please follow the instructions below on what to tell SOCAN. You can also learn more about international royalties by reviewing the SOCAN Around the World document, which can be found in our Creators’ Toolbox.

What is SOCAN’s claim process?

Once we receive notification from a member that they’ve not been paid for a use of music that they’ve created, we check that the type of performance being reported is payable in the applicable territory. Different territories have different distribution rules, and not all performances may be payable. If the use appears to be payable, we then check to see if we’ve received payments from the relevant performing rights organization (PRO) from the period covering the performance date. Most international PROs pay us at least one quarter behind our own distributions, and some, especially the smaller ones, may only pay us once a year, or less. If the performance should have been paid and the time-frame it was due has passed, or if it’s not clear whether the PRO pays on that particular performance type, we then submit a claim with that PRO. We send the relevant information provided by the member, along with a copy of the work registration, and request payment. We continue to follow up on these claims until either payment is received, or we receive a satisfactory answer as to why it cannot be paid, from the PRO.

How far back can I claim royalties?

This depends on the policies of the PRO in the territory of use. However, three years is the standard set by CISAC (the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers). The sooner you notify SOCAN of a potentially missed payment, the better the chances are that we can recover those royalties for you.

Can I claim performance royalties if I’m arranging, orchestrating, transcribing or adapting a public domain work?

Yes. You can claim shares if the work is in the public domain. SOCAN's distribution rules provide for credits that may vary depending upon the nature of the arrangement.

How often are royalty payments made?

SOCAN makes royalty payments of $0.25 or more to its members on a quarterly basis, beginning February 15 of each calendar year. Members earning less than $500 per distribution quarter will only be paid through direct deposit into their accounts. Members who earn more than $500 in a quarter have the option of receiving their earnings by direct deposit or cheque.

How are royalties divided among co-writers, band members, producers and others?

Tell us how you want the royalties allocated, and we’ll make sure the royalties are sent in the percentages you’ve agreed to.

Does SOCAN issue advance royalty payments to members?

Yes. SOCAN does offer advances to qualifying members upon request. Advances are based on a consideration of a member’s past earning history, and the confirmation of any significant amount of money expected to be earned in the very near future.

How do I know where my music was played?

Your quarterly distribution statement includes information about the source of domestic radio, television, and live music performances.

Does SOCAN distribute royalties for music used in commercials?

SOCAN is currently building a web portal with detailed instructions on how to make claim for music used in commercials. In partnership with TuneSat, we commenced tracking music used in commercials on January 1, 2018. To learn more, read the latest update on the initiative, here.

Does SOCAN charge a processing fee on incoming international royalties?

No processing fees are charged on incoming money received from international societies.

Are there separate radio statements for census, survey and CBC?

No. All radio performances appear on one radio statement. Census, survey and CBC performances are distinguished as RCEN, RSUR or RCBC. If you have online statements, you will be able to drill down to see further details for each performance (e.g., the specific station).

What if I’m a member but my co-writer is not?

You can register the song, indicating the division of ownership shares, and we’ll distribute your portion to you. Your co-writer will, unfortunately, not collect until they join SOCAN or an affiliated international performing rights society.

How does SOCAN pay its composer and publisher members?

SOCAN collects license fees from businesses that use music in Canada. Revenues are also received from SOCAN’s international peers for the use of its members’ works around the world. All the royalties that we collect – less our operating costs – are passed on to our members and affiliated societies.

What does a music publisher do?

The music publisher is the business partner in a musical composition. A good music publisher has the knowledge and contacts to promote a song or composition. Typically, a publisher enters into an agreement with the songwriter, whereby the songwriter assigns partial ownership and control of their songs to the publisher, in exchange for a percentage of the income derived from the exploitation of them. A reputable publisher never charges a fee for his/her service. To learn more, review SOCAN’s Publishing 101 in the Creators’ Toolbox.

Does my membership with SOCAN expire?

Your membership will be renewed every two years automatically, unless you notify us in accordance with your agreement in writing that you wish to terminate your SOCAN membership.

How much does it cost to become a member of SOCAN?

