Vancouver Buskers Face SOCAN Royalty Demand

The Vancouver Sun reports on new SOCAN demands that buskers in the Vancouver transit system pay performance royalties that could run up to $1500 per year.


  1. Not sure I follow what their angle is… Are they trying to claim that the buskers could potentially be playing song’s someone else wrote? Why would they charge for original performances of original material?

  2. Corporate greed knows no bounds!

  3. Words can not describe….

  4. Chris Brand says:

    I thought the article was pretty clear – “Under the Canadian Copyright Act, those authorizing performers to play any works covered under Socan’s repertoire must purchase a licence.”. In other words, yes, they believe that buskers may play songs that are in “Socan’s repertoire”.

  5. Sadly, not surprising 🙁

  6. Oh I see 🙂 The buskers I know happen to write the music they play but I expect there are some who do not as well. I suppose a solution might be to put a rule in their policy that the buskers don’t play copyrighted material instead.

  7. Every last penny, huh?
    Somehow this does not surprise me, after the business with the doctors and dentists.

  8. ReadPeopleRead says:

    Hi, I’m a SOCAN member.

    If you read the article, TransLink is the one that holds the licence, and they are charging the buskers because they don’t want to pay the fee themselves. Funny that Toronto could do it themselves, and only increase their annual fee for buskers to $150.

    Not sure how TransLink arrived at $1500 per busker anyway. As I read the licence form that applies to buskers, the fee and the licence appear to have nothing to do with number of buskers, and I can’t understand the math that would make this anywhere near that expensive.

    Again, in the article, Toronto is a bigger system and only pays $23K per year for all of their stations.

    Maybe $1500 per busker is a made up number that’s scary for buskers and is easy for people who want to be mad at a not-for-profit performing rights collective to remember.

    Also, SOCAN licences all copyright protected music, no matter who wrote it. TransLink is licencing its use, and I’m pretty sure TransLink didn’t write any of the songs.

    But don’t let me interfere with your rants. Carry on.

  9. Hey Read, yes, all of that is clear from the article

    I’m sorry you can’t understand the math (they have less buskers to split the costs and just as many or more stations to pay for, and Toronto is charitably covering some of the costs). The amounts are not all that relevant, it is up to Translink to figure out if they can handle the fee’s with their program or not. Although Translink are not saints, they have no reason to lie about their estimate, so we believe them.

    The point people tend to object to is that SOCAN wants to charge buskers (no one cares that they are doing it through translink since no one thinks that translink is somehow inherently responsible for the buskers and should cover the cost for them just because toronto was nice enough to) at all. Although I’m sure they are saints and have nothing but the best intentions, for some reason I just can’t explain, it comes across as petty and mean. Plus I have friends who participate in the translink program and they don’t play any copyrighted songs, they play all their own songs so I don’t think they owe SOCAN a damn cent and I’m sure they aren’t the only ones.

  10. ReadPeopleRead says:

    I have a hard time believeing that a business would pay any fee if they didn’t think it was their legal responsibility to do so. Maybe the nice guys in Toronto have a specific fund set aside for doing people “a solid” of this scale.

    Your friends are right, the musicians DON’T owe SOCAN a damn cent. By my read, the musicians don’t appear to be getting billed by SOCAN.

    Petty and mean? Expecting a major corporation to pay a licence to use someone else’s music? Wow.

    The truth is that everybody is a huge champion of creative people’s rights until they actually have to honour them.

    For example, everyone says they love supporting live music, but do we buy some merch at the show so the band might actually be able to pay for gas, or do we get ourselves an extra beer at the show and go home a get the CD “for free” on a P2P site?

    People piss and moan about having to pay a cover or buy a ticket. I’ve seen people turn and walk away rather than pay a cover to go see their own friends’ bands, or push like hell to get on the guest list.

    Again, keep in mind that the bar manager or promoter will most likely short the band anyway, “for posters” and such.

    All of this strikes me as symptoms of a larger disease. Music fans and businesses should not devalue music, nor should the songwriters themselves.

    In my opinion, of course…

  11. “obligations”
    “I have a hard time believeing that a business would pay any fee if they didn’t think it was their legal responsibility to do so.”

    It is most certainly not their legal responsibility to do so. While they are obligated to pay a SOCAN *if* they don’t throw the buskers out of the stations, they are certainly under no obligation to let the buskers play there just because they want to. I also don’t believe they allow it because they think the music a benefit to their business.

    The corporation is simply *not* using someone else’s music. The buskers are. (or at least SOCAN thinks they might be). Translink agreed to let them sit inside. Translink doesn’t want the license or the buskers, it is the buskers that want translink to let them play there. This is the biggest problem I have with the whole idea, it is a strong incentive to change back to a policy of throwing the buskers out of the stations, and the buskers (at least the ones I know) *love* being able to play there. Translink (or any corporation that doesn’t believe buskers are making them money) doesn’t really care if they are there or not. They will do whatever is easiest / least expensive.

    I certainly don’t believe buskers devalue music, in my opinion it’s pop stars and the morons who pay to see people pretend to sing who are doing that. I suppose if I believed buskers devalued music I wouldn’t have much sympathy for them either but I really think they are the ones who are hurt if it is made to be a liability for companies to allow them to play at the stations.

    At least thats how I see it.

  12. vice president the Beat Of The Street Society
    i am a member of Socan and an original songwriter.i live on Vancouver Island and just spent six hundred dollars , taking three trips to Translink to become a Translink busker.
    My understanding that in exchange for fifty dolars I would be given a spot that was viable(money making)and warm. Busking is a business and location location is paramount to making money.

    First i had to audition, then I had to do a three hour workshop and then i had to make another trip to pick up mylicence from Translink.
    There is no Gauruntee that i will get the spot I have auditioned for as buskers who are not licenced can take my spot when they choose. There is no way to enforce the licencing agreement.
    We were told that we would be under shelter and warm whenever possible.I have only played three stations so far and only one is remotely warm.
    Just outside the stations panhandlers abound and unlicenced unauditioned buskers run rampamt.Socan has no control over them.
    Granvile Streetand Robson are conttroled by the BIA which is an organization not contolled by Socan. i made ten times more money there than i ever will at a translink station.

  13. vetern busker says:

    socan rip off
    to those who think the toronto situation is ok. socam required that thre buskers only play 25 stations now or the fees go up. the buskers used to have over fifty stations. on average seventy five musicians make about ten thousand dollars a year per spot. socan has ruined over a quarter million dollars income to dozens of musicians in order to collect there pound of flesh$23,000.

    this only makes sense to fascist bureaucrats. socan bureaucrats are a revolving door with the commercial music industry and they are committed to the system that rips off musicians.

    if they really wanted to protect musicians for instance they would legislate that the origional copywrit cannot be transfered at all–atopping the ripp off of thousands of musicians over time.

    socan is a legislated rip off, they aren’t even supposed to charge for music spots where no fee is charged to enter. they have however bullyied the industry for decades. they are evil heartless bureaucrats who care nothing about working musicians