PaupiereThere are beings who know they’re condemned to live a joint existence, but unaware of its true nature at first glance, because it’s so easy to confuse an extraordinary creative bond with romantic love. Such is the case of Julia Daigle and Pierre-Luc Bégin of Paupière, whose life as a couple failed, but whose musical project is doing quite well, thank you, in Québec, Europe, Southeast Asia, and South Korea.

You’d think they were from another era, like one of those biographical passages one reads on the walls of museums during a retrospective exhibition of a great painter, long gone. There’s an artistic aura to Daigle and Bégin that one can imagine permeating even the smallest part of their daily lives. They’re like artworks themselves, right down to the way they dress.

Unsurprisingly, Daigle started out as a painter and hat-maker in Québec City. Bégin, on the other hand, cut his teeth with the band Polipe (a formidable but almost-forgotten trio), but he was in town because he’d recently joined We Are Wolves and the band was on tour.

“I knew Vincent Lévesque and Alex Ortiz of We Are Wolves,” says Daigle. “When they changed drummers, they hired Pierre-Luc. We got along super-well. To be honest, we were a couple when I moved to Montréal,” she confesses with a giggle. “We were together for three years. We started by painting together, and at some point, he suggested I write the lyrics to a song, because it’s something which I was always interested in. Then, he asked me if I’d like to sing. That’s how our first single, ‘Cinq heures,’ was born. I find the realm of music the most satisfying because it involves a bit of everything else. I was able to collaborate on the cover art, work with the videos’ directors… I derive a lot of satisfaction from the visual aspects.”

The title of their latest album refers to how Julia and Pierre-Luc met, to the time that binds them to each other, almost in spite of themselves. Sade Sati isn’t Latin; it’s the name of one of the principles of Indian astrology, a seven-and-a-half-year cycle, which is the total age of the band. In the meantime, Éliane Préfontaine, an actress with the gaze of the sun, has joined them as a keyboardist and vocalist. She stayed on as the band’s third player until she decided, very recently, to have a baby. After one LP and two EPs, the Paupière adventure had come to term. “It wasn’t an acrimonious separation,” Daigle insists. “We’re still friends, it’s just that she wanted to have a child. It’s not one of those sad ‘band splits up’ stories. We’re super-happy for her.”

There’s been much written in the press that Paupière revives or emulates the sound of the 1980s, a comment that rightly annoys the band members. “It’s really the choice of instruments that imparted this colour because Pierre-Luc and Éliane played piano and synths,” says Daigle. “Ultimately, we’re inspired a lot by ‘chanson française,’ by the music of the ’70s – we both love prog rock – but I understand the comparison because of the synthesizers and the bass lines. That said, I don’t think our compositions are necessarily dated.”

That said, Daigle and Bégin have often said in interviews that they think of, and identify, themselves as punks at heart. But how is it that these same punks make such catchy, melodic, and seductive music? Daigle repeats and ponders the question: “I think it’s the raw energy we exude on stage,” she says. “It’s quite aloof. We don’t necessarily respect codes. Pierre-Luc almost always ends up half-naked. We never quite know what to expect. Our punk side comes out in our attitude.”

Here’s the return of our series about the happy creative meetings between two songwriters. Together, Louis-Jean Cormier and Daniel Beaumont wrote one of the biggest hits of the last few years in Québec, the unifying “Tout le monde en même temps,” (“The Whole World at the Same Time”) from Cormier’s first solo album, and they’ve continued their collaboration, right up to the recently released “Le ciel est au plancher” (“The Heavens are on the Floor”).

“There’s nothing easier to plant in the mind of an artist, diving into a solo project, than doubt,” says Louis-Jean Cormier. It was 10 years ago, after four albums as a member of Karkwa, that he took a leap of faith and started working on his first solo album, Le Treizième étage (2012). “I’m a band guy,” he says. “I felt I needed someone, a sounding board. I like bouncing ideas around, I like to think that two heads can work on a single project. I prefer that than doing everything on my own.”

A few years earlier, at a writing workshop during the Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée, Cormier had noticed Daniel Beaumont. Still in his early days as a lyricist, he collaborated on songwriting with his brother Matthieu and his sister-in-law Catherine Leduc, who formed the duo Tricot Machine. “He’d come up with these sentences where the words always fell in the right place, and it stuck in my head,” says Cormier. “It was really well crafted. That’s when I got in touch with Daniel, even though I barely knew him.”

The first text Beaumont wrote was for his brother Matthieu, who was a contestant in the Cégep en spectacles competition. “I grew up with a love of language,” says the man, who considers himself “the trouble-shooter” for those seeking the right word. An advertising copywriter by trade, he still suffers from impostor syndrome when it comes to music – having collaborated with Cormier, but also Andrea Lindsay, Fanny Bloom, and, more recently, Alex Nevsky.

“With Louis-Jean, as with the others, it’s not my soul that I bare on paper,” says Beaumont. “I just try to meet the artist where they’re at, and help them write something that resonates with them. That’s my job. “It was a trip for me to write lyrics because I’ve always loved Québec music. I would write new lyrics to a song by Les Chiens and use it as a model; then I wrote using English songs, so I wouldn’t be distracted by the lyrics, since I was paying less attention to the English lyrics.”

