SOCAN Guardians to be recognized this week

The virtual (sigh) SOCAN Awards are on deck for this week, just as the summer gets going, and among those to be honoured are 24 people who will be formally recognized as SOCAN Guardians. 

“More than 50 years ago, 24 visionaries understood the need to protect and amplify made-in-Canada content, paving the way for CancCon,” the organization says. “The SOCAN Guardian Award pays  homage to these efforts that have helped Canadians from the Guess Who to Sam Roberts gain national and worldwide stature.” 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has provided a special message for the awards, saying he learned the importance of promoting Canadian music from his dad. 

“My dad always knew that broadcasting Canadian content was important to maintaining and promoting our country’s unique culture and heritage. Together, we will build on this legacy and create a better future for our creators.”

The SOCAN Guardian Award was created to pay tribute to “the service of these proud thought leaders whose original efforts have had direct impact on more Canadian music creators than ever gaining national and worldwide stature. As the Baby Boom generation came of age, young Canadian artists dreamed of joining the global musical and cultural revolution, but home-grown music was considered inferior to the foreign records that dominated the charts. For Canadian artists, the doors to Canadian radio and television were essentially locked. They were forced to make a choice between abandoning their dreams or leaving the country.” 

The organization notes that the Guess Who picked their moniker on purpose to confuse DJs into playing their album, in the hopes radio stations would think they were American. The band’s original name? Chad Allen and the Expressions.  The ruse worked well, to say the least. 

The mandate of CanCon taking up a percentage of radio play happened in 1967, but it wasn’t universally embraced. “Not everyone was happy with the idea of quotas for Canadian music, with some even questioning if Canada had enough talent to meet the proposed quota. Others wondered if there was even a Canadian culture to protect.” 

“CanCon regulations created space for Canadians in broadcast media, but in the new digital streaming world, it’s déjà vu all over again,” said SOCAN Interim CEO, Jennifer Brown. “SOCAN’s data shows that the future of Canadian culture is once again in jeopardy as the consumption of streamed Canadian music by Canadians has fallen off a cliff. It’s clear that we need the music industry to unite once again to fight for the future of Canadian music, this time working with our partners in digital services to find a solution that works for everyone.”

Many of the initial CanCon Guardians have passed, but their legacy is alive and well any time you turn on the radio and hear fantastic Canadian bands putting their art into the world — including the recent surprise release from the Tragically Hip

Those to be honoured this year include, in alphabetical order:

  • Terry Brown, Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder
  • Paul Clinch, Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder*
  • Frank Davies, Love Productions / Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder
  • Don DiNovo, Lighthouse*
  • Bob Ezrin, Nimbus 9 / Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder
  • Bernie Finkelstein, True North Records / Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder
  • Tommy Graham, Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder
  • Walt Grealis, RPM Magazine*
  • Greg Hambleton, Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder
  • Kelly Jay, Crowbar*
  • Pierre Juneau, CRTC chairman*
  • Stan Klees, RPM Magazine / Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder
  • Betty Layton, SOCAN / BMI Canada*
  • Allan MacMillan, Nimbus 9 / Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder
  • Al Mair, Early Morning Productions
  • Ben McPeek, Nimbus 9 / Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder*
  • John Mills, SOCAN / CAPAC*
  • Harold Moon, SOCAN / BMI Canada*
  • Skip Prokop, Lighthouse*
  • Jack Richardson, Nimbus 9 / Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder*
  • Mel Shaw, music manager
  • Art Snider, Canadian Independent Record Production Association co-founder*
  • Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada*
  • Ritchie Yorke, Billboard / The Globe & Mail journalist*

Those whose names appear with an asterisk will be honoured posthumously. 

Amber Healy

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

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