One of the things that’s helped Canada become a global powerhouse in music is the investments we make in the arts. Music has been bolstered by Canadian contest rules since 1971, which forced the creation of the infrastructure required to underpin a healthy domestic scene. And a healthy domestic scene inevitably leads to opportunities to export our music to the world.
For decades, Canadian radio stations have been part of this effort to build up domestic talent, not just through the required playlisting of Canadian music (currently at a minimum of 35% of all music played) to contributing financially to organizations like FACTOR and Starmarker. When one radio company buys stations from another (and especially if one radio group swallows a competitor), the buyer has to pay a cultural tax of sorts referred to as “tangible benefits.” That number usually is a percentage of the purchase price. They buyer has to invest that amount of money on Canadian culture and talent over a specified number of years.
Radio and other legacy media continue to make these payments, investments, and contributions. Streaming services, all of which are based outside the country, do not. Companies like Spotify have been siphoning away hard currency from Canadian music fans without putting anything back into our ecosystem.
That’s about to change. Through Bill C-11, which just passed through parliament, the Canadian government will soon require streamers–everyone from Spotify to Netflix to YouTube–to boost domestic content. We’re following Europe’s lead in demanding that these companies adhere to a more robust series of regulations when it comes to investment in culture.
Very soon, streamers will have to prominently feature Canadian content when users with an Canadian IP address log on to search for music or television content. The Wall Street Journal is on the story, saying that the new law will also “demand that streaming companies and video-sharing sites make annual payments to fund Canadian artists, which officials peg at an estimated one billion Canadian dollars, the equivalent of about US$770 million.”
There will be much gnashing of teeth over this; YouTube and TikTok are not happy. Even some Canadians will kvetch about this, arguing that we don’t need such protections and that this will limit our choices when it comes to international content. But too bad. As neighbours of the largest net exporter of culture on the planet, we gotta do something to make sure we don’t turn into a Kardashian nation.
Some other perspectives and opinions can be found here.