The challenges presented by X Company differ significantly from those of Flashpoint. While some characters have a specific sound associated with them, overall the focus was on creating musical themes that were team- rather than character-based, music that reflects the unique relationships between characters, or heroism, regret or friendship, for example. “And those can apply to a number of characters,” Posner says, “including reluctant soldiers on both sides, such as Germans who were against the Nazi regime. They’re musical themes that provide subtext – beyond what’s happening on the screen – about the emotions of different characters.”

Aside from the occasional “luxurious moments” where they work together on a specific piece of music, typically Bhatia and Posner work in separate studios on different cues. “There are people I know of that work together on one workstation, taking turns going at things in the same room, but that’s never how we’ve worked,” Posner says. “Amin comes from a much more traditional classical background. I’m a piano player and have spent a lot of time playing classical music, but my background is more the pop and jazz world.”

“There’s a big difference between music for film or television and music for music’s sake.” – Ari Posner

“Still, both of us clearly love orchestras. That’s the overlap,” Bhatia says. “But we’ve both expanded our palette and our repertoire and taught each other things. And sometimes we’ll completely change it up and take on something that would normally fall into the other’s lap.”

Regardless of how they split the workload, communication is key. “We’re usually the first ears to hear the music of the other,” Bhatia says. “We go over the music before we get together with the client and listen to what the other has done, if we haven’t already during the writing process.” Bhatia also cites the contribution of their go to music editor, Joe Mancuso, who he credits with helping them keep the ship sailing beautifully.

Increasingly, Bhatia says, composing music for film and television has become much more similar. “The quality of television is at the point where it equals features in the use of the technology and in terms of the things people are doing creatively.” Still, in both cases, he adds, “You have to leave your ego at the door and ask, ‘What does the show want? What tells the story best?’ That’s the most important thing.”

It’s an ethic they do their utmost to instill in up-and-coming composers looking to work in this segment of the industry. “Some younger composers come in thinking that if they come up with a big John Williams melody it’s going to propel them to the stars, but it’s our job to say, ‘Remember that you’re an accompanist, not a solo artist. The film is the star. Everything you do has to serve the film.’”

While composers are the unsung heroes of the film and television industry to an extent, their contributions are critical. Bhatia and Posner greatly appreciate the recognition of that reality by performing rights organizations like SOCAN. Both have been members of SOCAN for some time; Posner since 1990, and Bhatia since 2010 – when he re-negotiated his previous deal with BMI to allow him to be represented by SOCAN for the world with the exception of the United States.

“SOCAN is highly respected worldwide,” Posner says. “I think it’s up there with the best of the PROs, and it’s a testament to the organization that so many high-level composers and songwriters remain with SOCAN because of the services they provide.”

“There’s a big difference between music for film or television and music for music’s sake,” he continues. “When you’re watching a show, most of your attention is on the visuals, the dialogue, the story. As a composer you have to say, ‘What’s the best way to fit in here, but not attract attention to myself. I sometimes call it being invisible, creating music that makes people feel the right things without anyone taking notice of it.”

Doing so effectively requires recognizing that, and being willing to learn continuously, Bhatia says: “That’s the joy. You’re thrust into something you never thought you’d do and have no choice but to do it, and you come out of it having tried something new, put your own spin on a genre or style you’re perhaps not familiar with, and are that much better for it.”


This is the first in a series of stories about the creative meeting of a writer and a composer. This month’s “Better Together” features Marie-Pierre Arthur and Gaële.

Name any of them, whether it’s the heady “Pourquoi,” which launched Marie-Pierre Arthur on the radio in 2010, or “Droit devant,” also taken from her first eponymous album; “Fil de soie,” the Beatlesque “All Right” and the ecstatic “Emmène-moi,” from her album Aux Alentours (2012); all the way to more recent radio singles such as “Rien à faire” and “Papillons de nuit” from her latest Si l”aurore; all these songs were co-written by Marie-Pierre Arthur and Gaële – along with collaboration from other musicians such as keyboardist François Lafontaine, because credit needs to be given where credit is due…

“I was at the end of my rope. I had music, melodies, but nothing was working, it made me cry, I just couldn’t do it. I told my friend about it…” – Marie-Pierre Arthur

It’s undeniable that Gaële and Marie-Pierre Arthur are one of the most fruitful songwriting duos of recent years. Nothing, however, foreshadowed this professional relationship, one that began with what can only be described as friendship at first sight.

Gaële and Arthur met on a bus taking them from Montréal to Gaspésie. They’d met before, but they didn’t “click.” “I saw her sitting in the bus and in my mind, I was like ‘Oh! I know her, now I’ll have to talk to her,’” remembers Arthur.

Right from the get-go, she said: “‘I’m not going to talk to you for the whole trip.’ I was quite rude,” says Arthur, while looking at Gaële, who jumps in, smiling: “That’s one way of putting it!” And yet, that’s what they did: They talked non-stop for the whole 14 hours of their trip. And during the whole week after that, at the Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée, where Arthur is from.

“We laughed a lot,” recalls Gaële. Born in the French Alps, Gaële had just completed her studies in jazz and pop singing at UQAM and hadn’t visited Québec much during her school years, which she deeply regretted just as she was about to go back to France. That little trip to Gaspésie completely changed her plans. “It was a fateful meeting,” she says.

