Originally from France, former equestrian sports journalist Xavier Debreuille is now Development and Publishing Director of Musicor Disques, as well as a Board member of The Professional Music Publishers’ Association (APEM). He recently shared his professional experience with us, and volunteered to provide some advice to would-be publishers and songwriters looking for the perfect publishing partnership.

Musicor, Logo“The music publishing profession is misunderstood, quite often by the musicians themselves,” says Debreuille, who learned the complexities of the business in the sports television world he worked in before changing lanes. Time was, he noted, that singer-songwriters naturally turned to their publishers, but nowadays, they “often believe that they can do the job themselves, because they hear that all a publisher does is take money, that getting a publisher is a waste of time, and that joining SOCAN is probably all you’ll ever need.”

“Such perceptions may be fed by confusion between what a record company does and what a publishing house does,” says Debreuille, who should know, now that he’s active at both ends of that spectrum. “Obviously,” he saays, “the life of a piece of music becomes much easier once it’s been published. So, when the recording is produced by the label, and the label goes on to promote and market it, the confusion definitely stems from the fact that the job is being performed by the record label instead of by the publisher.”

The publishers themselves must stress the importance of a publisher’s job – among other venues, through the professional training programs being offered by groups such as APEM (The Professional Music Publishers’ Association), a major organization “on which the music publishing profession should be relying even more than it does now,” says Debreuille. “APEM’s training program is superb, but its success depends on the willingness of industry participants to learn more. The next step, I believe, is to provide training at the post-secondary [Cégep] education level, and as part of more music festivals. We must reach out to artists.”

All of this in order to support and train future musicians. “A good publisher is above all a good manager,” says Debreuille. “He or she is someone who’s extremely strict and painstaking, because a large part of the job deals with the administrative work that complements the artistic side of the equation. It’s administrative – but also human – management: you’re working with artists who are all unique, with their own egos, you’re dealing with songwriters who may sometimes find it frustrating to be living in the shadow of performers.”

“You should always be willing to try something new, to look beyond”

Debreuille has two pieces of advice for would-be publishers. The first one is, “Level with songwriters from the word go. Don’t wait for success, or the lack of it – failure is often easier to manage than success is, by the way – for the publisher and the author to see eye-to-eye, at long last. The publisher must have a conversation with the artist before they go into the studio, and it’s essential that the publishers of two different artists [working together] should also talk to one another before the studio stage, in order to set out the rules of the game properly. What I’m saying here has nothing to do with art, but it is important.”

“The other piece of advice I’d like to give publishers is this: facilitate collaborations between songwriters. I believe publishers need to broaden their horizons creatively. Of course, when you realize that the chemistry is working, let’s say, between a composer of music and a lyricist, encouraging such collaborations can be tempting – but you should always be willing to try something new, to look beyond.”

To that end, Musicor Disques regularly invites songwriters to take part in writing camps in preparation for the recording of a performer’s album – as has been the case with Alexe Gaudreault (best new artist from La Voix in 2013), and also with Geneviève Jodoin (winner of La Voix’s 7th season). “That’s how you avoid running around in circles.

“It all comes down to human relations,” says Debreuille. “There should be a sense of trust between the songwriter and his or her publisher. Personally, when that trust exists, I try to be as realistic as I possibly can with the singer-songwriters who approach me. I show them how I work. I don’t tell them that everything’s going to be easy. Nothing is for sure.”

The numbers

  • 150 Million YouTube views
  • 950,000 YouTube subscribers
  • 65 million streams across Spotify, Apple, Amazon
  • 1.2 million monthly listeners on Spotify

Ever since Alex Porat was a kid growing up in Vancouver, she did everything she could to make it as a pop star. She spent her childhood going to auditions for kids’ talent shows, and her Saturdays singing Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera hits in the food court of the local mall, where there was a small stage and microphone set up for impromptu karaoke. In high school, she started posting cover songs on YouTube as a way to build an audience. “When you’re young, you don’t really know how to get your voice heard,” says Porat. “YouTube was a way for people to hear my voice.”

It wasn’t until she was in university, though, that Porat got her big break. In a Glamour magazine video, Shawn Mendes watched Porat’s emotional YouTube cover of his “In My Blood.” “Alexandra,” Mendes says in the video, “you are incredible, your voice is awesome, and you sang it perfectly.”

“That moment for me was this realization that being a musician is actually attainable,” Porat says. “Suddenly it felt like if I kept doing music, maybe things could keep growing.” At the time, Porat had just finished her second year of university, and was already considering not returning in the fall. That video gave her the final push to pursue music full-time.

Since then, she’s been working non-stop. In 2020, she released her debut EP, bad at breakups, which she recorded during the pandemic. A collection of catchy, alt-pop songs about heartbreak, loneliness, or seeing your exes move on over social media, it’s like the sonic precursor to Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour. Her most recent single, “Dimension,” is a spacey, synth-driven pop song fit for the club. Porat’s also ready to hit the stage later in 2021: “The first song of my EP dropped the weekend before everything shut down in Canada,” says Porat. “To finally be able to sing my songs live is seriously a dream.”

Up until three years ago, Vancouver-based artist Boslen imagined a very different future for himself. He was at the University of Victoria on a rugby scholarship and playing on Canada’s national rugby team when he tore his ACL, an injury that ended his dreams of becoming a professional rugby player. While he was stuck in his dorm during the long recovery, he started seriously thinking about what he was going to do with his life.

“Music really aided my mental health. It helped me from not caving in or imploding,” says Boslen. “[That time] really pushed me, and gave me the inspiration to shift my focus towards music.”

Boslen’s transition into rap and R&B wasn’t entirely unexpected. At 13 years old in his hometown of Chilliwack, B.C., he started writing his first songs – rapping about average kid stuff, like getting grounded or doing the dishes. “It was the cringiest,” he laughs. “Now, I have life experience and can say things that really resonate with people, and hopefully make them feel inspired.”

Boslen has pursued music with the same determination and prowess that he did rugby. Since releasing his his debut EP Motionless in 2018, he’s performed alongside Rae Sremmurd, A$AP Rocky, and Young Thug, and opened for Cypress Hill in Vancouver, to a crowd of more than 100,000. Now, he’s ready to release his debut full length and “put on for Vancouver.”

To be released this summer via Capitol Records/Universal Music Canada, DUSK to DAWN solidifies Boslen as a genre-less artist whose sonic environments range from hard-hitting rap and soulful R&B to emotional pop. Lyrically, he digs into the personal, exploring themes like vulnerability and self-empowerment, toxic relationships, and feeling like the underdog.

“Being a young Black, and Indigenous man, and growing up with a single mother, I felt like I had to be the man of the house, always had to be strong and not show my emotional side, because I felt like it was looked upon as weak,” says Boslen. “But I think with this album, expressing myself through my weaknesses is the strongest thing I can do. My main goal is for other people to feel empowered.”