Don Quarles Executive Director, Songwriters Association of Canada

Don Quarles Executive Director, Songwriters Association of Canada
Don Quarles has spent the last 20 years as an event producer, most recently at the Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts where he was involved in well over 7,500 events. He has been regional workshop coordinator for the NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) for the last seven years and helped to develop the School Alliance of Student Songwriters (SASS), a program designed to bring songwriting into Canadian elementary and secondary school classrooms.

What services does the Songwriters Association of Canada provide its members?
Our focus is Advocacy, Education and Community. Below are some of the exclusive service / benefits we offer members. (For details go to (A HREF="">
Canadian Song Depository: This is the only copyright protection service in Canada that can substantiate your claims of original authorship of a particular musical work. SOCAN registration, for example, only collects the basic data on the song (song title, song length, genre, and writers’ info). SOCAN keeps no legal record of the recording itself, and therefore cannot help in establishing exactly what music was created when. The Canadian Song Depository exists to file and store copies of your original sound recordings, but also to potentially provide notarised copies of your original material should you ever need to substantiate your claim of original authorship.
Song Assessment: Song critiques by music industry professionals via mail. Each submission is critiqued personally by an assessor chosen by the S.A.C., usually a member of our Board of Directors or Advisory Board. Your critique includes a detailed written response to your material covering presentation, performance, song structure, lyrics, music and commercial appeal.
Date with a Demo: A front-line business connection that allows songwriters to have their song demos critiqued in person by industry professionals including publishers, A&R reps from record labels and successful songwriters and other music industry professionals. We also offer member discounts to our workshops like the Songshop and Power Songshop, and Bluebird North, a public showcase that celebrates Canadian songwriters.

Is there a place within the S.A.C. for songwriters who aren’t necessarily all about commercial appeal?
Absolutely, in fact many of our members have an interest in strictly honing their craft for their own community performances. Membership also offers a community network of other musicians and songwriters for possible collaboration.

What are the obstacles that confront Canadian songwriters, in terms of finding a market?
Unless the individual songwriter is only interested in performing his/her own tunes in front of their Sunday afternoon local cafe audience, he/she faces the same obstacles that have always existed. Getting the attention of those in the industry that can take them to the next level will always be a challenge. The good news is that the digital age has created opportunities for songwriters that were never there before. Individuals can develop a market via the internet easier than ever before with digital calling cards like MySpace and the S.A.C.'s soon to be announced Songpage, where songwriters can promote and get instant feedback on their material.

Many young songwriters focus their talents on fronting a band. How does someone break into the songwriting-for-other-people market?
The best way to start writing for others is to do research and look for acts that are currently performing around town (either covers or originals) and asking if they might consider performing other material or even co-writing. This allows songwriters to get their foot in the door with an act that is developing and also gives both parties a larger "net" to cast when promoting the material. These songwriters should always be looking for "vehicles" for their material — even if they are only looking for vocalists to sing on their next demo.

Canada is notable for producing uniquely talented singer-songwriters. Why do you think that is?
As a nation that is spread out geographically, we have many creative pockets that nurture a community of singer/ songwriters. More open stage opportunities are allowing these talented performing songwriters to test out their material in front of live audiences, and as a result, learn from those experiences and raise the bar on their ability and craft.