Canadian Digital Music Sales Outperform the U.S. – Again

Nielsen SoundScan Canada is out today with the 2007 Canadian music sales data.  Despite the repeated sky-is-falling claims from CRIA, the actual data keeps telling a different story.  In 2006, Canadian digital music sales grew at 122 percent, far faster than either the U.S. or Europe.  Over the past twelve months, as CRIA promoted "unprecedented" sales declines, Statistics Canada reported strong sector growth and Industry Canada commissioned a report that found a positive correlation between file sharing and music purchasing.

Today's data further counters CRIA's claims, confirming that Canada has grown faster than the U.S. in key music sales areas for two consecutive years.  Digital track sales grew by 73 percent in Canada last year, far faster the U.S. figure of 45 percent.  Digital album sales grew by 93 percent in Canada compared with 53 percent in the U.S.   Meanwhile, overall album sales declined by 6.9 percent in Canada, less than the U.S. figure of 9.5 percent (and far less than the misleading 35 percent shipment figure that CRIA heavily promoted during much of 2007).  In other words, Canadian digital sales grew faster than the U.S. last year, while physical sales declined at a slower rate than in the U.S. 

Of course, CRIA would like the government to ignore these facts (along with the fact Canadian musicians and songwriters have come out against DRM, the fact that the major labels have abandoned DRM, and the fact that Canadian music is backed overwhelmingly by non-CRIA members) with its claim that new copyright laws are needed to foster the digital market.  The undeniable reality is that copyright is simply not the issue – the Canadian digital music market continues to grow faster than its U.S. counterpart and it is innovation, not government intervention, that will determine the digital winners and losers.

Update: While Billboard describes the digital results as "healthy growth,", no surprise that CRIA, which seemingly exists to put a negative spin on its members' corporate performances, has a different take. In CRIA's world, a market with digital growth that exceeds the U.S. is actually an "undeveloped digital market" that "continues to lag significantly behind these other markets."  Similarly, in CRIA's world, CD sales that decline slower than in the U.S. is actually a sign that "unhindered by modern laws that signal what is acceptable on the Internet, Canada has embraced a 'free for the taking' Internet culture that ultimately undermines innovation and creativity in music while continuing to draw unwanted negative attention from our trading partners."  What utter nonsense.

Update II: The Canwest chain covers the story (here's the version from the Calgary Herald, Industry Minister Jim Prentice's home riding), rightly focusing on the good news in the Nielsen report. 


  1. Wow and all that without the current 7 years old shameful American copyright law which our politician want to emulate.

  2. Blaise Alleyne says:

    Typo: CMCC URL
    Just noticed a little typo in the link to the Canadian Music Creators Coalition website: should be ‘.ca’ (it’s ‘.c’).

  3. The last fomous words:
    “As legal downloading surges ahead in other parts of the world, Canada is marooned on the sidelines,” said CRIA president Graham Henderson. “The goal of a vibrant digital marketplace in Canada will remain beyond reach until our legal environment encourages people to buy music instead of passively accepting theft on the Web.”

    [ link ]

  4. Let’s illustrate this so everyone understands:

    1. RIAA pressures the Conservatives.
    2. The Conservatives bow down without a fight.
    3. CRIA head jackal Graham Henderson sends money to Conservatives via lobby scum.
    4. The Conservatives take the money.
    5. The Conservatives consequently ignore Canadians.
    6. Stupid copyright bills get passed.
    7. RIAA and CRIA much happier.
    8. Conservatives win next election.
    9. Canadians lose out.
    10. Britney Spears gets rushed to hospital.
    11. Spears CD sales suffer.
    12. RIAA pressures the Conservatives.
    13. The Conservatives bow down without a fight.
    14. CRIA head jackal Graham Henderson sends money to Conservatives via lobby scum.
    15. The Conservatives take the money.
    16. The Conservatives consequently ignore Canadians.
    17. Another stupid copyright bill is passed.
    18. Etc, etc…

  5. Okay good doctor,

    Album sales drop by 6 million.
    Digital tracks equal about 2.5 million new albums sold.
    Digital albums increase by 1 million.
    So overall, even with the increase in digital sales, albums sales dropped by 2.5 million. I guess that means the entire industry is very healthy.
    Lastly, when a new market segment is growing from nothing, huge percentage gains can be made, but it still doesn’t necessarily mean a big actual number. The nutty professor seems to suggest that percentage growth is good — and it is — and that it currently outpaces the U.S., which it does. But the U.S. is already selling a vastly larger number of digital albums and tracks, so growth can’t be expected to be massive. Canada, on the other hand, is playing catch up, which is why the increase in percentage of digital sales seems so impressive.
    The truth is the market declined again. Maybe that’s because the last Barenaked Ladies album sucked, regardless of how vocal Stephen Page has been on the matter.
    And by the way, the CMCC has 185 musicians and groups in it. There are thousands of musicians working in Canada — so how does this group always appear to be speaking for everyone, and how is it that the nutty professor always makes it sound like the CMCC has thousands of members?

  6. Captain
    With news like this it’s hard to imagine how the DMCA could possibly be inhibiting online music sales and/or the use of music on digital devices:
    [ link ]

    The “stunning” observation made in this article which apparently eludes our illustrious leaders:
    Repealing the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions is a much better solution because it would give consumers the freedom to play their music on the device of their choice without getting the courts involved in the messy business of deciding which MP3 players have to support which audio codecs.

