When composers sign contracts with Cypress they read: “In respect to mechanical royalties and collected performance royalties (SOCAN), i.e. CDs, television program libraries, motions pictures and synchronization manufactured by anyone other than CCM, an amount equal to 50% (fifty percent) of all receipts shall be paid to the Composer/Arranger.”

Background – some story-telling from your friendly editor:

In 1975 Larry Nickel joined “The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada” (SOCAN) – back when it was called CAPAC – an acronym for “Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada”. Can you spot the hippy in the photo? I was in an acoustic coffeehouse band and we made two studio albums (sample here if interested).  We registered all of our songs in case we might recieve some radio play. Our albums sold at concerts but our annual proceeds from SOCAN didn’t amount to a church-mouse-bread-crumb.


Larry is friends with Paul Janz would wrote the theme for a popular TV show (Knight Rider) and also several ads (e.g. Air Canada). Every time the show or an ad was broadcast, Paul earned a royalty – collected on his behalf by SOCAN. Plus he was a very successful pop-star – heard on the radio and TV regularly and internationally.  He was able to build a home and support his family on royalty proceeds – issued by SOCAN.
Larry worked with Delores Claman at Timbre One Sound Studios for a few years, writing/arranging vocals for jingles, in his early 20’s.  Delores wrote the “Hockey Night in Canada” theme song and became millionaire.
What about your CHORAL music?  Stations like CBC radio and CTV report everything they broadcast to SOCAN – and CBC radio still has “Choral Concert” on Sundays. Venues like Carnegie Hall, the Orpheum, the Winspear Centre, etc. are expected to submit play lists to SOCAN.
Choral music is not pop music – with a few exceptions.  e.g. The series “Outlander” featured a lovely choral arrangement and performance of “Skye Boat Song”. Alas – not ours! Enjoy this musical interlude.


Choirs are supposed to report their performances to SOCAN but, clearly, very few do.  The more “professional” choirs, those with paid staff members like the Vancouver Chamber Choir, are more faithful at reporting performances. SOCAN is really busy keeping track of royalties for artists like “Drake”, “The Weekend”,  “Shania Twain” and “Michael Bublé”.
 If a composer knows that his/her song was performed at a choir concert and reports the performance to SOCAN, SOCAN might look into it if they have the time.  But the composer needs to fill out forms and provide a copy of the program – and send it in to SOCAN.  (lots of paper work) When it is brought to their attention, SOCAN has been known to write a letter of chastisement to the “irresponsible” choir with a “Pay up!” message – but they have no substantial clout to back up the threat, even though they are a government organization.
Question: How much money should a choir pay to SOCAN? Apparently it is only 3% of gate (ticket sales) – and that 3% is pro-rated – divided among all the composers on the program. So, think of a choir in Whitehorse that garners an audience of 56 people – with 16 songs on the program – with ticket prices going for $20. (do the math)  Would it be worth your time to report the concert? Please don’t quit your day job.
Hollywood wanted a Cypress song, and the “Tenors” have recorded and performed some of our music for TV and on tour.  One of our Christmas selections was performed on the steps of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa – and the program was televised. These few instances reaped noticeable SOCAN results.
FYI: Cypress Publications are registered with SOCAN as 50/50 in most cases; (Composer/Publisher). This is standard in the industry. Become a member of SOCAN – it’s free – and obtain your membership number.  The Cypress number is 710703193. You need to register your song properly.
 FYI: SOCAN works in tandem with ASCAP, IBM and other similar collection agencies. (They report findings to each other)
 FYI: SOCAN issues royalty statements and “bank deposits” directly to the composer bi-annually.
We are living at a time when people can listen to any piece of music ever recorded for pennies! (Spotify, etc.) But please understand that Cypress needs to include this clause in the contract – because who knows what the future holds? It’s better to be prepared.  What if James Cameron wants your composition as the theme for the next “Avatar”?
Cypress has had several meetings with wonderful SOCAN staff members and we are trying to change the paradigm to be more choir friendly. Even Choral Canada is in on the discussion. If every choir in North America (for starters) became accustomed to reporting their concerts to SOCAN or ASCAP, we could all notice a difference.
I don’t claim that any of the above is gospel truth. But it’s been a frustration for Cypress for many years and our composers need to realize the whole picture. Let’s remain hopeful and optimistic!
 Dr. Larry Nickel