It’s hard to believe that a country that now exports tens of millions of CDs/digital tracks/streams to the rest of the planet was once a global backwater when it came to the music industry. Canadian record labels were nothing more than weak franchises of American and British companies and there were precious little resources in the form of recording studios, managers, agents and venues. Sure, there were some decent Canadian artists (Paul Anka, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, the Guess Who), but if you wanted to make it big, you had to leave the country.
America beckoned. Those who could leave did. Those who couldn’t, struggled.
A small group of industry types were very annoyed by the situation and over a number of years petitioned the federal government to do something. And they eventually did.
It was this week in 1971 that it became the law for Canadian radio stations to devote 30% of their playlist to Canadian artists. Once radio stations were forced to play Canadian content, an entire industry grew to meet this new (albeit artificial) demand. Not only was this a cultural development strategy, it was an industrial one. Without the Cancon regs, it’s very possible that the strong and vibrant industry we have today would have never been created.
Read more about the history of Cancon at FYI Music News.