This is getting stupid

The music industry’s desperation is showing. Now they are trying to charge anyone and everyone to save their dying industry. SOCAN (The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) has sent a letter to dentists demanding that they pay a fee when they play music in their offices.

SOCAN claims that when businesses play music for customers in the office or even when callers are placed on hold, that a licence fee is owed. Music played for staff is okay, but the fee applies when customers benefit from the music playing. This could be applied quite broadly to include everything from doctors offices to clothing stores.

SOCAN doesn’t want to press charges. They are hoping businesses will voluntarilty come up with the cash. Yeah, right.

Maybe they’re on to something. I should send out invoices to local businesses for the oxygen they are taking out of the atmosphere. After all, if they and their customers are benefitting, and I don’t have as much oxygen, then I need to be compensated. Don’t worry, I won’t start suing anyone, but maybe they’ll voluntarily send me a cheque.


  1. Joe,

    You’ve worked for The Man, helping his machines create and run some of the biggest websites in the country. And you know that the three things that drive the biggest amount of traffic to a site are brand loyalty (a psychological relationship w/ the product), functional components (stuff to ‘do’) and content. My opinion is that all three of those can be boiled down to a single point, in that all of them are just variations of content.

    It’s been said (and proven) since WAY back in the day that Content is King online, and I personally believe that very strongly.

    When TSN was serious about building its traffic, how many people were on staff in the editorial department? There were actually FULL-TIME people who were hired to conceive and create engaging, interesting and compelling content that people would want to see, look forward to seeing, and return frequently to see. The value for the TSN audience was great, but not enough so to cover its cost in a time of limited online ad sales. So staff were cut (obliterated, actually) and TSN started buying wire feeds from providers like Reuters and CP.

    Of course, those feeds weren’t free because somebody had to pay to create them, but they were certainly WAY less expensive than creating all that content yourself. And controlling costs allowed TSN to take longer to build up their online business…

    We could talk about the evolution/devolution of Internet business models until we’re all blue in the face, but the root of my argument is that content has value to end-users (because it informs, educates or entertains them) and people who want to market to those end-users are willing to pay for that content in order to attract them. And the people who create the content obviously expect to get paid because they’re helping out the businesses who use their copyrighted material to make money. And it’s only fair for them to get their cut.

    Still with me? Good. Here’s the leap…

    I believe that it is no different for a website to license text and video content than it is for a restaurant to license music? In both cases, the content/service/product is being acquired to attract and retain customers and build a business. You wouldn’t consider putting someone else’s copyrighted work on a website without permission and fair compensation (we had long legal sessions on that issue…), so why should a restaurant not need to do the same?

    Do you know that all retail, hospitality and recreation facilites/establishments in Canada already pay licenses to SOCAN if they want to play music? Any time you walk into a place in Canada that is playing live (or recorded) music for the public, they are either licensed by SOCAN or in violation of Canadian copyright law.

    And on the same train of thought, a dentist who wants to advertise how comfortable their offices are to nervous customers will point to their wide selection of music that can be played on small headphones. If that music is being used to build their businesses, then isn’t it fair that they should pay a fee for the content which is allowing them to do this? When they buy their CD, they are just purchasing the rights to use it for PERSONAL purposes. Once they start expanding their usage, they have to renogotiate their contract.

    It’s sort of like digitizing video provided by a television partner and then posting it on the internet (even a streaming version) without discussing it with the content provider first. Would you do that?

    I do think the RIAA is going too far by attacking individiduals on a case-by-base basis, but SOCAN is not going too far with this action. They are defending MY rights (yes, I am a SOCAN member) as an artist, and helping ME make my fair share of revenue from the tooth-pullers who exploit my intellectual property to build their own businesses.

    And that’s how I see it. I hope you’re doing well.


    PS – My band, The Russell Leon Band, is playing at The Cameron House on Queen Street West (one block East of Spadina) on Thursday, October 30. You should come out. It’ll be a special halloween show w/ lots of guests (including trumpet, sax, harmonica, flute, etc…). We’re LOTS of fun and sort of sound like a cross between The Pogues and The Police.

