CM In Depth

ACTRA RACS, Artisti & MROC: Which Is the Right Choice for You?

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Canadian Musician.

By Michael Raine

Back in 1997, a significant change was made to the Copyright Act of Canada that altered the equation for public performance royalties, which are paid when a recorded song is used on TV, radio, movies, ads, or in public performances. The change made the equation more complicated, but also fairer. It essentially, for the first time, allowed featured musicians and vocalists, background and session musicians/singers, and record labels to collect a share of performance royalties from the public use of recorded songs. Prior to this amendment, only credited songwriters and publishers earned performance royalties.

Prior to 1997, SOCAN was already established to collect and distribute performance royalties to songwriters, composers, and publishers. But since performers and labels were newly-granted the right to earn performance royalties, new entities had to be created. This resulted in the creation of the Neighbouring Rights Collective of Canada (NRCC), which is now called Re:Sound. In order to collect their earned performance royalties, musicians must sign up either directly with Re:Sound, or with one of its three member organizations. Those organizations are: the Musicians’ Rights Organization of Canada (MROC), the Recording Artists’ Collecting Society (ACTRA RACS), and Artisti. These organizations also work with the Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC) to pay out the money collected from the levy on blank CDs and cassettes.

This means musicians have a choice to make about which is the best fit for them. And so, with that in mind, we’ve reached out to representatives from ACTRA RACS, Artisti, and MROC to find out what differentiates the organizations and help musicians make the right choice for them.

ACTRA Recording Artists’ Collecting Society (ACTRA RACS)

ACTRA-RACS
Pictured (L-R) Top: Kevin Lynn, Benjamin Reinhartz, Maria Pettler, Clare McCarthy & Bonnie Fedrau; Bottom: Christine Allenby, Kortnee Borden, Laurie McAllister, Andrew Karis & Michi Waddell

Answers provided by Laurie McAllister, Director of ACTRA RACS

CM: What fee does ACTRA RACS charge members, and/or what percentage of an artist’s collected royalties does it keep?

McAllister: There is no fee to register and be represented by ACTRA RACS; we deduct an admin fee only when royalty payments are received and processed. As a not-for-profit, we operate on a cost-basis, meaning our fee is structured to cover the costs involved with collecting and distributing these royalties. As the rates vary depending on the year or type (i.e. domestic vs. international), please give us a call for our current admin fees.

CM: What differentiates ACTRA RACS from Artisti, MROC, and Re:Sound?

McAllister: The core function of ACTRA RACS, Artisti, and MROC are similar: collecting and distributing royalties for performers appearing on sound recordings in Canada and abroad. We encourage performers to call us, and talk to other performers, to determine which organization will provide the level of service that meets your needs.

All three performer CMOs work with Re:Sound, the umbrella music licensing company in Canada, which was established in 1997 as the NRCC by five members: performer collectives ACTRA RACS, Artisti, and MROC, and the associations representing record labels, Connect and SOPROQ. On behalf of its members, Re:Sound files tariffs with the Copyright Board to establish royalty rates, and collects the royalties from broadcasters and public venues.

CM: For a young performing artist looking to join one of the PROs, what should they consider in making their decision? Why may or may not ACTRA RACS be the best option for them?

McAllister: For any recording artist – young or old – it is important that you register with one of the three organizations in Canada that can represent you as a performer. If not, you could be missing out on this vital source of revenue – revenue that could allow you to spend more time working on your craft.

ACTRA RACS is well-suited to represent recording artists for a variety of reasons:

  1. ACTRA RACS collects royalties from over 40 territories around the world. Our international team continues to enhance our service to ensure that artists are covered for the use of their recordings – everywhere. With more and more Canadian artists receiving airplay abroad,
    it’s becoming more and more critical for artists to uncover every last international penny to help sustain their career.

  2. The team at ACTRA RACS is passionate about music. We’re a highly experienced group who come from varied corners of the music industry. From ex-touring musicians, A&R and label reps, to data specialists and music supervisors, our team has a wealth of collective knowledge and experience. Whether it be working to enhance the efficiency of our data and matching algorithms, or simply updating our member’s address, we’re committed to helping ease the process of collecting royalties and always strive to bring our members the best service possible.

  3. As a division of ACTRA, we have a long history of protecting performers. Collectively, ACTRA and ACTRA RACS advocate on behalf of all performers to protect and extend their performance rights and ensure fair payment for the use of recorded performances. Some of our recent efforts are well represented in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage Report: Remuneration Models for Artists and Creative Industries in the Context of Copyright.

  4. ACTRA RACS represents tens of thousands of recording artists and has distributed over $100 million. We have a diverse group of members – from international pop stars to new and emerging artists from all genres of music. Registering with ACTRA RACS is not only about getting paid for your plays, it’s also about joining a community of artists working together to ensure that all artists are paid fairly for the use of their work.

