Know your rights and more: a discussion with Julia Train
“Passion for the music business” is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about Julia Train. When she’s not travelling and informing artists about neighbouring rights, she’s attending shows and supporting artists. If you haven’t met her at an industry event, hopefully this article will give you some insight about Julia and her passion.
Sam: Tell us about yourself and how you started in the music industry.
Julia: It goes back to the age of three, when I started training on classical piano. I trained until I was 17. I could play technically, but I wasn't a natural musician with composition, so when I needed to decide what I wanted to do for a living I decided to go to the Harrison Institute and study recording arts management. When I graduated, I joined the CMRRA [Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency], working with online licensing. After six months, I was promoted to work in royalties and representation, where I did a lot of digging and research to pay out monies that were sent to the CMRRA but were meant for non-members or other societies. I did a stint at FACTOR for three years, working on submissions and community outreach. After that [I moved to] MROC [Musicians’ Rights Organization Canada], which had just recently become an independent entity. They used to be a division of the American Federation Music, or what's now considered the Canadian Federation of Musicians. They were re-structuring as an independent collective. I started there right from the ground up. It was me and the CEO. The two of us started plugging away to develop a database and build a staff.
Sam: It looks like you have two different skills. You were an artist first, then you turned into an administrator. A right- and left-brain person. Do you consider yourself a creative person?
Julia: Yes, but not in the traditional sense. In terms of what I've done with MROC, I think I'm more out of the box. Just because it's an administrative function, it’s really important for the organization to engage the industry for support. When there wasn't any community outreach, there wasn't a lot of participation in the program. In the last five years, I’ve been all over the world promoting the program. Being out there is very important. It's really been instrumental to MROC to be present at events and always trying to help out and be present for artists so they can reach out to and talk to us.
Sam: What is MROC?
Julia: MROC distributes neighboring rights royalties. It's called a neighboring right because it “neighbors” to the SOCAN tariffs. If you're the songwriter or composer, SOCAN will take care of you; the neighboring rights is for performers. There are two parts to it. It doesn't matter if you wrote the song – as long as you've played on the song, whether it’s [as part of] the main band or as a sessions player who came in. It applies even if you're a producer that's gone in and added performances to the song. I like to call it the acoustic contribution to the sound recording. There are two revenue streams for an artist that's doing it themselves [songwriter and performer].
Sam: Most artists produce their own records and own their own master, so they will be entitled to the neighbouring rights?
Julia: Yes, if they wrote it, performed it on a sound recording and own the master recording, which will result in three revenue streams. They are paid out by SOCAN, MROC and CMMRA.
Sam: How do they get the neighbouring rights?
Julia: By registering with us. The registration process is free, and it's really important. It's a one-time thing. I always tell artists, whether they’re a recording/performing artist, a visual artist or a musician. If you want make art in your own living room for yourself, that's wonderful, but if you’re going to be a professional, you have to run it as your own business. If you're a professional musician, this is something that you've made. It's like being a farmer – you've grown that crop, and you’ll do everything to make sure you protect your crop. You have to protect your rights. Yes, it's a little bit of administrative work, but in the end we’re [MROC] here to protect your copyright. We’re going to make sure you're getting paid for it. There are organizations that are always lobbying for better terms and working hard to get terms in place. You never know when an artist will gain momentum. So as soon as you record something, you should be ready. You should be registering it.
Sam: Are there other organizations similar to MROC in Canada?
Julia: Yeah, there's three: MROC Musicians’ Rights Organization Canada; ACTRA RACS [Recording Artists’ Collecting Society]; and ArtistI [La Société de gestion collective de l’Union des artistes]. The reason why there are three is mainly due to a historical reason: we all do the exact same thing. When neighboring rights were established in Canada, there were three unions lobbying for the right to distribute them. There was CFM, ACTRA, and the Actor’s Guild in Quebec. They were allowed to start their own collectives, so that's how it happened. RACS is still with ACTRA, and MROC was with CFM [Canadian Federation of Musicians], as it's called now. Because 50% of the artists were not union members, it was deemed that MROC should be independent, so it's the only collective that's [composed of] musicians working for musicians.
Sam: Are you guys in competition with each other?
Julia: Absolutely not. I think all the other collectives will agree that it's very hard to get these rights out to help musicians, and that's the objective. If you're getting your neighboring rights, you're getting paid for something you own. All the collectives do the exact same thing. We all have the same admin fee, and we all have the same philosophies. We all encourage musicians and artists to know how to collect their rights, and there's plenty of work to help the artists and musicians. If you think about it, there are songs that we've worked on that come from the ’70's, where you had 15 to 20 performers on it. We have to find them all and pay them all – and that's for just one track. Not that we’re scrambling, but there's a lot of work to be done with neighboring rights. It's a very young, and it's going to take all three of us, including Re-sound, to do licensing and lobbying on our behalf. We have to work together. We all send in our claims together, and they have to match. The music industry is always in a state of evolution and figuring out how to keep up with technology and the evolution of different formats and music usage.