MariePierreArthur_Gaele_ByLePigeon_InBody_1So a great friendship bloomed over many years before the professional relationship developed. Gaële went back to Petite-Vallée to defend her own songs as a singer-songwriter, while Arthur was not at all attracted to the trade. “Not at all,” she says. “In my mind, I was a bass player. I sometimes sang, I loved it, but I didn’t have any kind of solo project in mind.”

But that didn’t prevent her from collecting rough drafts of songs that she couldn’t seem to bring to completion. “I was at the end of my rope,” she admits. “I had music, melodies, but nothing was working. It made me cry, I just couldn’t do it. I told my friend about it…”

Adds Gaële. “I could tell that there was something going on, artistically. I thought something could be done with that voice. She ‘spoke’ Gaspésien, and her music – the rhythms and phrasings – was more Anglophone, if there is such a thing. She wanted to sing in a more ‘international’ French. She needed to find the appropriate language.”

“And anecdotal lyrics were out of the question!” chimes in Arthur. And on those grounds, their collaboration was built. Marie-Pierre’s music and Gaële’s words – “not too many words,” says Gaële, “not too many consonants, so it flows naturally, like her voice.

With album sales in freefall, the music industry has had to adapt and diversify its revenue streams. Over the last few years, one of those streams has grown incredibly quickly: synchronization licensing. These are licences granted for the use of a work in a TV series, movie or advertising, an economic activity that directly involves songwriters and their natural allies, music editors. It also indirectly involves fans, who sometimes become hostile to musicians who “sell out” by letting their work be used to promote a product in advertisements.

“It’s a well-known fact in the industry: there’s a lot of money to be made with synchronization” of recorded music, says Patrick Curley, President and General Counsel at Third Side Music, a music publishing company founded in 2005 that manages a catalog of more than 40 000 works, many of them by Québec artists such as Malajube, Radio Radio, Lisa Leblanc, Champion and Groenland, to name but a few. (Curley is also a member of SOCAN’s Board of Directors.)


Nowadays, business is booming for this music publisher. With 15 employees, as well as an office in Los Angeles, Third Side Music is on the short list of go-to publishers who American audio-visual (advertising, TV, movie) producers ask for the perfect song. And thanks to its Californian eyes and ears, the company is always on top of new and upcoming productions and their music needs. From that point on, Third Side Music prepares lists for the music supervisors working on each of those productions.

And it works: Third Side Music “places” between 50 and 100 songs each month in all kinds of productions, mainly in the U.S., a market that makes up to 70% of its revenue. “Our profits are growing year after year,” as do the royalties paid to the artists, according to Curley, whose company has been surfing on a huge wave that’s carrying the whole industry.

In 2014, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) reported that, worldwide, the revenues derived from synchronization licences had increased by 8.4 percent, with certain markets benefitting even more than others. France, for example, saw an increase of 46.4 percent! Globally, revenues from synchronization licences represent 2 percent of music industry revenues.

“I really had to think it through before agreeing to one of my songs being used in an ad” – Patrice Michaud

Canada is not left behind in this growth trend. The most recent data published by SODRAC reveal that the royalties collected in 2013 for the synchronization of works in TV productions and video clips rose to $701,852, up from $579,856 in 2012.

One need only turn on the TV to find a plethora of examples of Québec artists who’ve benefitted from the audio-visual revenue stream. Lately, Radio Radio and Misteur Valaire have both seen their work heard in advertisements, the former for Telus and the latter, Vidéotron.

One of Patrick Watson’s songs – “The Great Escape” – was included in an episode of the popular TV series Grey’s Anatomy, as well as in an ad campaign for Tropicana juice.

As for singer-songwriter Patrice Michaud, he accomplished quite a feat: his song “Mécaniques générales” was used both by PatriceMichaud_CSPepsi and Honda in ad campaigns.

“The song was quite popular on the radio about a year ago, and that was important to me,” says the artist. “It was near the end of its life cycle when we got a request for use in an ad campaign.” Which, nowadays, has become an alternative to radio play, giving an incredible amount of exposure to a few lucky songs.

In the case of Patrice Michaud – who is his own publisher, but leaves the management of his catalogue to professionals – he got even luckier, since he never had to pitch his songs to ad producers. They came to him with the specific request to licence “Mécaniques générales.”

This is “quite rare” according to Patrick Curley. “Generally, it’s a publisher’s job to suggest works for specific audio-visual productions.” For example, it’s Third Side Music that “placed” Groenland’s song “Our Hearts Like Gold” in an ad for Apple’s latest iPad. The ad – directed by Martin Scorsese – ran during the 2015 Oscars ceremony in February, and focused on the video production and editing capacities of the device.

“We make sure we maintain a good relationship with the production agency that handles all of Apple’s advertising,” explains the publisher. “We had prepared a list of about 10 songs that could work with their concept, and they made the final choice. We’re definitely very proud of that one!”

“Placing” a song in an ad can be tricky, however. In 2006, Malajube granted a licence for their song “Ton plat favori” to the ad agency handling a campaign for defunct retail giant Zellers, and the musicians had to stave off a pretty intense backlash from their fans. In 2011, Karkwa had to deal with the same type of backlash when their song “Pyromanes” was used in an ad campaign by Coca-Cola.

“I really had to think it through before agreeing to one of my songs being used in an ad,” admits Michaud. “To me, that song is a pop love song, an earworm, therefore I see no contradiction in the fact that it is used in an ad. Ultimately, it had a definite impact on album and concert ticket sales. A lot of people became aware of that song because of those ads. The next question for me is ‘What will happen to that song now? Will people be tired of hearing it?’ In any case, one thing is sure: it can’t be used in another ad.”