Between Cormier and Beaumont, a working method was established: the former provided the latter with the raw material, the basic ideas for songs. “Then, we talk about it,” Cormier explains. “Daniel comes back to me and says, ‘When you say that, this is what I see.’ He has a very down-to-earth, concrete side. I’m not saying he’s not creative; on the contrary, he writes wonderful things, and when he’s given a lot of room on a song, he comes up with good ideas. ‘Le Ciel est au plancher,’ for example, that’s totally his idea.

“As a copywriter, Daniel is used to coming up with ideas in a split second,” says Cormier. “And he’s a real workhorse: You should see our Google Docs with all the alternative words he suggests in any given song. He’s got this thoroughness of spreading out all the texts of the album on a table to identify where we repeat ourselves, where a word returns in several songs, and how we could introduce more variety. He’s highly technical.”

As a lyricist as well as a copywriter, Beaumont says he puts his writing talent at the service of others. It’s this healthy distance that allows him to offer the best insight into the words and ideas of Cormier. “I’m not that much a part of his world, so when he knocks on my door, it’s because his project is mature, and he’s at the stage where he needs a hand,” says Beaumont.

“I’m not contaminated by all the discussions he had about his project, which allows me to arrive with a detached look. In fact, I’m always a straight shooter with Louis-Jean, and I think that’s what he appreciates. When it’s your girlfriend or a friend who gives you their opinion, they’ll always be a little complacent, and that’s normal. I don’t know Louis-Jean that well, we’re not the best friends in the world, so I tell him what I really think. In a sense, I feel a bit like the guardian of the listener” vis-à-vis the creator.

Cormier likes to say that Beaumont “rakes” his texts and his song ideas. “He gets hands-on and bullies my ideas a bit,” says Cormier. “What I like is when your collaborator takes your ideas and says, ‘This sentence makes me tick, for this or that good or bad reason.’ It’s as interesting when it’s time to re-hash an idea, as when it’s time to confirm that it’s a good idea.”

If you’re a songwriter, it‘s important for you to learn as much as possible about music publishing.  Whether you’ve signed a publishing deal, administer your own publishing, or work without any publishing entity, you need to ensure that you know how to claim all the royalties that are owed to you.

Signing a deal with a publisher

There are many obvious advantages to signing a deal with a music publisher: they can constantly, actively seek licensing opportunities for your music, on a full-time basis; they strive to get the most monetary mileage out of your songs, whether it’s through recording, live performance,  or synchronization (or “synchs,” placement in commercials, TV shows, films, videogames, digital platforms, etc.); while doing so, they can negotiate fair market value for synch placements, and know what license fee a song should command in any given medium based on terms, use, and territory; they can arrange co-writing sessions with other songwriters, or participation in song camps, including some co-writers or camps that you might not be able to attain without them; and a publishing deal allows you to focus on making music, rather than having to do the labour-intensive business of exploiting your own songs.

Furthermore, music publishers can provide music-industry market intelligence to help develop a songwriter’s career. They can further that career by championing the songwriter – talking them up, getting them on panels, in showcases, included in articles, and so on. Publishers can track the writer’s income, a task likely too time-consuming for the writer to do on their own. A publisher can ensure that the writer’s songs are registered in every territory where they’re showing activity (e.g., being played on radio, performed live by other artists, etc.).  A publisher can  obtain, and submit to SOCAN, cue sheets when a writer’s song has been licensed for audio-visual use in a film, TV, or other screen production, whether domestically or internationally.

Working without a publisher

Alysha Brilla

Alysha Brilla

Singer-songwriter Alysha Brilla has taken the indie route, after spending time with a major publisher and deciding to do it herself.

“I’ve gotten some synchs and some licensing deals on my own,” says Brilla, now working on her fifth album. She adds that one of the advantages is autonomy. “I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission for anything. I can sign off on everything myself, and I get to solicit and approach people myself. There are pros and cons to it, but for me it’s been the better choice.”

Among the disadvantages of working without a publisher is the fact that the songwriter likely won’t be able to actively seek licensing opportunities for their music on a full-time basis. They’ll have to spend their own time and effort chasing those deals, which takes time away from writing songs. And to go it alone, the songwriter also needs to be able to negotiate effectively when licensing their music, in order to ensure that they’re fairly compensated for their work.

In Brilla’s case, she’s dealt and consulted with artists, managers, and other publishers, so she has a good handle on negotiations. “I have a good idea of what the range is, and all the different variables when it comes to licensing,” she says. “I’m never worried about not getting an adequate amount for my music because I don’t have a publisher: I always ask for what I think is competitive.”

The value that’s potentially generated by a song placement can be substantial – and if you’re a writer, being a novice negotiator can bite you in the butt, as singer-songwriter Donovan Woods discovered all too well when he initially self-published under his own  Meant Well imprint.

