When It Comes to Language, Canada Is Diverse, Radio Music Is Not

When in metro Vancouver, listen to the radio and hear the Anglophones sing their catchy songs; walk into the Metrotown mall and take a good look around you. How many Anglophones do you hear in the crowds? This is a confusing mismatch and one of the unacknowledged reasons why mainstream radio is losing its appeal.

Statistics Canada recently released 2016 census data on languages in Canada. It is a reminder that we are not just a heavily multicultural and multiethnic country but a multilingual one as well. As such, it would seem fitting that the music played on the radio is a reflection of such linguistic diversity. It has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that people can enjoy songs recorded in a language incomprehensible to them. In recent times, “Gangnam Style,” a Korean language song, and “Despacito,” a Spanish language one, have spent multiple weeks at #1 on the Canadian charts. There is incredibly good pop music being made in many languages around the world – Chinese, Danish, Japanese, Turkish, Italian, Arabic, you name it.

Metropolitan centres in particular are replete with linguistic diversity, and yet radio is still almost exclusively playing English language songs. This is not the case in much of the rest of the world. In Shanghai, for example, stations play songs not only in Mandarin but in foreign tongues for the locals: Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, English, and French. What’s good gets played regardless of language. Canada often boasts about its diversity, but this diversity is not reflected in the way that radio caters to those in reach of its broadcast. It seems oblivious to the reality of the demographics within its scope. Yes, there are multicultural stations, but those are conducted in various languages. The concept of having a radio station conducted in English, (or French for French Canada) playing music mostly in English (or French) but also some songs in other languages is one that those Canadians boasting about their country’s diversity seem unable to wrap their heads around.

It might be time to rethink the music that gets broadcasted. Perhaps engaging more people will rekindle broadcaster fortunes. It is important to note that the airing a song in an Allophone tongue is not simply to attract speakers of that language, but as stated above, it is to come with recognition that all have the potential to enjoy it. For example, a catchy Cantonese song may not simply draw Cantonese speakers, but Anglophones, Francophones, and other Allophones have the potential to relish it also.

Mother tongue refers to the first language a person learns. Fracophone refers to one whose first language was French, Anglophone English, and Allophone another language, something Statistics Canada refers to as “immigrant language”.

In Canada, there are now slightly more Allophones than Francophones. Regarding metropolitan areas with over a million people, in Montreal, there are significantly more Allophones than Anglophones. In Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton, Allophones far outnumber Francophones, while Francophones significantly outnumber Allophones in Ottawa. In Toronto, French is not a top 10 language, and Allophones make up 46.5 of the population!

Canada-wide, the most common mother tongue after English and French is Mandarin Chinese. In both Montreal and Ottawa, it is Arabic. Cantonese is second (after English) in both Vancouver and Toronto. In both Calgary and Edmonton, it is Filipino (Tagalog).

Below are lists of the 10 most common mother tongues in Canada and the 1 million plus metropolises. To see more, the link to the Statistics Canada interactive page is here.

Canada

English 20,251,585
French 7,393,830
Immigrant languages 7,749,120
Aboriginal languages 213,230
1 English 20,251,585
2 French 7,393,830
3 Mandarin 610,830
4 Cantonese 594,030
5 Punjabi 543,495
6 Filipino 510,425
7 Spanish 495,090
8 Arabic 486,530
9 Italian 407,460
10 German 404,745

Toronto

English 3,293,670
French 92,835
Aboriginal languages 735
Immigrant languages 2,738,800
1 English 3,293,670
2 Cantonese 260,355
3 Mandarin 233,880
4 Punjabi 186,030
5 Italian 164,510
6 Filipino 161,515
7 Urdu 148,625
8 Spanish 136,460
9 Tamil 121,785
10 Portuguese 111,445

Montreal

French 2,650,710
English 555,510
Aboriginal languages 910
Immigrant languages 1,007,045
1 French 2,650,710
2 English 555,510
3 Arabic 181,440
4 Spanish 129,860
5 Italian 109,310
6 Mandarin 41,835
7 Greek 40,890
8 Romanian 34,325
9 Portuguese 33,105
10 Russian 27,640

