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.
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.
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