Canadian Digital Music Sales Growth Beats The U.S. For the 4th Straight Year

Nielsen Soundscan has just released the Canadian music sales figures for 2009.  Notwithstanding the regular claims that the Canadian digital music market cannot develop without copyright reform, the Canadian market grew faster than the U.S. market for the fourth consecutive year.  As the chart below demonstrates, digital music sales have grown faster in Canada than in the U.S. in every year since 2006:

Year Canada United States
2009 38% 8%
2008 58% 27%
2007 73% 45%
2006 122% 65%

While this does not suggest that the market is thriving – a down economy with more competition for the entertainment dollar it is a tough market – it does confirm yet again that attempts to link copyright reform to the development of a Canadian digital market are not borne out by the facts.  Indeed, Canada has consistently grown faster than the United States (from an admittedly lower starting point given that digital music stores arrived later in Canada). 

Moreover, as I pointed out last summer, the IFPI's global data further supports the conclusion that the Canadian digital music market is not the laggard that some would have the public believe.  As of last year, Canada's digital market stood 7th worldwide, while ranking 6th for all recorded music – in other words, about what you would expect.  Of the top 20 global markets for recorded music, the IFPI said that Canada ranked 5th for the percentage of digital sales. 

Indeed, digital music sales as a percentage of total sales in Canada is ahead of every major European country. The U.S. may lead Canada (though growing at a far slower rate), but the IFPI reported that Canada is ahead of France, Britain, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Portugal, and Russia.  Canada also leads countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa.  The global music market may be facing difficult times, but the industry's own data confirms that placing the blame on Canadian copyright laws is quite clearly misplaced.


  1. ACTA
    We’ve already covered how artitsts are actualy hurt by DMCA policies. This goes to show that Canada’s copyright laws are in fact supporting artists and stimulating sales better then the Americain equivilant. I’d be super interested in finding out the proportaion of digital sales by socan represented artists vs others.

  2. Darryl Moore says:

    Honestly, I think it is simply that the Canadian market is 2 years behind the States in its growth cycle. US and Canadian copyright law are both perfectly adequate for this particular market, and neither provides any significant advantage here.

  3. @Darryl Moore
    Not completely sure I agree with you, but it definitely would be nice to see figures going back further, in particular to incorporate a cycle where the growth in both countries is increasing.

    This would allow us to compare when the peak growth occurred in both countries; this would help determine if, as you pointed out, the Canadian figures being higher is simply that the Canadian market is lagging or if the climb/drop is in step with the US market, or even if the US market is lagging the Canadian one.

    If the Canadian figures are behind the US figures, then it could be inferred that the Canadian regs are helping the industry; if in step that it neither helps nor hinders the industry, and if ahead that the Canadian regs hurt the industry.

    The point that the Canadian regulations are making the Canadian market healthier, or at least not weaker, than the US market, I am not so sure that the conclusion can be drawn based on the stats presented. There is definitely the appearance of such. However without the longer term stats I am afraid that I can’t accept it as a fact, just a hypothesis. Stats over a longer term would help.

  4. James Gannon says:

    U.S. Digital Sales beats Canada for 4th straight year

  5. James Gannon does raise an interesting point.
    The focus on growth rate, while useful, is insufficient. Billboard is reporting ~35M units in Canada, vs 1.5B units in the US. Given that the US population is ~10x the size of Canada, that would make the Canadian market about 25% of the US market per capita.

    There appears to be an assumption made by some in all of this; the assumption is that the units sold reflect sales to the residents of the country in question, rather than sales by the companies of the country in question. For instance, do sales by iTunes (Apple being US based) to a resident of Canada reflect in the US or Canadian stats?

    What does this mean then? Assuming that the numbers reflect that sales to the residents of the country described, the higher Canadian growth rate, but lower penetration rate, can indicate that there is much more room for the market to grow in Canada, and the lesser hit that we’ve taken in the current recession means that Canadians are more likely to have spare funds to purchase online music.

    Assuming the numbers reflect the sales of the company (US sales figures reflect the sales of a US-based company), then it means that the US numbers are inflated if you are trying to use it to gauge the relative market sizes in the countries. This is because the purchases of a Canadian reflects against US sales numbers. This makes the comparison of growth rates not so meaningful as well. Why? For the consumer, it matters not to them if they buy from a US based company or a Canada based company. They buy where they can get the item for the best price. For a given track, a sale by a Canadian company means that it was not sold by an American company; the same quantity of items were sold (1), but the US takes a hit in the growth rate while the Canadian one is augmented. Does this mean the US market is negatively affected by DMCA-style IP protection, but the Canadian market is positively affected by the current scheme? I can’t say that the evidence here is sufficient to demonstrate that. Neither is there sufficient evidence to show that the US DMCA protection is better. There are too many factors at play to attribute the differences to a single one.

  6. anyGivenAnti-p2pLobby says:

    This is blasphemy!! How dare you bring statistics and logic into a debate dominated by lobby speculation. How will I continue my monopoly on ideas if you continue to tell everyone that Im wrong!!

    My lobby will now have to persuade politicians to legislate thought police. This is the only way to keep interferences such as statistics and public accountability out of the way.

  7. The only thing the numbers show …
    … is that there are a whole lot of stupid people out there. They’re stupid because they pay for music. Total idiots. It’s all free, and you don’t have to be a genius to find it. Music, movies, you name it. If you pay, you’re an idiot. The real value of music is zero, because you don’t have to pay anything for it.

  8. @ anyGivenAnti-p2pLobby

    I don’t know if your bluffing or just being sarcastic, but yeah simply that would be case if the RIAA / CRIA would see this as “blasphemy” to them.

    “Self-righteous” assholes (RIAA / CRIA) they are just like religious leaders who abused power and teachings for personal gain and harm others who followed them.

  9. show actual sales , not percentage
    what is the actual revenue in dollars?