Recording Industry Data Shows Canada a Global Leader For Paid Digital Downloads

The IFPI, the global recording industry association, recently released its Recording Industry in Numbers 2012, which provides detailed sales data from countries around the world. Years ago, the Canadian Recording Industry Association would promote its annual sales data, but it no longer does. Perhaps that is because the data tells a far different story from the one CRIA (now Music Canada) seeks to promote. While CRIA talks about “rebuilding the marketplace”, the industry’s own data indicates that Canada already stands among the global leaders in digital music sales.

The most obvious metric (and one relied upon by IFPI) is paid digital music downloads. According to the IFPI data, Canadians purchased 94.2 million single track downloads in 2011, making it the third largest market in the world (trailing only the U.S. and UK). The Canadian numbers represented a 39% increase in sales, far ahead of the U.S. (8% growth) and U.K. (10% growth). The data shows Canadians purchased more single track downloads than Germany or Japan, and more than double the sales in France, despite the fact that each of those countries has far larger populations. In fact, Canadian sales were larger than all the sales from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden combined. Moreover, given the current growth rates, Canada seems likely to pass the U.S. on per capita single track downloads in about 18 months (not coincidentally iTunes entered the Canadian market 18 months after it debuted in the U.S.).

A comparison between Canada and France is particularly noteworthy since the IFPI often points to the French three strikes and you’re out approach (HADOPI) as a model for copyright enforcement. Yet in 2011, the first full year with HADOPI in place in France, Canadian digital downloads grew faster than the French market (39% to 29%) with 34 million Canadians buying 94.2 million single track downloads, while 65.3 million French bought 43 million single track downloads.

Not only is the Canadian digital market far larger than virtually every European market, it continues to grow faster than the U.S. digital music market as well. In fact, the Canadian digital music market has grown faster than the U.S. market for the past six consecutive years. The latest data on digital music sales growth:

Year Canada United States
2011 31% 9%
2010 20% 1%
2009 38% 8%
2008 58% 27%
2007 73% 45%
2006 122% 65%

The 2011 data is also notable because growth accelerated after declining for several years. Canadian overall music sales growth was also positive, growing by 2.6%. By comparison, among the top 20 global markets, the U.S., Japan, Germany, UK, France, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Norway, and South Africa all declined. It goes without saying that all of this growth and global leadership has occurred without copyright reform or digital lock rules.

While the news is obviously a very good one for record labels (despite their seeming desire to hide it), it is worth noting that the share of Canadian artist revenues from Canadian sales is lower than most other countries. According to the IFPI’s statistics of repertoire origin (for physical sales), Canadian artists garner only 30 percent of sales. By comparison, countries such as the U.S. (93%), Finland (67%), France (65%), Germany (46%), Italy (54%), UK (42%), Brazil (63%), and South Africa (48%) domestic artists all generate far more sales. Language is certainly a factor (Australia has a similar 31% rate), but the data highlights why foreign record labels have been so aggressive in lobbying the Canadian market as benefits accrue disproportionately to labels representing foreign artists rather than Canadian ones.


  1. ya ya we all know the lies and the truth it’s no secret at all,we don’t really need C-11 we just need it to make the America happy and Harper is the right guy for that.

  2. Paul Reinheimer says:

    Drop the Media Tax
    Since we’re clearly a nation of music buyers, rather than pirates. Could we please drop the extra taxes levied on blank media?

  3. Anonymous says:

    We could be a global leader in keeping the Net open too…
    …this being one of the first countries, founded upon the freedoms needed, and where the population is educated enough, to say courageously to our government, WE WILL NOT TOLERATE THE REGULATION OF INFORMATION.

    Then other countries will follow our lead, and we will be the first ones to figure out how to promote the progress of useful arts without trying to rebuild a new Internet, and plug all of the holes through which information can flow around censorship, and play a very expensive game of whack a mole, just to make money for mostly US companies.

    Am I dreaming? Do we have that kind of will?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why bother dropping the Media Tax?
    @Paul – I don’t think it is worth the administrative effort and cost to drop the levy. Time will kill it as that media becomes obsolete and the Government has already signaled that it has no intention to place levies on other media, like SSDs, DVDs, etc.

    Also, as sales of blank CDs fall the viability of the CPCC might result in no one administering the levy anyways.

  5. Anonymous says:

    French culture
    65.3 million French bought 43 million single track downloads…

    Well, clearly they are sharing no? Perhaps they’re just smarter than us and still buy CDs.

    I don’t think we should be bragging about the number of lossy, garbage files we download, but it’s definitely a nice in-your-face to the CRIA.

  6. Today on the radio I also heard Canadians are watching more TV than downloading shows or streaming on the net.

  7. Comparison with the other half of the world
    It would be interesting to include the Asias, Africas, and Middle Easts to compare with Canada.

    So, personal downloading w/o sharing/uploading is on what grounds? (legal/illegal)

    What downloads are legal?

  8. Be careful what you ask for
    @Paul: Don’t forget that the reason that we effectively have the right to copy CDs in Canada is not because the law allows it; it is because of the copying levy. Take the levy away and, in the absence of other changes to the copyright laws, it private copying could be declared against the law once again.

  9. Crockett says:

    Call me a cultists, oh purveyor of truth …
    Well according to certain copyright extremists I’m now a cult member for promoting consumer rights and opposing the bullying tactics of big media. Now it seems blindly ignoring the facts may apply to them instead as the FBI (in the service of USTR/copyright lobbyists) has joined the hypocrisy parade.

    It seems, all of a sudden, information is not physical & therefore taking it without legal permission or means is not really theft after all.

    Who Knew? Certainly not J.D. or anyone with *AA in their initials 😀

  10. Growth is wonderful
    Interesting that these data show growth in percentage is higher for paid digital downloads. It doesn’t say how they compare to the same revenue for traditional media. It may be that these countries who are performing poorly on digital sales are performing better on traditional media and, as such, they are healthier. The last paragraph would seem to support that: “it is worth noting that the share of Canadian artist revenues from Canadian sales is lower than most other countries.” If the digital sales are so strong, why are Canadian artists making less money? I’m sure the response will be that labels are screwing those artists out of royalties, but I’m not sure what royalty arrangements are on digital products versus CDs. Growth is wonderful, but it’s not the only indicator of health. Thanks to Steve Jobs and the spineless labels that did not stand up to him, he dictated a weak price per song and artists will not recover until competition emerges. It’s ironic that Mr. Jobs turned around and colluded with Publishers to inflate book prices in the eBook world because Amazon already had the market cornered there. If music publishers, without collusion, had just stood their ground on their price point as per their own cost model, they would be in better shape today.

  11. hmmmm what? says:

    growth is growth
    Well, hmmmm. I think what was being expressed in the fact that canadian artists art making less is there is more competition with artists from other english languaged countries.

  12. Just think how much higher those numbers will be once we get all those U.S. laws in place and Canada isn’t such a terrible lawless piracy haven anymore.. The record labels will make a fortune Lol

  13. Concerning facts
    foreign record labels have been so aggressive in lobbying the Canadian market as benefits accrue disproportionately to labels representing foreign artists rather than Canadian ones.

    Canadian politicians: please read Mr. Geist’s website, you will learn something valuable! Reading is good!

    These numbers mean that piracy is not a problem in Canada. Please stop creating new anti-piracy laws!