Music Industry

Why are Canadians such big music and TV pirates?

[This was my weekly column for – AC]

I’ll admit it: If you go through the files on my computer, you’ll find songs that I downloaded from Napster and other illegal file-sharing sites. At the time — for me it was 2001-2003 — downloading songs illegally was seen as a goof, even harmless. How could a couple of downloaded tracks bother a multi-national record label or some millionaire rock stars?

That attitude was totally, utterly wrong, of course, and by the time I woke up to this reality, the recorded music industry was starting to spiral downwards. Fast. CD sales had begun to plummet and it became clear that piracy was one of the big contributing factors.

My pirate ways were killed forever by iTunes. It was just easier to pay 99 cents/$1.29 for a high-quality audio file than endure terrible sounding, often incomplete, sometimes virus-ridden MP3s downloaded from god knows where. Who wanted the hassle of finding torrents and seeding sites with new material?

Then there was the issue of metadata, making sure that the songs were labelled correctly. Oftentimes, a torrented song would have the wrong title, spell the name of the artist wrong, or not include all the necessary tags. You have to then organize the songs somehow in your library. Besides being wrong and immoral, music piracy took too much work.

I’ve since amassed thousands of legal digital downloads. As I write this, iTunes tells me I have 79,640 items (564.5 gigs) in my library. Not all are paid-for downloads, of course. There are many, many CD rips along with other audio such as interviews, with much being associated with my work with The Ongoing History of New Music.

When streaming started to take off in Canada around 2010, most believed that this would be the end of music piracy. Why would you bother to steal something when you could: (a) pay a modest monthly fee and have all the music you could possibly want; and (b) sign up for the free tier on Spotify and for the price of having to listen to a few ads, pay nothing at all for all the music in the universe?

Piracy was conquered. Except it wasn’t. And Canadians are still stealing stuff. A lot of stuff.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 38156 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “Why are Canadians such big music and TV pirates?

  • Oh come on Alan. We Canadians are screwed left right and centre on EVERYTHING….liquor, beer, cellular services, internet, taxes up the ying yang. And our so-called politicians paying $6000 for one -yes ONE -hotel room.

    • So because you can’t afford something gives you a license to steal?


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