Is CanCon Compatible with Streaming?

The music industry wants CanCon regulations applied to on-demand streaming, but that’s a lot easier said than done. What follows is excerpted with permission from Canadian Musician, as penned by the magazine's Sr. Editor Michael Raine who also co-hosts the popular Canadian Musician Podcast.

If the major music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music want to be in Canada, they need to support Canadian music. The same applies to Netflix and its video streaming counterparts. That is how the Canadian cultural industries feel and they’re increasingly talking about how to apply an evolved version of Canadian content (CanCon) regulations to these on-demand services. The problem is, it’s a lot easier to say that it should be done than it is to say how it should be done. Really, the only clear thing is that it can’t mirror the quota system applied to traditional media.

In 2016, I wrote an article in Canadian Musician examining whether the traditional CanCon quota system for radio and TV was still needed, or if it at least needed to evolve and redefine its objectives. When it was introduced to radio in 1971, the CanCon system’s purpose was to boost support for, and the economic viability of, the then-weak Canadian music industry. It succeeded far beyond most expectations. It’s not the only reason Canada is now one of the leading exporters of music in the world and boasts a very healthy music industry, but that 35 to 40 percent CanCon quota on radio played a vital role.

“Streaming is the multi-billion-dollar elephant in the room. By arguing over radio, do we risk fighting over crumbs while the elephant takes the peanut sack?” I wrote three years ago. The article concluded: “As an industry with a common goal in exposing Canadians to Canadian music, how do we move forward? … CanCon has been a tremendous success story and the system is not broken, but it needs adjusting. That much most people agree on. But exactly what those adjustments should be – and even what the end goal should be – elicits a lot of conflicting opinions. At some point in the near future, we’ll need to come to a consensus.”

In 2019, consensus remains elusive – especially when it comes to streaming – but increasingly, the necessary conversations are happening.

Last year, the federal government launched reviews of the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act and a central focus has been how government regulations, laws, and support systems should adapt to the new era of music and video streaming dominance. Stakeholders and experts from all corners of the cultural industries submitted feedback and ideas to the Ministries of Canadian Heritage and of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Much of it was about copyright and fair remuneration for creators, but some broad ideas also emerged about how CanCon may be applied to these on-demand streaming services.

But before we can talk about how CanCon could be applied to streaming, it’s necessary to ask the fundamental question: is CanCon needed in the streaming era? -- Continue reading Michael Raine's Canadian Musician feature here.

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