  2. Okay, let’s take this to the next logical step. One of the reasons I go to my current dentist and doctor are because of the large selection of current magazines. My dentist keeps the latest issues of Canadian Business, Toronto Life, and of course US and People on hand. My doctor has Wired, Newsweek, and Men’s Health on hand. I figure if a professional can’t keep their magazines current, how can they possibly keep their equipment current?

    Now since one of the reasons I am frequenting those offices, is because the enviornment is friendly, up to date, and generally pleasant.

    So, should the magazine providers be charging my dentist and doctor higher rates? For that matter, if they are charging higher rates, how will that cost be passed on to me? If it is passed on to me, how will I recoup it?

    To be totally frank, I would rather live in a world where my dentist asked me to bring in my personal CD player than pay the record industry one damn red cent more than they get from me.

    Just my .02

  3. Brian,

    Magazines and music are completely different beasts. The metrics on advertising rates for space in print commonly takes into account the number of people who will read each issue and the publishers encourage sharing as much as possible in order to keep the rates high.

    The retail cost of CDs, while perhaps too high for consumers, is a license for individuals to use for personal purposes only. If people want to use them for other things, then they should pay for that expanded license.

    And of course the cost of that expanded license should be passed on to you, just like the cost of the magazine subscription, receptionist, and equipment is passed on to you.

    Read this for an understanding of why all of this is necessary:



  4. Jeff, I realize that artists, like yourself, deserve compensation for use of their music. I don’t disagree with that principle in the least. Where there is definately disagreement is with the value of that compensation, and whether a dentist playing music in their office has already given fair compensation.

    By your argument, I should be sending a cheque to SOCAN as I drive by an Iroq full of kids with their music on too loud. Many dentists simply turn on a radio where the radio station has already paid SOCAN for the rights to play the songs.

    For those that play CD’s, presumably they have “purchased” that music. I use the words “purchase” loosely, because I know that you haven’t actually bought the song, you have purchased a licence to that song.

    I would argue that “personal use” should have a sufficiently wide definition to allow my dentist, (and his 2 patients at a time, and his staff) to listen to it. The SOCAN fee’s don’t allow for small offices either. Their fees start at $90/year. You’d be hard pressed to prove $7.50/month of value there.

    Brian, thanks for your $0.02. I think that’s pretty close to what the artists get on a $20 CD.

  5. Screw it…if I owned a professional office, I’d just play works that are in the Public Domain, or spend the extra $20.00 on Royalty Free CD’s.

    Jeff, if you’re angry with the way that the recording industry has been treated, I’d suggest to look no further than the recording industry itself. The recording industry has dropped the ball on numerous occasions, and is more interested in playing a game of chicken little “The sky is falling, the sky is falling”, than it is of actually giving consumers what they want!

    Radio stations are so homogonized that the other day I changed the station in my car to four different stations when a Tragically Hip song came on…and 3 of the 4 stations (Edge 102, Mix 99, and Q107) were all playing Hip songs. It’s near impossible to find anything alternative in mainstream stores, and the mom & pop operations were driven out of the buisness 10 years ago. What we’re left with is racks and racks of Britney Spears CD’s which don’t sell because nobody wants to hear it anymore…and why should they? We just spent 4.5 hours in our car listening to the damn song on five different radio stations!

    Meanwhile, the first truly new method of distribution comes along in the form of P2P networking, and the record industry is so concerned with stemming the flow of free music, that they can’t see the tremendous marketing opportunity available to them (imagine if Napster had evolved into a service which kept the low quality free-for-all file sharing which was on the network, and additionally offered higher quality digitally protected songs for a fee, had entirely label controlled advertising, and mined user’s data for marketing purposes).

    In short, the recording industry should be doing everything it can to make itself more accessable, and more friendly to it’s consumers, not less.


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