Five Straight Years: Canadian Digital Music Sales Growth Against Beats the U.S.

Nielsen Soundscan releases annual music sales figures for the United States in the first week of the new year and for Canada one month later. This year Nielsen released the U.S. figures, but nearly three months later, there has still not been a public release of the Canadian figures. However, a Globe and Mail story over the weekend included the data, which confirms that the Canadian digital market grew faster than the U.S. market in 2010.  Last year, digital music sales grew by 19.8% in Canada, while the U.S. market was basically flat, with just 1% growth.  As the chart below demonstrates, this marks five straight years in which the Canadian digital market has grown faster than the U.S.:

Year Canada United States
2010 20% 1%
2009 38% 8%
2008 58% 27%
2007 73% 45%
2006 122% 65%

The recording industry will no doubt point to decelerating growth and the fact that the Canadian digital market comprises a smaller share of the market than in the U.S.  Yet the reality is that Canadian market’s global ranking is the same for both digital and non-digital sales – according to the Recording Industry in Numbers 2010, Canada ranks 7th worldwide on both counts. Moreover, the Canadian market includes additional sources of revenue for artists and record labels that do not exist in the U.S. such as the private copying levy.

None of this should be taken to mean that the industry doesn’t face challenges. Like any media and entertainment industry, it obviously does, particularly as Canadians find alternate streaming sources for their music and different places to spend their entertainment dollars. However, the claims that Canada is a piracy haven where Canadians don’t purchase digital music is undermined by the industry’s own data, which again shows the Canadian digital music market growing faster than the U.S.


  1. UBB will take care of it. No more piracy but no sales either. 🙂


  2. CndCitizen says:

    I would like to see…
    A comparison of Digital sales growth, vs CD sales decline for both countries…is that data anywhere? If would be a nice side by side comparison to show that most people moved from CD sales to Digital downloads from puretracks, or iTunes, etc.

  3. Hephaestus says:

    If the trend continues in 2 years canadas online music sales will peak, and the year after will begin declining. UBB will accelerate that trend.

  4. Crockett
    But what about … Blame Canada ?!!

  5. Laurel L. Russwurm says:

    It is exactly why they need to Blame Canada
    @ Michael Geist

    I’m a little confused as to what is being looked at here.

    Are these figures for the mainstream “Canadian Music Industry” or are the indie music industry being included (which made up 30% of Canadian recording industry last I heard)?


    Either way, this is *why* Canada makes the USTR 301 ‘pirate haven’ lists… it isn’t piracy that;’s a threat, it’s competition.

  6. From 2009

    Digital album sales jumped 42.3% to 4.78 million units – a new record – up from 3.36 million units in 2008. Digital track sales were up 38.3% to 56.3 million units ? another new peak. Digital track sales were at 40.7 million units in 2008.

    Soooo those starving artists are not starving after all unless you figure that they get very little money since they sold their copyrights and the record companies/distributors get most of the money. But why are those music artists still starving?

  7. @end user: “But why are those music artists still starving?”

    That’s just for tax purposes.


  8. And, by the way, did anyone following the previously posted link see any parallels between Noah & Daniel Webster and Luc & Louis Plamondon?

    History goes in circles.

    Nap. 🙂

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  10. IPR Communications
    @ Michael – good post. I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog. This is exactly the kind of stuff I want IPR (Institute of Production and Recording) students keeping up with. Thanks for the news. I’m interested in learning more about Canada’s “private copy levy” as an additional source of revenue – call me stupid, but I don’t know anything about this.

  11. The economy
    Clearly an effect of the recession. Notice the low growth rates for 2009 and 2010 in the US. If you are unemployed you won’t spend money on digital music.