Grand Rights 101


What are grand rights?
Grand rights are the rights associated with music performed with, or as part of, a dramatic work. Throughout Canada, grand rights exist when the music being performed may have been specifically written for a dramatic presentation, where it’s used to tell a story, or when it’s part of a story. And, in all of those cases, when it’s presented live onstage. Dramatic presentations with music include a musical, a play with music, musical comedy, oratorio, choral work, opera, revue or ballet. SOCAN’s member contract excludes those kinds of performances; we don’t collect licence fees for them.

How do grand rights work throughout Canada?
Grand rights are typically managed by music publishers, who prefer to control and negotiate the fees for music used in dramatic presentations that are typically licensed as a “package” for a limited time at a single venue. Large productions are managed through companies like Samuel French, Music Theatre International or Rogers and Hammerstein. Some agents and lawyers specialize in negotiating grand rights. The fee negotiated for grand rights is usually a percentage of box office receipts, which varies widely according to the budget and the size of the production. For small Canadian productions, the composer him- or herself will usually negotiate a percentage, or a lump sum, or both.  For more information, visit www.composition.org/ and search “grand rights.”

How do grand rights work uniquely in Quebec?
In Quebec, as in the rest of Canada, grand rights are often managed and negotiated by a theatrical agent, the music publisher, or the composer's agent.

But grand rights may also be handled by the Société des auteurs et compositeurs dramatiques (SACD), which administers repertoire from Europe, as well as that of its Quebec-based members, for which it charges 10 percent of what it collects.

Many Quebec composers ask SACD to collect their grand rights royalties in foreign countries, but maintain their own administration for Canada, where they may already have representatives to negotiate for them. For more information, visit http://sacd.ca/.
The Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ) has signed an agreement with Les théâtres associés, an association of the major theatre companies in Quebec, that sets the minimum fee that a composer can charge, a lump sum based on the capacity of the venue and the number of performances. The agreement and the grid appear at www.theatresassocies.ca/.

What are Interpolated Works?
Interpolated music is music not specifically written for a particular theatrical production, but may be performed by a character(s) and in some cases, is intended to be heard by another character(s) in that production. SOCAN doesn’t collect licence fees for these kinds of performances.

How are interpolated works in theatre plays administered?
Directors/producers of theatre plays often prefer to commission new music, and not use pre-existing music, because audiences may have an emotion attached to existing music that the director/producer does not intend to evoke. For pre-existing songs, that might inspire emotions that they do want to evoke, they usually deal with music publishers, agents, or directly with the artist to obtain the permission to use them. Fees vary widely according to the popularity of the composer or song.  But in every case, the music chosen is very important to that particular production, which is why it’s chosen in the first place!