Ontario Culture Minister Eleanor McMahon (centre) flanked by (l-r) Warner president Steve Kane, Music Canada EVP Amy Terrill, Sony president Shane Carter, Music Canada president Graham Henderson, and UMC president Jeffrey Remedios. The event was MC''s AGM at Revival in Toronto on Tuesday. -- Picture credit: Gunter Kravis
Ontario Culture Minister Eleanor McMahon (centre) flanked by (l-r) Warner president Steve Kane, Music Canada EVP Amy Terrill, Sony president Shane Carter, Music Canada president Graham Henderson, and UMC president Jeffrey Remedios. The event was MC''s AGM at Revival in Toronto on Tuesday. -- Picture credit: Gunter Kravis

Music Canada, An Agent For Change With A Global Reach

Music Canada has become a leading activist organization pressing for better compensation for creators both at home and abroad.



This was the over-arching message driven home in the public portion of Music Canada's AGM, held at Revival in Toronto this past Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Undoubtedly, the driving force behind the trade association's campaign for change is its president, Graham Henderson, a hard-nosed entertainment lawyer for 14 years; five years the senior vice-president at Universal Music Canada and president of Music Canada for the past 12 years.

Under his stewardship, Music Canada has shifted its focus from being a reactive assembly of entrenched domestic music industry establishmentarians to becoming an influential advocacy group that is relentlessly banging the drum for increased music educational programming in schools, the re-distribution of wealth for creators through effective municipal, provincial and federal economic policy--and a nuanced advocate in educating politicians of all stripes about the importance of IP and effective copyright legislation that respects and compensates Canada's creative community.
With the support of, and financial backing from the Canadian divisions of the three major labels -- Universal, Sony and Warner -- the landscape for musicians and attendant umbrella trade organizations working with Music Canada on these ambitions across the country has significantly improved, as have relations with politicians at all levels.
Arguably the most dramatic shift in its advocacy for the creative sector occurred over a half-decade back when the trade organization determined that arguing for cultural protectionism and funding was not the way to go in dealing with the shifting heads of political parties. A successive leadership of federal parties had promised to update Canada's Copyright Act for decades: most had gone through the hearings process and left legislative bills to die on the floor of The House in the run-up to elections.

Instead, Henderson, his supportive major label presidents and team Music Canada pushed and pushed hard to have politicians understand that in the new economy the value of IP is an economic driver, as are the billions of dollars that ripple out from music endeavours that include copyrights, recordings, concerts, and festivals and, as importantly, the numbers of people the arts and music employ directly and indirectly.

With exhaustive research, the Ontario government was the test case for arguing that music is a critical segment of the economy as much as it is a form of cultural expression and opportunity for social cohesion. Speaking from the podium Tuesday, Music Canada SVP Amy Terrill stated that, "We argued (music) should be considered a pillar of economic development and the creative economy.  This is no longer a point of debate.”

The campaign result is the provincial government's Ontario Music Fund, which has become a model for provincial governments across the country. The permanency and effectiveness of the economic driver was enthusiastically driven home by the province's newest Minister of Culture, Eleanor McMahon, who attended the AGM and provided an unquestionable degree of support for the program and its accomplishments. McMahon underlined her own affinity for music programming in school, noting that she was taught piano as a youngster; has a piano sitting now in her living room - and paid for vocal lessons out of her own pocket until she entered university.

With the critical thinking for economic revitalization of the arts as an economic pillar spelled out in the critically lauded blueprint and roadmap, The Mastering of a Music City, Music Canada has impressively taken its findings nationwide on the micro level: meeting with Chambers of Commerce in towns and cities across the province and commissioned by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to write a tool kit for its 400-plus members across Canada. On a macro level, the blueprint has become a cornerstone for economic development the world over; a fact brought home with the inaugural Music Cities Summit held during Canadian Music Week in May of this year.  

The report has been extensively embraced by music communities and trade organizations around the world. It was first taken to the global stage at MIDEM and has won enough notice to have Henderson made a board member of the IFPI, (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.) The organization represents the interests of the recording industry at the global level, and Henderson is the first Canadian who has been voted onto its main Board.
In making the announcement in August of this year, the IFPI stated that "out of roughly 200 countries around the globe, Canada’s music market currently ranks 7th, and even more impressive is that according to the Department of Heritage, Canada is the 3rd largest exporter of musical talent in the world."

It is an appointment that recognizes stature and provides clout in a forum that wields great power when it comes to influencing and shaping government policies for music around the world. Call it another feather in Music Canada's impressive reach of influence.

Successfully having won the argument that music and the attendant businesses surrounding it are more than cultural beacons, Music Canada has also reached out to provincial music associations and is now working with them to provide a tool kit needed to build infrastructure, advocacy programs and research. Representatives from Music BC, Alberta Music and Nova Scotia Music updated the audience at Revival on their respective agendas and progress as part of the post-AGM agenda.

Also mentioned was the recent partnership between not-for-profit rights collectives Re:Sound and Connect Music. These two orgs have streamlined costly back-end data-collection operations, resulting in as much as $2M more in royalty payments being paid at an accelerated rate in the first year.

The last bit of the town hall discussion had Globe & Mail Arts columnist Kate Taylor conduct a one-on-one with Henderson and John Degen, executive director of the Writers' Union of Canada.

The thrust of the conversation pinpointed the alarming decline in income for the creative communities over the past decade and the absolute certainty that the imbalance wherein tech and a small few royalty earners reap the overwhelming share of the billions made from IP content must be adjusted.

Tantalizing the audience without offering specifics, Henderson and Degen foreshadowed a new advocacy campaign wherein Canadian storytellers - be they authors, songwriters or scriptwriters - will be in the spotlight as part of a public educational campaign to emphasize the need for fair compensation for their intellectual rights and colourful creations that in many ways reflect who we are as a nation.

All-in-all, not the usual generalities spoken at an AGM…but then again, Music Canada has become a beacon of hope for a great many interested parties hoping to see a Renaissance in Arts and Culture and a return of respectable incomes that come with respect for who and what they are.

-- Suggested reading

Dreaming of Music City -- Now magazine

Will the new culture strategy boost Ontario’s creative landscape? -- Steve Paikin's Blog

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