Year-End Report: Despite All, SOCAN Flourished in 2020

Despite buttressing headwinds from pandemic lockdowns, SOCAN beat the odds with increased payments to rights holders, beating down its overhead and posting a significant gain from international royalty income.

Year-End Report: Despite All, SOCAN Flourished in 2020

By FYI Staff

For a great many Canadian composers, writers and performers, the quarterly SOCAN cheque is a necessity of life, like air and water. The PRO pulled a rabbit from its hat with decisive moves and smart accounting in 2020, as its annual accounting report proves.

More money from International and streaming services off-set considerable revenue declines year-on-year from live performance and broadcast tariffs. That and strong management that paid attention to the membership and humanely cut internal costs.

SOCAN’s 2020 total reported revenue was $391.2M, a decrease of only 4% from the previous year, despite negative impacts from the pandemic. The PRO reduced its gross expenses by 4% from the prior year, to $54.6M with lower staff costs, decreased facilities management costs, and the cancellation of in-person membership events.


The annual reporting doesn’t mention the fact, but insiders will know that the results can be traced to the strategic experience in rights management and licensing of CEO Jennifer Brown who was appointed to the interim position in April 2020, and fully named CEO of the org last month.

SOCAN distributed a total of $348.5M to rights holders in the period, a 10% year-over year increase that was primarily driven by distributions for domestic audio-visual uses (Cable & TV) and increased international royalties from 104 societies in 214 countries and territories worldwide.

The PRO added 7,500 new members in 2020 and now boasts a membership of 175,000 Canadian songwriters, composers, music publishers and visual artists. Additionally, in the year, a total of 178,288 new works (songs or compositions) were registered.

Highlights of SOCAN's 2020 results:

  • More than $348-million distributed to music creators, publishers, and visual artists – a 10% year-over-year increase.

  • $391-million in total revenues – a 4% decrease from 2019, considerably less than many other major music rights collectives worldwide.


  • A 10.5% year-over-year increase in international royalties for an all-time high of $100-million going to SOCAN members.

  • Collections from digital sources to a record $104-million for music created and published by SOCAN members, an average annual growth rate of 32%.

  • More than $11-million collected for reproduction rights on behalf of the company's expanding family of clients, most of whom work with SOCAN to administer both the performing and the reproduction right.

In 2020, SOCAN continued to sharpen its focus on its members, providing various financial support and new programming to help them weather the pandemic, including an enhanced emergency advance program, the Encore payment program for qualifying live performances on Facebook and Instagram, and a new permanent distribution rule for online concerts.

The PRO continues to execute on the comprehensive financial recovery plan related to the losses of the wholly owned subsidiary, Dataclef. These losses did not impact distributions. As anticipated in 2020, SOCAN incurred an impairment of $28M to the advances made by SOCAN to fund the subsidiary operations since 2016.

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