For music creators, membership is free when applying online. For music publishers, there’s a one-time membership processing fee of $50 (plus applicable taxes).

What is SOCAN?

SOCAN is a not-for-profit music rights organization that connects more than four-million music creators worldwide, and more than a quarter-million businesses and individuals in Canada. More than 150,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers are its direct members, and more than 100,000 organizations are Licensed To Play music across Canada. With a concerted use of progressive technology and unique data, as well as a commitment to lead the global transformation of music rights with wholly-owned companies Audiam and MediaNet, SOCAN is dedicated to upholding the fundamental truths that music has value, and that music creators and publishers deserve fair compensation for their work.

Who does SOCAN work with?

SOCAN works with music creators and publishers, Canadian businesses and events, and other music rights organizations worldwide. We work to ensure that our more than 150,000 members – songwriters, composers, and music publishers, and the hundreds of thousands of creators and publishers from around the world – are compensated when their music is broadcast or performed in public. We serve and champion music creators and publishers, advocate for them, and protect their rights.

How am I paid for my live-music performances?

To receive concert royalties, you must complete and submit a Notification of Live Performance (NLMP) form, along with proof of your performance (e.g., a ticket stub, program book, contract, etc.). SOCAN Members have up to one year from the date of the performance to submit this information to SOCAN. Once we receive the license fee payment from the promoter and/or venue, you can expect to be paid through SOCAN’s quarterly distribution.

Are there any tax implications for me if the concert occurred a few years ago and I’m being paid now?

In Canada, you pay taxes only on income received in that time-period.

What are “Unidentified Concert” performances?

SOCAN maintains a list of Unidentified Concert Performances in the members’ secure section of socan.com. Simply log in, then go to SOCAN Performances & Repertoire, select Unidentified Performances, then select concerts with no set lists. We encourage you to search that list for any concerts where you believe your music was performed, and for that matter, any other unpaid concerts of which you may be aware. We need your help to get you paid.

Where should I submit my set list/concert notification?

There are a number of ways to do that, and SOCAN is here to help. Log into your account and check the Unidentified Concerts List. If you find a concert you’ve played that’s been filed with SOCAN but doesn’t have a set list, follow the steps to provide your set list in order to get paid. If you have “no shows” on the Unidentified Concerts List but have played a show within the past year, that you want to get paid for, visit our Creators’ Toolbox page to access and complete the “Notification of Live Music Performance” form. For more information, review our Concerts 101 document in the Creators’ Toolbox.

How long do I have to submit a concert?

The sooner we can identify what was performed, the sooner we can get the royalties to the right people. But we will not distribute or release any funds until we know where they should rightfully go. You have one year to report a new show you performed if it's not on the Unidentified Concerts List. Once we know the titles of the music that was performed at the concert, the rights holders will receive their deserved shares of royalties for any performance of their music at any licensed event. The Unidentified Concerts List covers performances up to three years old.

What is Public Domain Music?

In Canada, a song or composition enters the public domain 50 years after the year of the death of the last surviving writer/composer/author of the work. No fees are typically due if all the songs or compositions in a performance are public domain. You’re responsible for submitting a program to SOCAN for final determination.

When is a performance a grand right versus a small right?

SOCAN represents the "small" performing rights in songs and compositions. When they’re used in theatrical shows and/or operas that combine the music with staging, dialogue, and costuming, it’s referred to as a "grand" right. Anne of Green Gables by Norman Campbell, and The Nutcracker by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, are both productions which have "grand" rights. To obtain a grand right license, you must contact the publisher of the songs and compositions.

How much should a publisher pay to use a song?

Unfortunately, SOCAN is unable to provide any business or legal advice. It is not the organization's role, and you would best be served by a lawyer, business consultant, manager or agent acting on your behalf.

What is "fair dealing" or "fair use"?

The Canadian term "fair dealing" is similar but not the same as the American term "fair use." In Canada, it means that copyright is not infringed when a part of a work is used for private study, research, education, parody, satire, criticism, review or news reporting. The exact amount of any particular work that can be used and still be considered fair dealing is an issue dealt with by a judge.

