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.