Despite a global pandemic that is wreaking havoc on public performance royalties worldwide, Canadian PRO giant SOCAN says its checks are getting mailed on time.
The reassurance comes after a troubling development at US-based public performance giant ASCAP, which has delayed songwriter payments for weeks as it sorts out its internal accounting. “Just to make sure that you are aware, SOCAN is operating at 100% and we fully expect to deliver on our planned May 15th distribution of royalties to members,” SOCAN’s Marketing Officer Andrew Berthoff proactively emailed us.
The reassurance follows the abrupt departure of longtime SOCAN chief Eric Baptiste, who announced his retirement just days ago. The sudden departure raised a few flags, especially since a replacement CEO isn’t in place. The empty chair suggests an abrupt push, one that would coincide with the massive shock to royalty flows created by COVID-19. But SOCAN assured Digital Music News that Baptiste’s exit wasn’t prompted by COVID-19 (though it should be noted that we never asked).
Either way, the news that SOCAN’s royalty-dispersement machine is unaffected will be reassuring to members.
Unfortunately, that’s not a given anymore, with ASCAP writers frustratingly being told to wait while executives continue to receive their salaries and benefits on time. Despite multiple inquiries, ASCAP has refused to disclose the compensation of top executives like CEO Elizabeth Matthews or President Paul Williams — though we’ve learned that both are being paid on time.
But despite recent drops in performance royalty accruals, most PROs worldwide are delivering royalty checks from months ago. Accordingly, in the case of ASCAP, the delay of a check from the third quarter of 2019 is raising some scary alarm bells, and prompting some speculation of a serious cash-crunch inside the mega-PRO.
But just like SOCAN, most PROs worldwide are paying on time. That includes SESAC and BMI, the latter of which paid its latest royalty checks three days early given the serious financial stress being felt by many songwriters. Across the pond, French PRO SACEM is not only paying on time, they’re sending millions in relief funds to affected songwriters and members. Last month, SACEM announced a $6.6 million coronavirus relief tranche, then proceeded to distribute $153 million in total payouts to its members.
Others are also rushing their payments to assist member songwriters, composers and publishers. That includes Swedish rights society STIM, which just opened a $5 million fund for advance payments to members. “It’s a difficult time for music creators, and we at STIM are doing everything in our power to support our members throughout the crisis,” said STIM chief executive Karsten Dyhrberg Nielsen. “Now, for a limited time, we are introducing an offer of advance payments.”
Back to SOCAN, Berthoff told us that the May 15th distribution covers both songwriters, composers, and publishers.
SOCAN has a membership of 160,000 songwriters, composers, music publishers, and visual artists. It manages royalties from more than 100,000 business and public spaces across Canada.