Vancouver

English 1,393,365
French 33,345
Aboriginal languages 1,145
Immigrant languages 1,091,265
1 English 1,393,365
2 Cantonese 193,030
3 Mandarin 180,170
4 Punjabi 163,400
5 Filipino 78,830
6 Korean 47,920
7 Persian 43,235
8 Spanish 39,625
9 French 33,345
10 Hindi 28,525

Calgary

English 976,300
French 26,115
Aboriginal languages 1,015
Immigrant languages 418,545
1 English 976,300
2 Filipino 47,840
3 Punjabi 42,140
4 Cantonese 36,325
5 Spanish 30,610
6 Mandarin 29,760
7 French 26,115
8 Arabic 21,810
9 Urdu 19,500
10 Vietnamese 14,435

Ottawa

English 675,900
French 422,230
Aboriginal languages 1,195
Immigrant languages 256,440
1 English 675,900
2 French 422,230
3 Arabic 47,630
4 Mandarin 20,710
5 Spanish 18,610
6 Cantonese 11,045
7 Italian 10,465
8 Persian 7,885
9 Portuguese 7,470
10 Filipino 7,430

Edmonton

English 963,425
French 32,790
Aboriginal languages 3,390
Immigrant languages 341,695
1 English 963,425
2 Filipino 42,525
3 French 32,790
4 Punjabi 30,110
5 Cantonese 23,955
6 Mandarin 20,675
7 Arabic 20,375
8 Spanish 19,840
9 German 15,845
10 Ukrainian 12,750

 

Only 9 Canadians Have Scored Top 40 Hits in 2017 Thus Far

The days of many Canadian artists populating the charts seem to have come to an end. Remember back in 2011 when artists like Anjulie, Avril Lavigne, deadmau5, Down with Webster, Dragonette, Fefe Dobson, Kristina Maria, Shawn Desman, and Victoria Duffield were all over the airwaves? That year saw 32 unique Canadian artists score a Top-40 hit on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 whether as the main or featured artist. From 2010 through to 2013, anywhere from 25 to 32 unique Canadian artists scored Top 40 hits per year.

Things began to decline in 2014 with only 21 unique artists. Both 2015 and 2016 saw only 16.

Things are not looking good for 2017 thus far with only 9. They are Alessia Cara, Drake, Justin Bieber, NAV, PartyNextDoor, Shawn Hook, Shawn Mendes, The Weeknd, and Virginia to Vegas (only one female, only one non-Ontarian, and no bands). It would appear that along with recent media emphasis on Canadian artists who are big internationally, the airwaves are restricting themselves to multiple hits from those few and (with only a couple of exceptions) are ignoring those who are big nationally but not globally. Consumers of music seem to be doing the same. A party that goes from 32 attendees to only nine feels a bit like a ghost town, doesn’t it.

A Comparison of Drake’s Hits Among the Major Anglo Markets

There’s no question that Drake completely cleaned up at last night’s 2017 Billboard Music Awards breaking the record with 13 trophies. As a sole main artist, Drake here at home has thus far placed 74 tracks onto the Billboard Hot 100. Forty of these have made the Top 40, nine the Top 10, with his lone number one hit being “One Dance”. Another way of looking at it is that 19 of the tracks spent more than 20 weeks on the chart, six more than 30, and two more than 40. His success on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 has been even more impressive. In the beginning of his music career, Drake’s success in the United States far exceeded success elsewhere including Canada. As he frolicked his way from rapping over to singing and from rap music over to R&B, dance, and pop, his tracks, while retaining success in the US, did better in the other Anglo markets (The United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia). The following table shows this. All Top 10 hits in any of the four major Anglo markets are included. There are a total of 15.

TITLE CA AU UK US
Best I Ever Had 24     2
Forever 26 99 42 8
Find Your Love 10   24 5
Make Me Proud 25 95 49 9
Take Care 15 9 9 7
Started from the Bottom 36 93 25 6
Hold On, We’re Going… 5 8 4 4
Hotline Bling 3 2 3 2
Summer Sixteen 12 25 23 6
One Dance 1 1 1 1
Too Good 9 3 3 14
Fake Love 10 16 10 8
Passionfruit 2 4 3 8
Portland 6   27 9
Blem 8   10 38

Who Is Close to 100 Million Followers on Twitter?