Musicians’ Rights Organization of Canada (MROC)

MROC
Pictured L-R: MROC's Matt Craig, Diana Barry, Daniel Fan & Heather Brunstad]

Answers provided by Diana Barry, Managing Consultant at MROC

CM: What fee does MROC charge members, and/or what percentage of an artist’s collected royalties does it keep?

Barry: MROC is a registered not-for-profit organization so the fees we deduct are solely
to cover our operating costs. There is no fee to register or maintain your membership with us. A 15 per cent administrative fee is applied to domestic royalties while foreign royalties have an administrative fee ranging from zero to 8.5 per cent, depending on the territory.

CM: What differentiates MROC from ACTRA RACS, Artisti, and Re:Sound?

Barry: ACTRA RACS, Artisti, and MROC all distribute the same royalties, so performers should be sure that they register with just one of these organizations!

MROC, unlike RACS and Artisti, is a federally-incorporated not-for-profit organization run independently by a board of directors made up of musicians and industry representatives serving musicians and is not part of or owned by a union (ACTRA in the case of RACS and Union des Artistes in Artisti’s case). That said, we do work closely with the Canadian Federation of Musicians and American Federation of Musicians and through this partnership we can offer our members access to exceptional instrument and equipment insurance.

From a musician’s perspective, what most sets MROC apart is our approach. We’re not only committed to a high level of service, but are always looking for ways to simplify the process for musicians to receive their royalties, and are continuously improving the software and systems we use to manage all of our data. Some of the things that we’re most proud of are:

• Our online portal, where members can easily see exactly what is registered at any time, as well as update their catalogues and view their payment statements
• Our extensive and personalized assistance to individuals at all stages of the process
• Our active research and use of data from many sources, including other performers’ rights organizations and our joint international repertoire database to maximize royalties for registered musicians
• Our continued dedication to connecting all musicians, whether featured artists or background and session musicians, to the royalties due to them in Canada and abroad.

We work with Re:Sound to connect musicians to their Canadian and U.S. royalties… They do the work of appearing before the Copyright Board to establish royalty rates (tariffs) and of collecting those royalties, while MROC, Artisti, and ACTRA RACS provide the multitude of services necessary to get royalties into the hands of musicians.

While Re:Sound accepts direct registrations from performers/musicians, this is not the focus of their activities. As well, Re:Sound does not have the range of international agreements that MROC, Artisti, and ACTRA RACS have in place, which limits the royalties they can pay to musicians.

CM: For a young performing artist looking to join one of the PROs, what should they consider in making their decision? Why may or may not MROC be the best option for them?

Barry: We like to think that MROC is the best
option for musicians for three reasons:

  1. We are very accessible. MROC’s online portal allows musicians to easily keep track of their repertoire and statements, which can be especially helpful if you’re a touring musician out on the road. We answer your questions promptly – whether by phone, email, or social media. Our processes are designed to make your life as stress-free as possible.
  2. We are directly governed by musicians. Moreover, musicians who receive regular royalties from MROC vote for a dedicated director on our nine-person board. Canada has a unique music ecosystem, and musicians’ voices and opinions are important to us.
  3. We are just as committed to background musicians as featured artists.

Artisti

Artisti
[Pictured L-R: Artisti's Michel Lambert, Evelyne Boisvert, Julien Gagnon, Annie Morin, Ali Mafi & Paul Traunero]

Answers provided by Ali Mafi, Distribution Coordinator at Artisti

CM: What fee does Artisti charge members, and/or what percentage of an artist’s collected royalties does it keep?

Mafi: Artisti charges 15 per cent for Canadian royalties for private copying and equitable
remuneration, and 20 per cent for reproduction. For international royalties, Artisti charges from zero (France, Belgium, Japan, Germany, etc.), to 2.99 per cent (U.S. SoundExchange royalties), to 7.5 per cent (U.K., Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, etc.).

CM: What differentiates Artisti from ACTRA RACS, MROC, and Re:Sound?

Mafi: Artisti is the only collective to offer its members the option to manage their exclusive reproductions rights and exclusive rights. Artisti is the only collective to have its entire team proficient in both official languages (French and English). Artisti is the only collective that’s not based in Toronto (we’re in Montreal). Artisti collects royalties for its members in more than 45 countries around the world. Artisti strives to improve its service offerings, and invests in its systems, both on the internal side and on the client side (members portal).

CM: For a young performing artist looking to join one of the PROs, what should they consider in making their decision? Why may or may not Artisti be the best option for them?

Mafi: At the end of the day, the artist should go to the PRO they are the most comfortable with. It could be location; choose a PRO that’s close to their homes or studios or workplace. It could be language – I could see why a francophone artist would prefer to be served by a francophone staff. It could be personal preference with the representative of one of the organizations.

Artisti could be the best option for them for the different types of rights it manages and the service in both languages offered by a bilingual, dynamic, and friendly staff that truly loves music.


Michael Raine is the Senior Editor of Canadian Musician magazine.

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Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Canadian Musician. He is also a co-host of the popular Canadian Musician Podcast. www.canadianmusicianpodcast.com