Sam: What are your thoughts on the evolution of music?
Julia: Look, if you look back to when radio was introduced to consumers, there was this panic that people would not go to live shows, yet live music still exists, and so does radio. When TV became mainstream, there was panic that radio was going to become obsolete, but it is still here. In the music industry, we’re always evolving, always fighting, and always trying to compensate everyone and keep ourselves relevant. Radio versus music videos on MTV and MuchMusic was an evolution that we went through in the ’80s, and then we went through Napster and the free downloads. Now we’re going through another evolution, where it's the download versus streaming, and streaming is a service where you pay for one fee versus paying per song. It’s going to be interesting to see how we come out on top and compensate musicians and artists. That's why you have to love the music industry to be in it.
Sam: Is streaming the next thing?
Julia: Yeah, my kids get all their music from YouTube. It's a big one. At the same time, you're also seeing the millennials going back to wanting something tangible. My daughter went to HMV and bought herself a little $50 record player and she's buying vinyl and listening to our collection of records. Also, the internet is providing them with history about some of the greatest artists, so they are also exploring older music.
Sam: Does MROC have a marketing strategy?
Julia: Not per se. I mean, the biggest thing is just being present and doing as many partnerships with people/organizations that are like-minded, such as the Unison and Benevolent Fund. We’re just five years old, so we are still building everything. If anything, the marketing strategy we apply involves doing a lot of mentorships and taking part in panels where we answer questions. I did one with SOCAN and Music Newfoundland & Labrador, where Tim Hardy from SOCAN and I got up and did a real-time assignment where we were the musicians. We launched the website to log in and file and register; the greatest thing about that exercise was all the musicians got to see how it works, and we were able to explain each field in the registration process.
Sam: What are the keys to success for artists and music businesses/organizations?
Julia: There isn't a lot of fortune or accolades. We have to work as efficiently, and as cheaply as possible in terms of running an organization or a business. You have to wear many hats. You have artists that have to work multiple jobs. The majority of us have to do more than just the job we’re hired for. It's interesting, the skill set you need to have to go from being the administrative person to being creative. When I started recording arts management, I had no idea I was going to end up in royalties and working for funding. I thought maybe I'd work for a record label in marketing or PR. You never know. My brother works in digital marketing for a pharmaceutical company with all types of departments and positions. He saw how we were structured and told me that there are departments that do the PR and social media. In some companies those are departments on their own. So you have to just learn it.
Sam: Are you still finding musicians who don't know you guys exist?
Julia: Absolutely yes. There are new musicians, there are legacy artists that were in it 20 years ago. We are looking for people who played on recordings as far back as 50 years. We pay out, retroactively, neighboring rights as far back as 1998. Wealso distribute private copying money as far back as the 2000s. Private copying comes from the blank CD or cassette levy that manufacturers of CDs and cassettes have to pay. The levy is then distributed back to musicians, who recorded the music in Canada. If you recorded it in the United States, but it was funded by a Canadian, it's also eligible. The only territory that doesn't have neighboring rights is the United States. If it's an American label, with an American artist, financed by American, then we can't pay them. Now, a lot of artists want go work in LA, Nashville or Memphis, but if it’s with a Canadian label for example, then it becomes eligible. Also, Americans or international artists that record in Canada are eligible for neighboring rights. You're seeing some artists who are starting to pick up on this, because artists are getting a source of revenue that they wouldn’t have otherwise received as an American.
Sam: If I was an American artist, I could come up here and record it. If I get radio play up here, then I would get a cheque?
Julia: As long as the album is recorded here, then yes. Also, they could go and record it in Europe. Canada and Europe are the main territories.
Sam: How would US artists get paid?
Julia: They would have to sign up to MROC or with all of the other collectives in Canada. We have international artists that are signed up to our organization. It's not necessarily the Canadian content, or who paid for the recording. It’s where it was recorded. All the collectives, not just in Canada but, in Europe. They can sign Canadian artists as well. We all have mandates to represent artists throughout the world, so it's more of a global thing we’re doing here.
Sam: Where do you think the industry is heading?
Julia: Music is never going to die. With the evolution of all these new technologies, it’s going to move paid music consumption forward. The industry has evolved completely. In the ’70's, the industry was working in millions of dollars, and now we’re working with micro-pennies. I think we’re just in transition, an evolutionary stage right now. We just have to gauge what's going on, and figure it out. I have no idea what’s going to change from year to year. I'm an optimist. There are so many intelligent people who are really dedicated and passionate, which gives me faith that we'll figure it out. The great thing in the Canadian industry is that we’re all working together.