A New Voice

The Canadian music market has experienced some dramatic developments in recent months, most notably Nettwerk's decision to speak out against file sharing lawsuits (with financial backing of a U.S. defendant in one case), the CRIA/Pollara study, and the recent departure of six leading Canadian independent labels from CRIA.  While those were justifiably big stories, they pale in comparison to news that has emerged this evening in advance of tomorrow's World Intellectual Property Day.

Some of Canada's best-known musicians have launched the Canadian Music Creators Coalition, which in the words of the coalition will "ensure that lobbyists for major record labels and music publishers are not the only voices heard in debates about Canada's copyright laws and other key cultural policy issues."

Who is involved?  For starters, there is Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, Chantal Kreviazuk, Sum 41, Stars, Raine Maida (Our Lady Peace), Dave Bidini (Rheostatics), Billy Talent, John K. Samson (Weakerthans), Broken Social Scene, Sloan, Andrew Cash, and Bob Wiseman (co-founder of Blue Rodeo) who between them have won dozens of Grammy and Juno Awards while selling tens of millions of records worldwide.

What do they stand for?  Given that the artists take umbridge at the fact that the record labels make demands in their name, I'll let them speak for themselves:

"Suing Our Fans is Destructive and Hypocritical
Artists do not want to sue music fans. The labels have been suing our fans against artists' will, and laws enabling these suits cannot be justified in artists' names

Digital Locks are Risky and Counterproductive
Artists do not support using digital locks to increase the labels' control over the distribution, use and enjoyment of music or laws that prohibit circumvention of such technological measures. Consumers should be able to transfer the music they buy to other formats under a right of fair use, without having to pay twice.

Cultural Policy Should Support Actual Canadian Artists
The vast majority of new Canadian music is not promoted by major labels, which focus mostly on foreign artists. The government should use other policy tools to support actual Canadian artists and a thriving musical and cultural scene."

In addition to the press release, the artists have released a white paper study detailing their positions.  For these artists to publicly stand up and say no to P2P lawsuits, no to statutory damages, no to the use of DRM, and no anti-circumvention legislation takes real courage.  From them to highlight the need for real support of Canadian artists (the breaking point for the six indie labels), demonstrates just how frustrated they have become with policies that fail to provide adequate support for Canadian music.  Moreover, the public stand highlights the commonality between artists and their fans and leaves little doubt that the real copyright divide lies between copyright lobby groups on the one hand and artists and users on the other.

No one should underestimate the importance of this development.  After today, House of Commons committee hearings on copyright must include representation from the CMCC.  Policy makers and politicians must take the time to consult with the artists themselves.  Most importantly, government ministers will no longer be able to make policies in the artists' name, when those policies represent the views of lobbyists, not artists.


  1. Austin Corbett says:

    This is an absolutely huge development, not just in terms of real progess made (of which there is plenty,) but also as part of the first step in altering the public’s perception about the fight over copyrights.

    No longer can the CRIA claim to support Canadian artists, so what is its purpose now exactly?

  2. Neil Leyton says:

    About time…
    For two years now, lesser-known Canadian artists have been struggling to bring these issues to the fore. To celebrate World Intellectual Property Day 2004, Fading Ways Music, a Toronto-based indie label, started using Creative Commons licences on its physical product, and myself and our roster of artists have been speaking out on these issues ever since. Great to see bigger-name Canadian artists get involved. Our press release is archived here:

  3. Time for CRIA to recalculate…
    The Canadian government folks that the majors continue to lobby (at Heritage, the CRTC, Copyright Board, and Industry Canada) and certainly Minister Oda should now ask the multinational CFOs in France, Germany, England, Japan and the USA to conduct a domestic and global marketshare recalculation in consideration of the exit of the ‘majority’ of Canadian talent CRIA represented; AND govt should also call for a recalculation of the CRIA member’s respective commitments made to Canada’s Competition Bureau (when companies merged) for developing domestic acts…

    Lastly, the line “CRIA represents more than 95 per cent of all records produced and sold in Canada” should be REMOVED from future communications by the group. Arguably it was never really the case but it CERTAINLY is not the case now!

  4. I really think Canadian artists are the best; not only in their craft but also in their courage and honesty.

    Happy customers are people who come back and buy more music, and fell positive about listening to the music itself. I simply don’t belive that anyone who was sued by the RIAA woudl feel positive about those artists again. That is sad, and I am so glad that the musicians see this as well.

  5. Jason La Pierre says:

    Ok, so I can finally forgive BNL for slagging Halifax. But how much influence do the Music Creators actually have compared to the size and backing of the recording industry lobbyists? Are we creating a false hope?

  6. False hope? Well, at least they are trying, and have a decent support of artists so far. Plus, there are a lot less Bulte’s in power, and I still hope that the politicians have learned that some behavior isn’t agreeable to Canadians.

    Its in *everyone’s* favour that the laws be balanced and fair. If they aren’t, then the laws themselves are the reason not to purchase music.

    We don’t buy DRM’ed music in this house, and its not an option. Laws that force DRM onto music just means we are limited to buying used CD’s of older artists.

  7. Sergio Caredda says:

    Having an Outlook from the other side of the Atlantic, I can see this as a huge development in attitude towards this phenomena. Not only because it goes towards the protection of the creators (and not the distributors), but also because it raises a cultural issue.
    The P2P world has uncovered a reality made of artists of small countries, different cultures and languages, for the first time having the possibility to access the world, without the need to pass through the Big Multinational system. Music is evaluated by the audience, and not by somebody sitting at a desk. So, I really think this might be a very important step towards acquiring awareness in this field.

    Ciao from Italy!

  8. Canadian Artists are leaders
    Congratulations to the artists who have taken this initiative.

    You are showing the leadership that is required to restore the natural order that puts the artist first. I fall in love with the music that the artist creates. I have a desire to support the artists who create product that tug at my emotions, lift my spirits and entertain me. There is no desire to support the record companies who have increasingly gotten in the way. Now that the internet provides a legitimate alternative distribution method, you will be challanged to find ways to create a marketing model that gives you the visibility that all artists deserve.

    With the creative forces leading the charge, you have the right mindset to find the next business model. Make sure that you partner with the right people. Good luck with your initiative.

  9. miss moose says:

    super pumped!
    I was moving/sick for the last few days so I was so stoked to come back to find this out.

    I really hope that this group is given serious attention by Ottawa. I wonder who they have speaker for them on policy issues – Geist, you thinking about it?

  10. Steve Kelber says:

    share files online without a
    software client

  11. Derek K. Miller says:

    Canadian musicians rock!
    The Canadian Music Creators Coalition is exactly the right idea. Rock on. I’m signing up myself.

  12. Vladimir Orlt says:
    It would be nice to see the arists come up with a workable business model to replace the copyright-enforcement-intensive one which the industry currently uses or wants to use.

  13. Neil Leyton says:

    For Vladimir
    In response to your remark, you may want to read “The Future of Music” by Gerd Leonhard. In it he voices many ideas that have been mentioned by several folks (and pholks) in recent years in this regard. Also, we are using Creative Commons licences to enable music sharing and non-commercial distribution of the works. Safe to say we have progressed more and grown more as a company in the last two years of CC licence use than in the previous 5 being a traditional label; including new FW label offices in London, Finland, and, up next, the Adriatic. It’s not about doing away with copyright; merely doing away with the present music biz model of EXTREME copyright. There’s nothing wrong with balanced copyright laws, in fact, they are great. But WIPO’s WCT takes protectionism too far, and it’s only a matter of time until you and everyone else in the biz realizes it too…