No one has ever reached 100 million Twitter followers, but three recording artists are closing in. Katy Perry is in the lead. Close behind is Justin Bieber. And swiftly behind them is Taylor … Swift. Katy has an extra thrust from new rocket fuel thanks to her recently released single “Chained to the Rhythm”. Behind the top 3 are Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and then Selena Gomez. Other Canadians in the Top 100 are Drake and Avril Lavigne.

Things are a little different in terms of Facebook likes. Shakira is over 100 million and the top recording artist. She is followed by Eminem, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Bob Marley, and then Katy Perry.

100-m-twitter-copy

Nielsen Year-End Report

Nielsen Music has released a year-end report for 2016. Now we have the actual numbers of album and tracks sales. You can read the whole report here. Some highlights below. Total consumption refers to full albums purchased (whether digital or physical) plus track equivalent albums (10 tracks is equivalent to 1 album) and streaming equivalent albums (1,500 streams is equivalent to 1 album). 

TOP ALBUMS BY TOTAL CONSUMPTION

1. Views by Drake, 457,000 units
2. 25 by Adele, 266,000 units
3. Purpose by Justin Bieber, 240,000 units
4. Blurryface by Twenty-One Pilots, 172,000 units
5. Starboy by The Weeknd, 171,000 units
6. Anti by Rihanna, 170,000 units.
7. This Is Acting by Sia, 169,000 units.
8. Encore un soir by Celine Dion, 140,000 units.
9. Lemonade by Beyoncé, 138,000 units.
10. Collage by The Chainsmokers, 136,000 units.

TOP ALBUMS BY SALES

1. Views by Drake, 196,000 copies
2. 25 by Adele, 196,000 copies
3. Encore un soir by Celine Dion, 134,000 copies
4. You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen, 106,000 copies
5. Hardwired to Self-Destruct by Metallica, 103,000 copies
6. Lemonade by Beyoncé, 101,000 copies
7. Purpose by Justin Bieber, 92,000 copies
8. Starboy by The Weeknd, 79,000 copies
9. Yer Favourites by The Tragically Hip, 75,000 copies
10. Blurryface by Twenty-One Pilots, 73,000 copies

TOP DIGITAL SONGS

1. Cheap Thrills by Sia, 367,000
2. 7 Years by Lukas Graham, 326,000
3. One Dance by Drake, 323,000
4. I Took a Pill in Ibiza, 303,000
5. Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake, 293,000
6. Stressed Out by Twenty-One Pilots, 283,000
7. Closer by The Chainsmokers, 276,000
8. My House by Flo Rida, 271,000
9. Love Yourself by Justin Bieber, 258,000
10. Cake by the Ocean by DNCE, 244,000

Nielsen Mid-Year Report, 2016

Nielsen Entertainment has released Canadian data for the first half of 2016. As expected, streaming is inversely proportional to sales. Total streams were up to 18.6 billion from 10.5 in the first half of 2015. Video streams increased by 1 billion (8.4 in 2015 to 9.4 in 2016) while audio streams skyrocketed from 2015’s 2.1 billion to 2016’s 9.2 billion.

Sales of albums dropped 19% from 12.3 million in the first half of 2015 to 9.9 million in 2016’s. The superior audio quality of the compact disc remains the preferred format over digital and other physical forms. Sales of albums with TEA (i.e. track-equivalent albums with ratio of 10:1) sunk from 17.4 million to 13.9. The total consumption of albums (sales + TEA + SEA or streaming equivalent albums with ratio 1500:1) rose a tad from 24.5 million in the first half of 2015 to 26.3 in 2016. Digital track sales plummeted 23%, from 51.6 million to 39.8. Below, enjoy some Top 10 lists.

Album Consumption

Albums

albums with tea

digital albums

digital songs

on-demand streams

audio streams

video streams

airplay

Top Radio Stations in Selected Cities 2015-16

qmfm

Numeris has published the latest numbers for radio station listenership in selected metropolitan areas in case you ever wondered what the most popular station was in your city. In Vancouver, 103.5 QMFM at 13.3% of the share, takes the cake and just barely squeaks by the CBC. QMFM plays selected current hits plus classics from the 80s up to the present giving it wide appeal across age groups. It is the radio station of choice at work, the sort of station that will be playing if you walk into a medical clinic, etc.

