From Deadwood to Opportunity: CRIA Changes Its Tune on the Canadian Online Music Market

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.


  1. horror!
    New crtc chairman.

    stats showing canada has good biz. (+ expensive monolithic providers)

    Shades of the sat-providers industry! will rogers squeeze the competition into their fold?

    will public domain get (us)-marshaled into oblivion? independents?

    will e-stalkers start sending blanket lawsuit forms to everyone who every used a service?

    extreme archies scare me, but I’m just not the trusting type anymore. Ask a scientist trying to release their results into the wild about it.


  2. Well Duh!!
    It’s obvious to me. The CRIA is trying to change it’s public image. First the name change to Music Canada would certainly seem to be an attempt to distance itself from C-11, the RIAA and the MPAA, which have all earned a pretty toxic public image. Just the mere mention of the RIAA or MPAA in a public forum in the US incites contempt, and rightly so. Now that the CRIA has gotten much they’ve wanted in C-11, it’s time to distance itself from the bill and try to “appear” to be a public advocate, while still pushing for draconian SOPA-style changes through back-door channels. Unfortunately, I fear this ploy may ultimately work for them.

    To me they will always be the CRIA and I will continue my boycott of them.

  3. Chris Brand says:

    They’re trying to counter the criticisms
    One of the major objections to the legislation they keep putting forward is “you need to innovate, not legislate” and “there’s no legal way to get your product in Canada”.

    They’re setting the groundwork to counter those arguments. Look for “despite all these services being available, piracy is still a problem, so we have to [modify C-11 to include SOPA-style rules | take down sites based without due process | make it illegal to bypass digital locks | extend the term of copyright | sign up to the TPP | reform our out-of-date copyright laws (again) | cut people off from the Internet | turn the Internet into TV/radio | …]”

  4. onemansband says:

    Agree, Chris. At least “Music Canada” still has one “I” (INDUSTRY = Distribution INTERESTS). It’s all about money – specifically how much money can old (and some clever new) companies squeeze from the creative efforts of a very small group of artists. The real name should probably be Music Distribution Consortium of Canada. (Notice the extra “i’s”)

  5. All the “content providers” have worked hard to keep online distribution out of Canada (ridicuously high rates, very little media actually available). If the new services will be the same very few will use them,and they will fail however, their failure will not be blamed on costing, but on piracy.

  6. I firmly believe that if everyone in the music industry just hugged some consumers, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    Can’t we come up with a populist online uprising, SOPA-style, to force music executives like Graham Henderson to go out to the few remaining record stores and just hug the people he has treated so poorly by trying to sell them fine Canadian music?

    Can’t isn’t that just? You know?

  7. I’m all for it
    It would be great to have Spotify and similar services in Canada (while at the same time advocating drastic copyright term reduction and legalizing not-for-profit file sharing).

    CRIA sounds so much like RIAA so that name is going to stick. “Music Canada” sounds a lot like “Environment Canada” or “Service Canada”… in fact confusingly so. Is it a government agency? I admit, you have to give them credit for being honest. If you go to their website it will say, right under their logo: “Representing Canada’s Major Labels”. That I can appreciate, and that is also the truth, nothing more, nothing less.

    Hopefully this new guide will help new streaming and download services feel more welcome, or will see them explain why it still won’t work for them.

  8. It would be nice if they could get American major labels to stop blocking Canadians from watching Canadian bands video’s on youtube.

    Scumbag Can Con.

    Pass rules for Canadian content. Can’t stop blocking Canadians from watching Can Con.

  9. @Crickett ” …go out to the few remaining record stores”

    Record (and video) stores, like the above post, are mired in the past. The decrease in record stores is mainly due to the fading of the physical album as a viable medium. You don’t need records stores to buy digital media.

    Similarly, a large portion of the total decrease in income from music sales over the last decade was due to the surging popularity of the single track over the album. Now, according to metrics, the album is making a comeback in digital form, and not so coincidently so are the profits for recorded music.

    With new like that, I can just see Graham giving himself a big warm hug 😀

  10. The Canadian market does not fade away, it grows
    That explains why CRIA is now telling another story. The majors see a big market sailing away from their business model. They want to capture it again.

  11. You the mean foreign major labels right?
    @Byte, are you being sarcastic or serious?

    Absolutely *NONE* of the major record labels are based in Canada. Look it up.

    “Canada’s Major Labels” is pure bullshit.

  12. I just spent the greater part of 4 hours trying to locate a song on iTunes that wasn’t on the Canada iTunes site. The songs were released in 2007 and 2009 respectively, in Europe. I clicked through 5 different iTunes stores to find the tracks, and none of them would sell it to me.

    Why do the record companies whine about piracy and lost sales, when they are causing the lost sales themselves by making it so that only domestically sold music is available? It’s like an open invitation to “You can pirate to all the music you want, as long as it’s not domestic.”

  13. Private Copying Levy
    “You can pirate to all the music you want, as long as it’s not domestic.”

    As I understand it, because we pay a private copying levy, downloading music in Canada is not, technically, illegal. I wouldn’t want to put it to a test, but that’s what I’ve heard. I do buy all my music and if I can’t get what I want I buy something else instead.

  14. hmmm
    “I wouldn’t want to put it to a test”
    lmao Are you telling me you never used a p2p program before or you just playing it safe on here? Of course if you are you wouldn’t tell me. ; )

    btw CRIA what a joke they are screw Canadian shit actually screw all music it sucks unless anyways I kind of stopped downloading music even for free I can live without music and the kind of music I listen to anyways is underground and most of the stuff also is sets which is free and completely legal, sucks to be you if you like the crap they play on the radio. 🙂

  15. @John316
    Of course I’ve used P2P, in fact, I’ve gone through most of the post Napster applications such as Kazaa, eDonkey, Limewire, etc. When I was young and stupid, and used to rip movies for actual “scene release” through a small, specialized group that focus on rare horror movies. It’s no secret and, at least twice, I’ve described on here the full details of how the scene works and the difficulties facing those trying to catch these people. …or, at least how it worked 10+ years ago, when an AMD Athon 1200 was cutting edge technology and it took 13 hours to encode an average length movie. I admit that back in those days I had little idea about or respect for copyright and even less expendable funds. The content I was primarily after, namely obscure foreign horror movies, usually had no availability in Canada, which made it public domain in Canada under the Berne Convention. Much of it has since become available(Kairo (Pulse), Uzumaki (Spiral), Otogiriso (St. John’s Wort), Ringu (Ring), Ju-On (The Grudge), Ooru naito rongu (All Night Long), Honogurai mizu no soko kara (Dark Water), Ginî piggu (Guinea Pig), among others), which I’ve bought, but a lot of it remains unreleased and unavailable here. I had all of these long before North American release or before Hollywood discovered them and decided to do remakes of many of them.

    After getting a “real” job where I actually have money to spend on media, and with over 800 music CDs and over 1500 DVD/BDs, I’ve been mostly legit for many years. These days, I only use Bittorrent for out of print comics that I would otherwise have a difficult time finding to buy and occasionally the very odd foreign movie that I cannot purchase here. The last movie I downloaded was a Japanese move called “Gantz: Perfect Answer”, (Based on the Manga “Gantz” by Hiroya Oku) a few months ago. Before that it was a French movie by Pascal Laugier, called Martyrs, probably about 2 years ago now. I’ve since purchased both movies on BluRay, basically, when they became available in this country.

    In my experience, most so called pirates eventually grow up to become good consumer citizens.