SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada/Société canadienne des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique) is a not-for-profit copyright collective that administers performing rights on behalf of its members — Canadian composers, songwriters, lyricists, and their publishers — as well as members of its international sister societies throughout the world.


SOCAN was formed in 1990 by the merging of two former Canadian performing rights societies: CAPAC (Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada Limited), founded in 1925 as CPRS-Canadian Performing Rights Society; and PROCAN (Performing Rights Organization of Canada Limited), founded in 1940 as BMI Canada Limited.

Function and Operation

Members assign the performing rights of their copyright musical works to SOCAN, which in turn collects royalties earned from the public performance and telecommunication of those works throughout Canada via radio and TV broadcasts, cable TV, concert halls, clubs, theatres, cinemas, etc. SOCAN then distributes the royalty income, after deducting operating expenses, to those members whose music is played. The fees collected by SOCAN from its more than 42,000 licensees are set by a government-appointed, quasi-judicial body called the Copyright Board of Canada.

SOCAN has reciprocal agreements with similar organizations in more than 100 countries, each responsible for administering performing rights in the world’s repertoire of copyright musical works and forwarding those royalties to international societies for distribution to their domestic members. Since Canada is a signatory to certain international copyright treaties — such as the Berne Convention and Universal Copyright Convention — SOCAN applies identical royalty distribution rules to both its domestic members and those of its various international affiliated societies. Through internationally agreed guidelines set by CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers), the Paris-based umbrella group of authors societies. SOCAN is also active in lobbying for effective reform of copyright law, broadcasting regulations, and cultural policy.

SOCAN’s revenues are placed into nine distribution pools: Broadcast Television, Cable, Radio, Concerts, Cinema, Pay Audio, Ringtones, Satellite Radio, and Foreign Income (payments from foreign societies that are passed directly to Canadian members for performances outside Canada). Distributions from the first eight pools are made to members of both Canadian and foreign societies according to SOCAN rules, based on performance information received and analysed by SOCAN.

Membership and Governance

As of 2011, SOCAN’s membership consisted of approximately 94,000 writers (songwriters, composers, lyricists) and 12,000 music publishers. SOCAN’s head office is located on the site of the original PROCAN building in Toronto. More than 300 people are on staff nationally. Regional offices are maintained in Montreal, Vancouver, and Halifax.

SOCAN’s operation is overseen by a board of directors made up of nine songwriter/composers and nine music publishers. It is elected biennially by the society’s membership and typically meets four times per year. Directors hire the CEO, set policies and establish distribution rules. Management informs the general membership about developments in copyright law and practices, SOCAN’s activities and programs, and other developments of interest. There are also several committees that focus on specific themes and tasks to support the work of the board.

Publications and Prizes

SOCAN publishes a quarterly magazine, Words & Music/Paroles & musique, which disseminates news on the organization and the activities of its members. SOCAN engages its membership through the SOCAN website, social media, email, and various newsletters, and mounts an annual awards show honouring Canadian songwriters, composers, and music publishers.

SOCAN Foundation

The SOCAN Foundation was formed in 1992 to foster musical creativity and promote a better understanding of the role of music creators in today’s society. The Foundation is an independent organization that is guided by its own board of directors, made up of composers, songwriters, music publishers, and other music industry representatives. The board initiates programs to encourage more frequent performances of Canadian works both in Canada and abroad. It offers grant support for publications, educational initiatives, composer residencies, international showcases, music industry associations, CD promotion, concert series, and folk and jazz festivals. It also administers two competitions for composers and administers the Government of Canada’s Creators Assistance Program.

A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.