In Canada, Artists Are Earning Performance Royalties for Livestreams

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Here’s what SOCAN and other PROs are doing — or not doing yet — to boost royalties for at-home pandemic shows.

TORONTO — With Canadian artists off the road and performing virtual concerts on Facebook and Instagram, the performance rights organization SOCAN has created a new program, called Encore!, to help deliver royalties to performers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is retroactive from March 15 of this year until March 7, 2021.

Each online concert on Facebook/Instagram is eligible for a total payment of CAD $150 (USD $109), with the royalties split amongst all the rights holders of the music performed. Criteria-wise, the set must be at least 30 minutes in length or consist of 10 songs and have been viewed by at least 100 people (proven by a screenshot). Claims must be made within 90 days.

"Live performances on social media properties normally do not generate more than a few dollars in royalties for songwriters, composers and music publishers," it states in the press release. "Typically, royalties from music used on these platforms come from streamed and downloaded recorded music."

SOCAN has allotted $200,000 (USD $145,000) for each quarter.

"We're not aware of other music rights organizations conducting a similar initiative," interim CEO Jennifer Brown told Billboard in an email. "The SOCAN Encore! program is a special distribution from our Facebook license."

What About Other PROs?

Billboard reached out to other performing rights organizations outside of Canada to see if similar initiatives are available or in the works to help their members during this financially difficult time when live venues are closed and tours canceled, likely into 2021.

ASCAP members can submit setlists from their live-streamed performances on ASCAP-licensed platforms through their existing ASCAP OnStage program, which pays members royalties for shows at licensed physical venues and has been expanded to virtual ones due to the pandemic. All member writers and publishers listed on title registrations receive a royalty.

BMI does not have a such a program for self-reporting live-streamed performances "at this time," Jodie Thomas, executive director, corporate communications & media relations, told Billboard in an emailed statement, adding  "Given the circumstances, however, we're gathering information on what's trending in this space and researching the best options for BMI and our songwriters."

PRS For Music also doesn't accept submissions from its members for performances on any of the social media sites.

SACEM, in France, is about to announce a new live-stream renumeration, but did not have the information by publication time.

SESAC said it has been "offering its affiliates the opportunity to submit their online live-streamed sets as live performances (for compensation) for quite some time," said Sam Kling, the PROs svp of creative operations. "We view these as we would any live performance in a physical venue. If a SESAC song is performed live in front of an audience, our songwriters deserve to be compensated for it."

For SOCAN, the submission form has not changed. The "venue" must simply be marked as Facebook or Instagram. "SOCAN is in the process of adding more online platforms to the Encore! Program," the release states, and "is encouraging its members to submit set lists for all online concerts."

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