As a lawyer who works for the most part with musicians, I often get asked, “SOCAN, SOPROQ, ARTISTI… What are they and who does what?” The following is an introduction to collecting societies and a brief overview of the most important three.

[There are, however, as many collecting societies as there are countries, including others in Canada].


From a practical standpoint, collecting societies are, among other things, a significant source of revenue. If you are not yet a member of one, your money may be sitting in their coffers!

What’s more, collecting societies simplify things for everyone.

As previously discussed, authors/composers are the primary owners of their musical works, makers of their sound recordings and performers of their performances. In other words, to perform a musical work or share a sound recording and/or artistic performance, one must obtain permission of said songwriter, maker and/or performer.

Imagine the nightmare of tracking down every single author, composer, performer and maker every time you want to use a song. Collecting societies act as an intermediary between users and rights holders.

Generally speaking (and I cannot emphasize how general this statement is!), collecting societies grant licences (i.e. authorizations to exploit a musical work) according to rates determined by the Copyright Board, then collect the money and pay their members in royalties.

** Important: Before you read further, be sure you understand what musical work, sound recordings (masters), author/composer, maker and performer mean in legal terms. You can read about them here.



The SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) is primarily responsible for compensating authors and composers (or publishers, as the case may be) when their musical works are performed, or broadcasted, to the public.


  • musical works played on the radio, TV, on the Internet, in a movie, in a bar, at a restaurant, shop, gym (etc.) [FYI, playing someone’s iPod music at a bar or other business without paying a licence to the responsible collecting society is formerly forbidden, despite it being a common practice!].
  • streamed music.
  • live performances of musicians playing their own work. This is why it is strongly advised that musicians fill-out SOCAN’s Notification of Live Music Performance form

In the summer of 2018, SOCAN also acquired SODRAC, now renamed SOCAN DR.

The SODRAC (Society for Reproduction Rights of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) was primarily responsible for compensating authors and composers (or publishers, as the case may be) when their musical works were reproduced, including “mechanical” royalties for physical copies. This is what SOCAN DR does today.

Reproduction also includes synchronization or “sync” royalties. [synchronization = when a musical work is synchronized to an image (advertisement, film, music video, etc.)] SOCAN DR can also handle this type of request for its members.

* It is important to note that membership to SOCAN does not by default make you a member of SOCAN DR – for SOCAN DR to handle your reproduction rights, a form must be filled-out!

** For your information, CMRRA is the Canadian arm of SODRAC; it is up to artists to decide between the two collecting societies.


  • The musical work is mechanically reproduced on a CD or vinyl;
  • The musical work is downloaded, meaning a copy is created;
  • The musical work is broadcasted on radio and TV stations – a first copy must be made to do so.
  • A producer requests to sync the musical work to their advertisement.


SOPROQ (the Society for the Rights of Quebec Independent Makers of Phonograms and Videograms) compensates sound recording makers when their master recordings or music videos are performed or communicated to the public by telecommunication (equitable remuneration) or reproduced.

** These royalties are called the maker’s neighbouring rights.


ARTISTI compensates performers for their public performances and when their performances are communicated to the public (equitable remuneration) or reproduced in a sound recording.

As a reminder, these royalties are called the performer’s neighbouring rights.

A NOTE ON SOUNDEXCHANGE: SoundExchange is an American collecting agency that collects royalties on behalf of makers and performers for the broadcasting of their works in the U.S via satellite radio, cable and Internet.

SOPROQ and ARTISTI (through Re:Sound) have arrangements with SoundExchange so that their members can receive their “SoundExchange royalties” in exchange of a management fee (*** makers and performers can also choose to exclude the United States from their SOPROQ and ARTISTI agreements and directly register with SoundExchange… they will, of course, assume full management and follow-up).

“Why are SoundExchange cheques (generally) bigger?” The U.S. market is larger; there are more subscribers to the services. It’s the law of large numbers!

:: As always, I am available to answer your questions by phone or email.


Translated by Emily Alberton

Photo by Yvette de Wit via Unsplash

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