Canadian Musicians’ Coalition continues to fight for income protection

The Canadian Musicians’ Coalition continues to fight for the rights of artists, trying to secure financial assistance and support as the pandemic stretches on and there’s no timeline for venues to reopen. 

A seven-page brief was submitted to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage several months ago, detailing the need and benefits of a basic income guarantee for professional musicians as well as all Canadians in need. 

But a response from the Heritage Minister overlooked many of these points. 

“Essentially the Heritage Minister’s response outlines all the grant programs and supports already being offered. There is no direct response to our petition’s and brief’s position that, due to extreme music devaluation, grants on their own no longer generate viable opportunities for music artists to earn a living wage,” says Steve Sainas, the coalition’s executive director. “In the most recent federal budget, UBI, or a basic income guarantee, were not supported. This was very disappointing!”

Now, instead of having some relief in sight, musicians “will continue to struggle financially, while all those who profit from the music that artists create will be the financial benefactors of the millions of dollars in grants being made available both federally and provincially. Because the majority of support being provided by the federal and provincial governments is in the form of grants, music artists will continue to be a conduit for stimulating the music economy through their creative grants while they continue to go further into debt as they struggling to create the music that is essential to the well-being of our society,” he says. “Grants on their own are no longer effective financial support for music artists in an economy where music is so extremely devalued monetarily despite the fact that music is so essential to the well-being of our society and is being consumed at historic record rates.” 

The coalition is now joining forces with the Ontario Basic Income Network in the push toward a basic income guarantee as a way to support not only musicians but all Canadians. But they also want to see Canadian musicians earn their fair share for what they provide and produce, and that means paying them more for each stream of their music. 

“The federal government is still considering amendments to the Broadcasting Act in an attempt to create fair and transparent remuneration for music artists,” Sainas says. “Streaming royalty rates need to significantly increase and the share of those royalties need to be redistributed more fairly to the artists, but we (all) know that these reforms will take years to implement and the increments of these reforms will most likely be inadequate to support a viable living wage for music artists.

“We strongly believe that our government needs to recognize this reality and provide an alternative manner with which to support music artists with a living wage,” he continues. “It is unreasonable and unjust to continue to allow music artists to be exploited in this manner when the workers in almost all other business sectors are protected by minimum wage legislation. I appreciate that music artists are technically not ‘workers’ in the sense that they are in the ongoing employment of a workplace, but the government needs to address the exploitation of music artists with a more urgent timeline.” 

But there’s something you can do: The coalition has organized a letter writing campaign to drum up support and encourage MPs to vote for income protections for musicians. More information, and a sample letter, is available here

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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