“I was just writing songs on my own and I had very little understanding of anything,” says Woods, who recently signed with Concord Music Nashville, after spending three years at Warner Chappell Nashville. “I remember I licensed something to TSN to be used during the intro of a Grey Cup game for something like $104. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no idea. I was kind of doing it alone.”

Starting your own publishing company

Donovan Woods

Donovan Woods

Woods says  it can be an advantage to have your own publishing company in order to conduct business with a larger publisher. “When you have a co-publishing deal with a publisher, you own 50 percent of your publishing and 75 percent of the song,” says Woods. “You have to form your own publishing company to hold that publishing stake.”

“Having their own publishing company makes it easier for the songwriter to assign a publishing administrator, or a publisher,” says Michael McCarty, CEO of Kilometre Music Group, and former Chief Membership and Business Development Officer of SOCAN. “If the songwriter has an administrative deal with Publisher A, and their publishing reverts back to them when the deal expires, it makes it easier for them to newly assign the administration to Publisher B. And if the songwriter is earning significant money from publishing, then it could be tax-advantageous having half of that money flow through a business, splitting the income to pay less tax.”

“If your company is incorporated, your tax rates are only 12 percent,” explains Phil Goldband, a Managing Partner at Toronto-based Gold Entertainment Accountants. “Had you not incorporated, you’d be roughly at the 40 percent tax rate.”

But you have to ensure that your publishing company runs as an above-board business. “You’ve got to open up a separate bank account, and you’ve got to keep track of your expenses. Anything you pay on credit, you have to keep the invoices,” says Goldband. If you do start your own publishing company, you’ll also need to ensure that when you claim expenses, those expenses remain within the confines of business. For example, if your dog is your company mascot, don’t claim the food it takes to feed him as an expense. “If you get too aggressive, you’ll be double-taxed – both on the corporate and personal levels,” Goldband advises.

Goldband’s colleague, Oksana Bernatonis, says that if your songwriting income is fairly low, it might be prudent to wait before you take the step. “If you’re saving more than $3,000 to cover [the] costs [of incorporating the publishing company], then it’s worth it,” she says. She also says that in order to apply and receive certain large grants, being incorporated can sometimes give you an edge: “Some grants that people apply for require a corporation. To get $50K or $100K in grants, you have to incorporate.”

Your songwriting income will determine whether you’re ready to start your own incorporated publishing company. “If your songs are earning under a few thousand dollars a year, it doesn’t likely justify the costs of incorporation and maintenance of the company,” says entertainment lawyer Kurt Dahl. “There are a few scenarios that might indicate that the time is right. If you find yourself licensing music internationally, entering a sub-publishing deal with a foreign publisher, or being offered a co-publishing deal from a third-party publisher, the time is right to incorporate your own publishing entity.”

You don’t have to go the incorporation route: another alternative is being a sole proprietor.

“Sole proprietorship is the same as being self-employed,” says Bernatonis. “So instead of filing a corporate tax return, you would file just the regular personal tax return at a graduated rate. You’d have to report everything, so there is no tax deferral.” While there are no fees to establish your sole proprietorship, you’d also lose any potential tax breaks you’d receive by incorporating your music publishing company [such as tax deferral from one year to the next, in a high-earning year].

“And once you reach $30,000 in income, you have to pay HST and register for a business number with the Canadian Revenue Agency,” Bernatonis adds. “Royalties are usually zero-rated, so there’s no HST on royalties. But you still might want to register, because you can claim HST back on any expenses you’ve paid.”

Another big difference is that if legal issues pop up,  you may have more protection if you’ve incorporated your company, and be more vulnerable as a sole proprietor.

Whatever path you choose, rest assured that SOCAN will be there to collect your royalties and ensure that you get paid.

Steps to Start with SOCAN

If you’re applying to become a SOCAN member publisher, membership isn’t automatic, although the qualifications to become a SOCAN publisher member aren’t strenuous.

Whether you’re setting up your publishing entity as a sole proprietorship or an incorporated company, before deciding on, or registering, a publisher name for the entity with the appropriate governmental registry, we recommend that you contact our Information Centre at 1-866-307-6226 to verify that there’s no other SOCAN publisher member already using that name.

If you’re starting a sole proprietorship for your publishing, to apply for SOCAN membership, you’ll need to provide a copy of the sole proprietorship document (such as a statement of registration issued by the appropriate governmental registry), and either your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or business number, for tax purposes. If you’re providing a business number, we’ll require a document that shows that the number is associated with your particular sole proprietorship. For more details on registering a sole proprietorship, click here.

If  you’re starting an incorporated company, to apply for SOCAN membership, the company must meet at least one of the following two criteria:

  • The company owns at least five copyright-protected musical works written or co-written by a writer member of SOCAN (e.g., you), or by a Canadian; or
  • The company is entitled by contract to receive the publisher’s share of the performance credits of at least five copyright-protected musical works that were written or co-written by a writer member of SOCAN (e.g., you), or by a Canadian.

And to apply for membership, you’ll need to provide a copy of the relevant publishing agreements to demonstrate that the company meets one of the above criteria .

For more information on registering a corporation, click here.