Over in Calgary, they certainly like their country. We like country too, especially if it involves Kira Isabella, Gord Bamford, Jess Moskaluke, Brett Kissel, and the like. Country 105 is tops in Saddledome City at 10.1%. A little different in Edmonton where adult contemporary is the preference thanks to the great job done by Now Radio (102.3 FM). The station has 11.2% of the share. Skipping over to the mammoth metropolis that is Toronto, 98.1 CHFI, one of three AC stations in the city, is king with 11.1%.

For Montreal, among the Anglo stations, 96 Virgin rules with a whopping 29.6%. Among the more popular Franco stations, they love their talk radio; CHMP 98.1 (Laval) has 23.2%. For a music station, we have to look at #2 overall which is Rythme 105.7 (Laval).

The numbers from Numeris are for the period November 30, 2015 to February 28, 2016. More info can be found here.

2015 Albums By Provincial Origin of Artist

As promised, we put together a pie chart that shows the percentages of albums by provincial origin of the artist (we grouped the 3 territories together) released through 2015. As you can see, though Ontario has the highest population, slightly more albums were released by artists from Quebec. With a smaller population, Nova Scotia beat out both Saskatchewan and Manitoba. As one would expect, BC came in third overall and Alberta 4th.

Albums by province

Albums Released Per Month in 2015

Below is a bar chart showing the number of full-length Canadian (i.e. by Canadian artists) albums released in both 2015 and 2014 per month. We only tracked albums available through major retailers (on CD through hmv or Amazon or digitally through iTunes). The total number of albums was comparable through both years (a little over 650 per annum). December and January are lowest and July and August also see a reduction. Autumn has the highest number and also high in the spring. Whereas 2014 saw most releases in September, 2015 had most in October. The two years also traded March and April as the spring months with the most releases.

Albums released per month 2015 and 2014

2015 Male-Female Singer Split By Radio Format

The Canadian Music Blog did an analysis of radio formats’ preferences for artist gender among 2015’s top spun songs (Top 50 for All-Format and Country, Top 40 for the others). We totalled the spins for all songs on the Nielsen BDS charts for these formats and divided them into the total spins for songs voiced by women and those voiced by men to obtain a percentage split. For songs with male-female duets we gave half the spins to male and half to female. Theoretically, the split should be 50/50, but it was nowhere close to that in any of the radio formats. CHR had the least imbalance at 36.5% female singers and 63.5% male. Both CHR and country had more imbalance than last year while AC, Hot AC, and rock had less imbalance than in 2014. Rock radio had the most imbalance of all formats last year at 93.4% male and 6.6% female. This year is a slight improvement at 86.6/13.4.

Country Radio the Most Imbalanced Format

With all the media talk this year about misogyny infecting country music broadcasters, the reality is perhaps even more unsettling than thought. While in 2014, songs by female singers represented only 12.5% of all spins among the year’s 50 most played songs, this year it was down to an abysmal 7.3%.

male - female singer split by radio format copy

2015 Canadian Content by Radio Format

The Canadian Music Blog did an analysis of radio formats’ preferences for Canadian artists among 2015’s top spun songs. Rather than looking at CanCon/MAPL in the strict sense, we simply looked at Canadian artists. For the few instances of Canadian-international collaborations, we looked at the singer. For example, because Justin Bieber was the singer of Skrillex & Diplo’s “Where Are U Now” we counted it as Canadian. For songs where the singer was Canadian but there was a feature of an international artist, for example, Mia Martina’s “Beast”, we gave it full marks as Canadian. For CHR, AC, Hot AC and Rock, we looked at the Top 40 songs of the year and for All-Format and Country the Top 50. To come up with the percentages, we totalled the spins for all songs on the Nielsen BDS charts for these formats and divided them into the total spins for the songs by Canadians. While the numbers are fairly comparable for the various formats, Adult Contemporary was king of CanCon at 33.2%, or roughly one-third of spins. The weakest for CanCon was Country radio at 26.0% or roughly one-quarter of spins.

