Music Industry

Published on June 28th, 2019 | by Alan Cross

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A very good question: Is CanCon compatible with streaming? Discuss.

While old-school terrestrial radio has to abide by non-negotiable rules regarding Canadian content (not to mention having to contribute financially to the support of Canadian talent with pre-tax dollars), streaming platforms are entirely exempt.

That big sucking sound you hear? Profits taken from Canadian music fans sluicing down to the HQ of foreign companies in Silicon Valley. Tax-free, too.

This is a growing problem, But what can be done about it? Michael Raine at Canadian Musician magazine takes a look.

“If the major music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music want to be in Canada, they need to support Canadian music. The same applies for Netflix and its video streaming counterparts. That is how the Canadian cultural industries feel and they’re increasingly talking about how to apply an evolved version of Canadian content (CanCon) regulations to these on-demand services. The problem is, it’s a lot easier to say that it should be done than it is to say how it should be done. Really, the only clear thing is that it can’t mirror the quota system applied to traditional media.

“In 2016, I wrote an article in Canadian Musician examining whether the traditional CanCon quota system for radio and TV was still needed, or if it at least needed to evolve and redefine its objectives. When it was introduced to radio in 1971, the CanCon system’s purpose was to boost support for, and the economic viability of, the then-weak Canadian music industry. It succeeded far beyond most expectations. It’s not the only reason Canada is now one of the leading exporters of music in the world and boasts a very healthy music industry, but that 35 to 40 per cent CanCon quota on radio played a vital role.

“’Streaming is the multi-billion-dollar elephant in the room. By arguing over radio, do we risk fighting over crumbs while the elephant takes the peanut sack?’ I wrote three years ago. The article concluded: ‘As an industry with a common goal in exposing Canadians to Canadian music, how do we move forward? … CanCon has been a tremendous success story and the system is not broken, but it needs adjusting. That much most people agree on. But exactly what those adjustments should be – and even what the end goal should be – elicits a lot of conflicting opinions. At some point in the near future, we’ll need to come to a consensus.’

“In 2019, consensus remains elusive – especially when it comes to streaming – but increasingly, the necessary conversations are happening.”

Keep reading.




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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