Saturday, September 24, 2011

Canada's Cloudless Sky

Those who know me have heard my rant about how Canadians are falling further and further behind in the Digital Age, particularly where music is involved.

Now, as the release of Apple's iOS 5 and iCloud approaches, an asterisk on the page tells the tale: iTunes in the Cloud will not be available in Canada.

Like Pandora, Hulu, Spotify, and numerous other streaming media services, iTunes in the Cloud violates various antiquated licensing and copyright regulations that "protect" Canadian cultural creators. Well, creators, face the facts: Your art is not reaching the ears of those most likely to buy your art to the extent it could. And, as digital services like iTunes continue to beat traditional bricks-and-mortar music retailers into the dust, you are being increasingly handcuffed. If the federal government cuts the $1 billion levy that flows to the CBC, your music is going to be all but unheard.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government is more concerned about increasing the mandatory jail time for petty criminals.

The federal government preaches loud and proud about the health of Canada's economy, but it is ensuring that our digital economy remains on the sidelines while other countries race ahead.


John Doheny said...

As` an educator, I find resources like these an absolute delight, since the ability to just dial up any musical example one wants in the moment makes for some great "teachable moments." However I remain pretty skeptical about any of these things putting my own music before "people likely to buy it," because if there's one thing my students know, it's this: nobody under 25 ever spent a nickel buying music.

They just don't see recorded music as a commodity. They don't. That horse has left the barn back in the age of Napster and frankly, I don't have any answers.

James Hale said...

One of the issues of dispute over Canada's new copyright legislation, which will become law later this year thanks to the Conservative majority, is that educators will no longer have easy access to digital content. Academics have lobbied hard against the legislation in its present state, but that seems a lost cause now.

Daryl said...

John. I disagree with you. The idea that a certain young generation regards music as something you don't have to pay for is not new, as demonstrated by hippies in the '60s who thought the price of a concert ticket was somehow "the man sticking it to them." In the end, though, it was the artists who educated their fans that they deserve to get paid and stigmatized the "rip-off" attitude.

Musicians today need to do the same. They should simply put their art forward and absolutely expect that people should be paying for it, not because they have technical and legal protections to ensure payment, but because paying for someone else's work is the ethically and morally correct thing to do. Stealing that work needs to be stigmatized so that people will view it as the habits of people with poor taste and breeding, the way most people view smokers now.

Musicians today are not well served by either the copyright law in Canada, or the notion that it alone is what will ensure they get paid for their work.

John Doheny said...


I was around during the 60s, and while I was to a certain extent part of the demographic that viewed concert tickets charges as "ripoffs" (hell, we thought the Stones should come crash at our house on the floor instead of staying at some fancy hotel) that was, in fact, a very small cohort. The fact is that most young people in the 60s weren't hippies. And the Stones did pretty well for themselves in the long run.

Facts are facts, and the fact is, recorded music was worth something over six billion a year in 2009. That's about half what it was worth a decade earlier. Any business that sees it's sales decline by 50% over ten years is in serious trouble.

Recorded music is simply not seen as a commodity by young people today, at all, something that is unprecendented in the history of the medium. They've adopted Steward Brandt's mid 80s dictum "information wants to be free because the systems for delivering it are becoming so cheap" wholeheartedly, while being totally unaware of the second half of the statement, which is "on the other hand, information wants to be expensive because it's so valuable."

James Hale said...

Does that speak to the copyright/licensing issue, or to a failure of the prevailing business model of the past to keep up? I haven't examined Sony's annual reports for the past few years, but I suspect they are not making less money for shareholders, just less from the music retailing side of the business. It's not the big players who are getting hurt—they seldom get hurt—but musicians are hurting. To bring it to a personal level, music journalists are getting hurt, too. There is a lot less money to go around for us, as well, and people are dropping out of the business. If musicians and everyone else who belongs to the music food chain below the multi-nationals like Sony don't find alternative ways to market what they do, they will continue to get hurt. If Canadian musicians want to leave it to Sony to determine whether or not their music gets heard by Canadians through digital media, then it most likely won't get heard, because there is not enough money to make it worth Sony's while, and as noted, they don't really care about music any more.