How do I copyright my work?

Copyright is inherent upon the creation of a musical work, but there is actually only one way to officially “copyright” your works in Canada, and that’s through CIPO (Canadian Intellectual Property Office).  Sending a copy to yourself is not “copyrighting” your works, but helps establish the date you claim the song came into existence.

How long does a copyright last?

In Canada, copyright generally lasts for 50 years after the author (or the last surviving author) dies. However, there are exceptions. Copyright laws are different in other countries and the term of copyright may vary.

How do I obtain permission to record a song?

Anyone wishing to copy a song must first seek the permission of the copyright owner(s) by obtaining some mechanical or reproduction rights license.

How do I obtain permission to arrange or adapt a song?

If you wish to arrange or adapt an original copyright-protected musical work, you must obtain permission from the copyright holder of that work.

How do I obtain permission to sample a song?

Using any samples without permission of the original copyright owner may constitute copyright infringement. In that case, both the copyright owner of the recording of the song or composition, and the copyright owner of the song or composition itself, must grant permission.

How do I register a band name?

Consider registering the name as a trademark with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). Ask an intellectual property lawyer for more information.

I had a performance on a census station, but I didn’t get paid for it. What happened?

A song must be registered with both SOCAN and BDS in order to be paid in the current distribution. A song identified in the performance data provided by BDS that has not been registered with SOCAN will be categorized as “unidentified” until it is identified, at which time payment will be processed. Although BDS has a very high rate of song identification (96 percent), there are cases where a song is not initially identified in the performance data. BDS then reviews approximately two weeks’ worth of radio tapes, and checks back with various stations, in an effort to identify as many additional works as possible.

How accurate is the information that BDS supplies?

BDS encodes (or “fingerprints”) songs received from radio stations, record labels, managers, publishers, songwriters, etc. BDS identifies approximately 96 percent of the songs aired on applicable stations. That information is 100 percent accurate.

How do I ensure that my songs have been registered with BDS?

Check with your record label or management to determine whether your songs have been sent to BDS. If you’re still uncertain, you can contact BDS by e-mail at clientservices@nielsen.com .If your songs are not currently registered with BDS, visit www.nielsen.com.

Does BDS send registered songs to radio for airplay?

No. BDS tracks radio airplay. It doesn’t submit music to radio stations for airplay.

My relative was a SOCAN member, and I am their executor (or beneficiary). What do I need to do?

Please contact SOCAN to speak with a representative from our Membership department.

Is SOCAN only able to license internet services located in the Canadian territory?

SOCAN has the right to seek license fees from any Internet service that communicates musical works in the territory of Canada, no matter where the transmission originates. As long as the communication has a “real and substantial” connection to Canada, the service responsible for that communication requires a SOCAN license.

What is the methodology for the payment of internet royalties?

Data suppliers provide SOCAN with their usage data. All source data is gathered and summarized. Thresholds are applied and records above thresholds are processed for distribution. The amount of money per performance is calculated based on the distributable pool amount and the number of performances, similar to traditional distribution methodologies.

How do Internet performances appear on the member-royalty statements?

Internet statements include domestic performances from YouTube, Apple, Spotify, Google Play and other streaming services. We also have an Internet Audio-Visual statement that includes domestic performances from Netflix, and Ilico.

Why does SOCAN pay internet royalties only for works that receive 500 or more performances?

Due to the vast number of performances processed and the distributable amounts of money, the value of a singular internet performance is estimated to be a fraction of a penny. Through thorough analysis of the available usage data and estimated pool amounts, SOCAN is able to derive that 500 performances would result in an earnings amount that is distributable. Therefore, performances are summarized so that 100 actual performances will be represented by one performance on statements, and we have set a minimum threshold of five summarized performances (representing 500 actual performances) for a payment to occur.

Why is the value per performance lower than traditional revenue streams?

The value per performance is lower than traditional revenue streams, such as radio, because the number of performances processed is significantly higher and the internet revenue is much lower. Each performance online is “broadcast” to one person at a time, whereas each performance on radio, for example, may be broadcast to hundreds of thousands of people at once.