For many years, the most prominent critic of the Canadian online music market has been the industry itself. The Canadian Recording Industry Association (now known as Music Canada) has consistently argued that few would want to invest in Canada due to the state of our copyright laws. For example, in 2009, CRIA President Graham Henderson published an op-ed that said our trading partners were racing ahead of Canada, which he argued was a product of Canadian copyright law. A year later, Universal Music Canada appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and told MPs the legal uncertainty meant that the investment was going to other countries.
This week, the industry seemingly decided to change its tune. It released a new guide on licensing digital music in Canada that identifies the key organizations that license music in Canada, including the record labels and several copyright collectives. The report highlights how there are services in Canada in all the major segments, including digital downloads, non-interactive streaming, on-demand streaming, and music videos.
There are two things particularly noteworthy about the report. The first is that the industry is suddenly promoting statistics that show Canada is actually a leader when it comes to online music sales, noting that Canada is the 6th largest market for recorded music in the world, ranking 6th for digital sales and 7th for physical sales (it might have also noted the digital sales have grown faster in Canada than the U.S. for the past five consecutive years). It also cites new survey data confirming that young Canadians are music buyers, which it says leads to the conclusion that Canada “is a digital greenfield opportunity.” This is huge shift from an industry association that a few years ago likened Canada to the HBO series Deadwood.
The second is that the guide provides further evidence of the creation of a digital music market in Canada without digital lock legislation. The guide points to download services such as iTunes, Hip Digital, Puretracks, Archambault, HMV Digital, 7Digital; non-interactive streaming services such as Galaxie Mobile and Slacker Radio; on-demand streaming such as Rdio, BBM Music, and Zune Music Pass; and streaming music videos such as YouTube and Vevo. Some of these services use digital locks, some don’t. The experience to date demonstrates that establishing success online music services is a business issue, not a legal one. The claim that a balanced approach to digital locks would harm these businesses (when all these services have launched with no legal protection for digital locks) is undermined by the industry’s own data, which points to an investment opportunity and the 6th ranked market in the world.