There are still too few Quebec songs in our television series

We hear more and more Quebec songs in our television series, but it’s still too few, according to players in the music industry. And this, even if a budget envelope has been released to allow producers to buy Quebec plays. Two years after the implementation of this measure, less than 40% of television projects that had access to it have taken advantage of it.

As part of its production value enhancement program, the Société de développement des entreprises culturelle (SODEC) pays an amount of up to $150,000 for the acquisition of rights to Québec musical works. This is what allowed Pixcom, among other things, to include 9 Quebec titles in the second season of The flawand 12 more in the series Sleepless night.

Unfortunately there is […] still this mentality that, if we put on Quebec songs, it lacks scope.

But these productions are not the norm. Only 18 television projects have taken the money on the table to integrate songs from here. However, 46 had access under this program.

“Of course it could be more, but it’s much better than 20 years ago. […] Unfortunately, there is also still this mentality that, if we play Quebec songs, it lacks scope. We have to break this! xavier [Dolan] still managed to put 14 Quebec songs out of 40 in its series, which is currently being broadcast in France”, points out Lucie Bourgouin, who was also musical supervisor for The night Laurier Gaudreault woke up.

A long way to go

Music supervisors are those who negotiate copyright release for movies and series, among other things. At the start of her career, in the 1990s, Lucie Bourgouin was one of the few to practice this profession in Quebec. The acquisition of musical works, moreover from Quebec, was then marginal. Then came Jean-Marc Vallée and Xavier Dolan, whose music occupies a central place in the work, which influenced a whole generation of creators.

Since then, we have undoubtedly heard more Quebec titles on television and in the cinema. This is known in the jargon as “synchros”, when songs are purchased to be synchronized with images in a production.

The revenues of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) from “synchro” have also increased by an average of 28% each year from 2019. “Given that the vast majority of works that we represent in synchro and that the majority of our clients are Quebec producers, we can conclude that the use of Quebec works is growing,” indicates the copyright collective management society.

Despite the improvements, some are of the opinion that we could do better to make our songs shine on the screen. “Sometimes I see things and I think it would have been much better if there had been music,” says music supervisor Joss Dumas.

Like his colleague Lucie Bourgouin, he does not believe it is a good idea to impose quotas for Quebec music in television programs and films. Everyone agrees that not all productions lend themselves to it. Sometimes it’s better not to add music at all to the timeline. Other times a foreign song is more apropos, as in satire Completely high schoolsupposed to take place in the depths of the United States.

A lucrative market

But Lucie Bourgouin notes that still too often creators have the reflex to turn to songs in English. However, as a general rule, Quebec pieces are much cheaper than foreign songs, she points out. When she worked on CRAZYby Jean-Marc Vallée, for example, she remembers that the production had paid 112,000 US dollars for a Rolling Stones song. Conversely, Mme Bourgouin estimates that a Quebec song in an end credits costs on average $20,000 in all and for all when negotiating the broadcast license.

“It can be extremely lucrative for Quebec rights holders to have one of their songs used in a series. Not only when we negotiate the license, but also if it circulates later in the world. I remember seeing checks for $50,000 for a children’s series in the 1990s that had been sold all over the world. Copyright laws are much more generous in Europe than here,” adds Lucie Bourgouin, who observes that the financial assistance provided by SODEC is still unknown to producers.

It can be extremely lucrative for Quebec rights holders to have one of their songs used in a series. Not only when we negotiate the license, but also if it circulates later in the world.

David Murphy, who owns a rights management company, is pleading for the measure to be extended. Currently, the $150,000 is available to projects eligible for the Production Value Bonus Program. However, only productions that have potential for exploitation abroad have access to this program. David Murphy thinks that several small projects, which have no aims abroad, should also be able to be supported financially to buy Quebec musical works.

“Yes, there are the direct effects with the synchro, but there are also the indirect effects. For young artists, it can be a way to be discovered,” he notes to illustrate the importance of hearing more Quebec songs on the small screen.

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