  7. No more music please
    I still believe that to sold somenthing it needs to be good. Today’s music is just crap. That is why album sale is dropping.

  8. Worse in the US
    Daman is right that album sales fell, but the point is that they fell more in the US (with the strong IP laws) than in Canada, with supposedly weak ones.

    But it is a little misleading of Prof. Geist to say Canadian sales outperformed US sales. Per capita, the US had many more sales, about 1.6 album equivalents per person, versus 1.3 here.

  9. Michael said “Canadian Digital Music Sales Outperform the U.S.”
    What part of “digital” don’t you understand?
    Furthermore if “digital” sale increases it is automatic that “album” sale decreases. The new generation doesn’t even know what a CD player is. There are kids in kindergarten that already have MP3 players. I believe that this Christmas were sold millions of them. My daughter got one as well as many of her peers. With the drop of DRM by the major labels and their catalogs finally online (with the hope of a decrease in price) next year will be even better for digital selling. As usual free market is better than a restricted market (which at the bottom line is the goal of any copyright law).

  10. Daman wrote: “But the U.S. is already selling a vastly larger number of digital albums and tracks”.

    You don’t see that their vastly larger population might have something to do with that?

    What is so funny about this is that if music sales take off in what is clearly the direction of the future, it’s bad news. If sales don’t slow down as fast in the old (obsolete) CD market, it’s bad news. The beauty of the argument is that no matter how much people buy, they are still crooks. It doesn’t matter that gaming sales are at a record high; people are expected to vastly increase their entertainment budget, even when the price of gas and goods skyrockets.

    The music industry is now going completely DRM free. Sony is kicking the DRM bucket now, and they are the last dinosaur to go. They no longer have any right whatsoever to complain if music is stolen; they (as the single largest consumer electronics manufacturer in the world) could easily create a DRM CD player and market their elevator music on that with 0 theft.

    But, instead they give away 1 billion songs through Amazon on mp3. I think that’s a great move, as long as they don’t then sue everyone who won the song for illegally playing it on their computer. Or iPod. Or car stereo. You know, like all those 20,000+ lawsuits they have going today.

  11. Just to clarify, I hate it when people on all sides of the debate refer to MP3 downloads as “digital”.

    What the heck is a CD if not a COMPACT DISC DIGITAL AUDIO? It’s ALL digital!!!

    I suggest we refer to MP3 downloads (illegal or not) as “MP3 downloads”.

  12. Music in any downloadable format (Mp3, Flac, Ape, Ogg, Wma, Wav and the like) is commonly called digital although CD tracks are digital too. CDs are commonly called albums as you see in the Neilsen report. You cannot call a lossless format as Flac an Mp3 download (perhaps a Flac download). Doesn’t matter if you like or not that is today’s lingo.

  13. Daman wrote: “But the U.S. is already selling a vastly larger number of digital albums and tracks”, and Mhaman responded: “You don’t see that their vastly larger population might have something to do with that?”

    Mhaman, the US buys about 3 times as many digital tracks per person as Canada does. You can see the Canadian number (26 million) in Prof. Geist’s link; the corresponding US number (844 million) is available here: [ link ]

  14. DJM: HoW in the wOrlD does 844 million tracks in the U.S. divide by three to equal 26 million? That is math beyond me.

    The point is the U.S. sells a disproportionate number of songs over the Internet compared to Canada. If the population is 10 times that of Canada, they should sell 10 times the number of tracks. They don’t — they sell more than 40X what Canada sells.

  15. daman, math is not your thing. The US sells 32 times as many tracks as does Canada, not 40.

    Why do they sell 3 times more per capita? A couple of reasons, I’d guess. First, there have been online sales available for longer there. Second, Canadians have a private copying right, paid for by levies on blank recording media. The 2007 numbers for the levy aren’t out yet, but for 2006, they collected $37 million. The copyright holders made a lot more money from file sharers than they made from online sales of tracks.

  16. daman: It’s the same math that says Rogers can fit 10,000 songs on a 8GB “music phone” (if you don’t mind each song encoded at 32 kbps).

  17. DJM: so you’re saying private copying is the reason for fewer downloads, and that $37M (paid to publishing associations and record cos) covers the difference between the U.S. and Canada’s sales rates? Strikes me that Canada should be buying — on a per capita basis — about 260 million files, which would be about another $235 million in revenue.

  18. Daman: The US has a larger population, plus a larger selection of digital downloads. iTunes in Canada is a small subset of the US version, the same is true for eMusic. A larger population with a larger range of goods will have larger sales than just the population difference.

    Canada is at least 2 years behind the US in what is being offered.

    Here is another place to check out: Microsoft Live! downloads for the XBox 360. The US customers have a large selection of video’s and games, the Canadian options are a small subset.

    Also, many Canadian musicians have a hard time breaking in to the US market since the labels do not have 10% Canadian content. So many Canadian bands are on Indie labels, and sales come from avenues other than iTunes and the major labels. Are those numbers also included in your statistics?

    Canadians should not have an expectation of purchasing US goods at the same rate that Americans do. That also should be accounted for.

  19. reader
    any music the americans can download so can we . what are you guys talking about. more available? you can download from anywhere there is music.worl;dwide even!!!! ron

  20. Canadians have all the same resources that Americans, British, German, Asian, Mongolians and yes even the French have to purchase and download music. Its a global market. What was the subject again?