Canada is hot. The market north of the border continues to yield talent that scales the Billboard charts and drives sales worldwide, from Justin Bieber to Michael Bublé, Drake to Deadmau5, Avril Lavigne to Arcade Fire.
These acts, among many others, are nominees for Canada’s Juno Awards, presented April 1 in Ottawa. But before the Junos comes Canadian Music Week, the music festival, conference and exhibition that taking place March 21-25 in Toronto, drawing artists, executives and fans. In recognition of CMW’s 30th anniversary, Billboard Magazine offers 30 things you should know now about the Canadian music business. We’ve put together 15 of them here.
1. Canada is the world’s sixth-largest music market. It ranks in sixth place in digital sales, seventh in physical sales and 10th in performance rights revenue. Digital trends: Internet users, 26.2 million; broadband households, 9.5 million; smartphone users, 8.1 million. Recorded music by sector (2010): physical sales, 66%; digital sales, 29%; performance rights, 5%. (All data according to IFPI.)
2. The Independent Digital Licensing Agency offers digital distribution, royalty collection and administration, and help securing capital financing primarily for independent labels. IDLA is owned by its independent label members and offers everyone the same 9% administration fee without a fixed term. Unlike CD Baby or TuneCore, there is no upfront fee.
3. The Polaris Music Prize is a jury-chosen cash award for the best album of the year without regard to genre or sales. Held each September, it’s adjudicated by about 200 selected music journalists, broadcasters and bloggers, and a final “grand jury” the night of the event. Since 2006, the winners have been Final Fantasy, Patrick Watson, Caribou, Fucked Up, Karkwa and, in 2011, Arcade Fire.
4. Numerous government and private grants and no-cost loans are available to Canadian musicians for a range of career-development activities. Funding sources include the Toronto Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Media Development Corp., Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings and MuchFACT. Almost all the provincial music industry associations have grant programs, such as Music BC and Manitoba Film & Sound. There’s also the Radio Starmaker Fund, funded by private broadcasters.
5. Slaight Music, co-founded by Canadian radio industry heir Gary Slaight, has invested, sponsored and donated about $2 million to more than 20 artists and 14 music-related organizations, including the Polaris Music Prize, Unison Fund, Juno Awards, the Canadian Country Music Assn. Humanitarian Award, Dixon Music Hall, Honey Jam and the Canadian Music Managers Forum. All funding decisions are made by Slaight and business partner Derrick Ross-there is no application process. The Slaight family sold Standard Broadcasting in 2007 for $1.1 billion. Slaight will be honored for his work on March 31 during Juno Week by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
6. Dance-pop band These Kids Wear Crowns, signed to EMI Music Canada, is now managed by Coalition Entertainment (Simple Plan, Finger Eleven), and the group’s album, Jumpstart, is getting a global release. In Australia, where the act has toured three times, the title track is almost double-platinum (140,000 units). The album is also out in New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Japan and France, and will soon arrive in another 14 territories.
7. There are many synch opportunities for acts in Canadian TV productions. Among the current Canadian shows various music supervisors are placing tracks in are “Degrassi,” “Flashpoint,” “Arctic Air,” “Lost Girl,” “The L.A. Complex,” “Rookie Blue,” “Heartland,” “Dussault Inc.,” “Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays” and “Mr. D.” Among recently licensed tracks are Broken Social Scene’s “Sweetest Kill,” Hooded Fang’s “Den of Love,” Land of Talk’s “It’s Okay,” Wren Kelly’s “Jump,” Winston Hauschild’s “Lonely,” Leeroy Stagger’s “I Believe in Love” and Kuba Oms’ “Ride On.”
8. The Sheepdogs, the ’70s-styled rock band that won Rolling Stone’s magazine cover competition last summer along with a record deal with Atlantic, also landed a deal with Bedlam Music Management (City and Colour, Dinosaur Bones, Monster Truck). The band has finished recording an album with Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney. Meanwhile, the band will play select U.S. dates from March to June, including South by Southwest and Coachella. The Sheepdogs’ 2010 album, Learn & Burn, is gold in Canada.
9. For Live Nation Canada, the first quarter includes national tours by Canadian acts like Jann Arden, Hedley and Simple Plan. In April, Johnny Reid kicks off a 27-date tour. that ends at Halifax Metro Centre on May 16 with a lone date scheduled on July 13 at Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome. Road warrior Bryan Adams also launches his first full Canadian tour in 20 years on April 11 in Newfoundland, ending June 22 at the MTS Center in Winnipeg. Top upcoming tours by non-Canadians include Madonna, Van Halen, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Diamond and Iron Maiden.
10. The Air Canada Centre in Toronto, which ranked as one of Billboard’s top 10 highest-grossing arenas with a 15,000-plus capacity, will host Van Halen (March 17), Nickelback (April 22), Red Hot Chili Peppers (March 27-28), Bryan Adams (May 3) and Il Divo (May 19), with other bookings pending.
11. Cirque du Soleil production “Dralion” in January opened the busiest year since 2010 for the K-Rock Center in Kingston, Ontario, an SMG Canada venue. Bookings at the 7,000-capacity building this year include shows by Megadeth, Deep Purple, Hedley and Jann Arden with upcoming dates by Billy Currington, Bryan Adams and Johnny Reid.
12. Management company/label Coalition Music (Simple Plan, Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven, Justin Nozuka) purchased a 12,000-square-foot building in 2010 that was once a convent. The company built a large recording studio with an SSL board, a soundstage/showcase room in the former chapel and plenty of rehearsal space (the nuns’ bedrooms). It also operates a “music business for musicians” school. The Artist Entrepreneur program starts April 16.
13. According to Music Canada, the trade organization representing the major labels, “the digital market is still relatively untapped.” ITunes, Slacker, Rdio, 7digital, SiriusXM, HMVDigital, Zune, Rara and eMusic have all expanded into Canada; Pandora Radio isn’t available; and Spotify is reportedly finalizing deals with the labels. Among the Canadian-owned legal digital services are phone companies Bell Mobility, Telus, Rogers’ urMusic, Research in Motion’s BBM Music and Galaxie Mobile, and broadcasting networks CBC Music and Astral Radio (music and music video). Also operating are online store Puretracks, Internet radio Mediazoic and Motime for mobile content.
14. The most recent estimates from the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) forecast February royalty distributions of $39.3 million, including about $12 million from cable TV, $10 million from radio airplay and $2 million from satellite radio. The total figure represents an increase of 7% across all distribution pools except concerts, international and private copying. “Once a final decision has been made by the courts regarding [pending digital copyright issues], SOCAN will work toward distributing to members as soon as possible the monies collected” for those uses (Billboard.biz, Dec. 6, 2011).
15. Walk Off the Earth had 30,000 subscribers on YouTube before its cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” went viral-amassing 69 million views for the video of the quintet playing the song on one guitar. Union Label Group founder Matt Colyer stepped in as manager and the group has signed with Columbia. At the time, the band had seven songs in the can co-produced with Justin Koop (Grade, Silverstein). It’s now finishing up the album.
By Karen Bliss, Toronto