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Speaker Profile Q&A: Eric Baptiste, CEO, SOCAN

Eric Baptiste has been CEO of SOCAN, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, since 2010. Under his leadership, the collecting society has grown its revenues, membership base and the number of organizations licensed to use music substantially. Baptiste was also in charge for SOCAN’s acquisitions of music technology firms Audiam and MediaNet, and now serves as president of the boards of the wholly-owned subsidiaries. He has also been director general of CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors & Composers, and now serves as nonexecutive chairperson of its board. Baptiste will be speaking in the ‘The New Face of Global Rights Management’ session at NY:LON Connect on January 23.

:: What’s been the most exciting digital music trend or technology for you in 2017?
SOCAN continues to be excited about new technologies, and we have embraced technological change for many years now. The potential of artificial intelligence to assist our members and licensed business, as well as our business overall, is intriguing.

AI has the potential to help resolve many data issues in the music business, perhaps led by playing a key role in making streaming services even more effective and attractive. Also, we are watching AI's potential to augment and disrupt the music creation process itself is fascinating.

SOCAN is embracing technology, including AI, ensuring that we are open to the possibilities, ready to implement or develop as it makes sense for members and music-using organizations and, thus, our business.

:: What music startups have caught your eye in 2017?
Many organizations are impressing us, and we are actually working together with several. Muzooka is led by Shawn Wilson, and he and his team are creating a platform that allows musicians and DJs to find, book and market their live performances, and then send the performance data to SOCAN. This is a great tool for musicians and SOCAN members, and is leading the industry in that regard.

Songistry has recently launched a new platform called MDIIO. MDIIO is a great tool for music creators to collaborate with others in the song writing process, and then manage the rights and distribution of that music. They’ve integrated our APIs to allow signups and works registrations with SOCAN.

Amper is a company we’re taking a strong look at. They’re pioneering AI composing, creating a tool that automatically generates and produces unique and royalty free music at the touch of a button. We anticipate, procedurally generated music by an AI will be registered with societies like SOCAN within the year, and we’re definitely excited to see where it will go next.

And Popgun is taking another approach at AI, creating a tool called ALICE, which eventually could fill in as a session musician, standing in for, and creating unique musical compositions in the studio. The implications of this to the industry are going to be staggering, and we’re definitely keeping a close watch on all their developments!

Those are just a few of the many organisations that we're not only watching, but win some cases working with directly.

:: What do you think the biggest digital challenge will be for our industry in 2018?
The positive momentum of the sound recording business needs to continue. We need to ensure that the rebound of the sound recording business and its growing contribution to the whole music ecosystem thanks to streaming is not hampered by bad data preventing seamless licensing and authoritative distributions.

Ongoing conflicts about the respective value of sound recording rights and song (composition) rights must be resolved. And outdated safe harbour provisions leading to some business models having an unfair advantage over others should be corrected.

Addressing and solving these challenges are essential for the music rights side of the industry to progress.

:: Which trends and technologies are worth keeping an eye out for in 2018?
Artificial intelligence and blockchain are key as SOCAN leads the global expansion of music rights. They show promise for ultimately efficiently figuring out who has to pay what to whom and who should, in turn, get paid for the online use of music. This is the holy grail for both rights-holders and Digital Services Providers.

:: Which question/topic would you most like to see debated at NY:LON Connect?
I believe that the points above prompt many questions but, fundamentally, how will the industry harness the potential that technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain offer to the industry?