Nettwerk Music Group has long been recognized as one of Canada’s leading independent music companies. Led by Terry McBride, the company has featured label and management clients that include Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Dido, and Barenaked Ladies. The company has a reputation for embracing innovation: it was one of the first to drop digital rights management technologies from MP3 music sales and focused on fan preferences in the marketing and distribution of music. Given its role and reputation, when it engages in public policy, government should pay attention.
Yesterday, Nettwerk released a statement on Bill C-11 that is exceptionally critical of the legislative proposal:
We believe that Bill C-11 represents a fundamental misunderstanding of our industry and how musical artists are discovered and fanbases are built in today’s streaming landscape. The emergence, variety, and growth of online platforms and services and the expanding means and methods to share, stream, view, download, or buy our artists’ music has been revolutionary in allowing us to grow the profiles of our Canadian artists on the world stage. Bill C-11 is legislation with the potential for significant negative impacts on the businesses of Canadian music companies and Canadian artists focused on building a global audience. Any regulation of our artists’ work, whether distributed by us directly to online services or licensed for use by fans and consumers for inclusion in user-generated content on social media services, is unacceptable. Bill C-11 proposes outdated solutions in search of a problem.
It closes by calling for more consultation and discussion:
The potential unintended negative consequences of Bill C11 are numerous. We believe that the federal government should engage with our industry on a more meaningful basis to better understand the potential negative ramifications of this legislation before it is presented to Parliament and voted on in its final form. We state unequivocally that, as drafted, Bill C11 represents legislation that is harmful to the Canadian music industry and that it will not achieve its stated or intended aims. It will hurt Canadian artists and Canadian music companies, not help them.
The call for more meaningful engagement is notable given the train wreck that occurred at the Canadian Heritage committee yesterday. The committee has become bogged down with debate on setting a deadline for submitting proposed amendments given calls from the Conservative MPs for more witness testimony. At yesterday’s hearing, Liberal MP Chris Bittle put forward an NDP motion with a deadline of today for amendments in the middle of witness testimony. The ensuing debate meant that the witnesses did not get to answer questions. Soon after, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who was scheduled to appear, was also unable to answer questions after his own party’s MPs voted down a proposal to stop the procedural debate and ensure that there was time for the minister. The debate wasn’t the finest moment in Parliamentary process and served as a reminder that in the rush to pass the legislation, Bill C-11 still hasn’t heard from many critical voices, including Nettwerk Music Group and the minister responsible for the bill.