cancon by radio format copy

Album Releases by Provincial Origin of Artist

We have tracked 373 Canadian albums released in 2015 to date. That is quite a few. One may wonder where all these artists are coming from in the land of 36 million people. We have traced the provincial origin of the artist behind each album — not where the artist is based (chances are that would be Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, or abroad) but where the artist grew up. If it is a band or duo, where did the group form? The results are presented in the pie chart below. Given the big populations in Ontario and Quebec, that most artists are from those two is not surprising. That BC and Alberta follow is not a shocker either. However, look at what province comes next. It is not Saskatchewan or Manitoba, but Nova Scotia. There are more Nova Scotians making music than either Saskatchewaners or Manitobans! Considering per capita album releases, the territories would rank 1st followed by PEI, then Nova Scotia. Quebec would rank fourth. Alberta would rank last. We will do a similar analysis at the end of the year on all 2015 albums which should give a more accurate picture.

Canadian albums by Artist Origin

What Genres of Music Are Being Made Most in Canada?

Music is like food. Some will eat anything while others are picky eaters. A healthy music scene, like a banquet, is one that has as much variety as possible as all have different tastes. Most of us will try at least several dishes (genres) and enjoy them all. A few might just eat one or two dishes. Some dishes will be far more popular than others. We imagine the chocolate cake would rank high while something like escargot may rank low. Does this mean that all should make chocolate cake? While the most popular, few would attend a banquet if that was all that was offered. Does it mean that no-one should make escargot? Not necessarily. There may be a couple of people that hold it as their absolute favourite. Each artist has to decide what kind of music they want to make. Some artists will go with what kind of music they personally like. Others will go with the genre that they are good at even if they don’t particularly like it. Others will make what they feel will sell well. Each artist has the freedom to decide.

All that aside, what genres of music are being made in Canada? Based on all 363 LPs that have been released so far in 2015, we have created a pie chart based on the genres of those albums. Take it with a grain of salt as what sounds like blues to one may sound like rock to another. At what point does pop become dance or R&B? Where is the line drawn between punk and metal? It’s all very subjective. But we do see a bit of a pattern emerging which shows that when it comes to making music, Canadian artists’ primary two genres of choice are folk/singer-songwriter and alternative. Alternative is distinct from rock and pop. It can be more experimental or more electronic (or both). Singer-songwriter is in fact folk, but folk we think of as a more traditional style of singer-songwriter. Interestingly dance LPs are scarcely made in Canada. However, dance EPs and singles are more common. Pop songs usually get remixed with stronger beats more suitable for club play. The “other” category includes children’s, OST/musical, and reggae.

Canadian Albums by Genre

Yoan and Drake Ruling 2015 Canadian Album Sales

Yoan

2015 winner of the Canadian installment of The Voice, new country star Yoan is the top homegrown artist for album sales according to Nielsen SoundScan’s mid-year report. The self-titled work has sold 100,000 copies in Canada. Rapper Drake’s If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late sits at #2 with 89,000 copies sold. Rocker Jean Leloup takes third spot at 76,000, just shy of platinum.

In terms of digital tracks, no Canadian artist made the Top 10. The Weeknd’s “Earned It” is the only one to be certified multiplatinum for sales in excess of 160,000 copies.

When it comes to radio airplay, Shawn Mendes’ “Something Big” reigns supreme with 51,000 spins. The Weeknd’s “Earned It” has accumulated 43,000.

Mid 2015 Music charts

How Are We Doing? A Look at Global Music Markets

There is a scene from the Jack Nicholson movie As Good As It Gets when his character is putting a dog in the kennel. He asks them not to put it in with the large dog but the smaller one because it will build his confidence. The unwise habit of comparing Canada with the world’s biggest music market does little for our confidence.

Canadian recording artists who tour the world for the first time are no doubt taken aback when artists abroad greet them with, “Whoa. You’re from Canada. If only we could score a hit single in Canada.”

Out of 196 countries, Canada’s music market ranks 7th. We really are huge which is why recording artists from countries who even have much larger populations would love to crack the Canadian market.

Below is IFPI data for the year 2014 on the world’s Top 20 music markets. Notable changes from the past are that Germany has surpassed the United Kingdom to take over 3rd spot. South Korea which used to be 10th is now 8th. Although Australia has a much lower population than Canada, per capita spending on music is greater which is why they are ahead of us.

2014 music markets