Billboard Hot 100 Canadian Artist Hits in 2019

As we have previously reported on several occasions, the number of Canadian artists appearing on the national weekly charts, and certainly within the Top 40, has sharply declined since the chart metrics began to incorporate streaming data.

The number of Canadians who debuted a song as the main artist in 2019 that made the weekly Canadian Hot 100’s Top Forty is an abysmal nine. They are Shawn Mendes, The Weeknd, Drake, Nav, PartyNextDoor, Ali Gatie, JP Saxe, Felix Cartal, and Lights (the latter two co-authored a track). Our concern is not for the A-Listers, as these are doing well. The C-Listers (indie artists) are always chipping away doing their own thing. Our concern is primarily for the B-Listers, the middle class if you will, who are disappearing.

If we compare the pitiful figure of nine in 2019 to 2013’s number, the last full year before streaming data was in the mix, we find that 26 Canadian artists made the cut. That’s a mighty drop.

The good news this year is that more Franco tunes appeared on the weekly Hot 100: six in all. “Tu Trouveras La Paix” from various artists with proceeds to Alzheimer’s research reached the highest peak position of #51. The song was dedicated to Canadian singer Renée Claude who was diagnosed with the illness. Two Franco tracks (still on the charts as of December 31, 2019) have managed to remain for 12 weeks each. A side note is that, when we began this blog in 2011, one of our dreams/goals was to witness a Francophone performance at the JUNO Awards. That dream came true this year, and we are extremely grateful and were driven to tears.

Thirteen tracks by Canadians as the main artist made the Top 40 through the year. None reached the top but two made it to #2. One of them, Shawn Mendes’ “If I Can’t Have You” spent an impressive 29 weeks on the charts before bowing out in late November. A dozen entries graced the Top Forty that were partially credited to Canadians, whether featured in tracks by international artists or co-credited as the main artist. Only one of these crowned the Hot 100, that being “Seniorita” from the aforementioned Mendes and Cuban singer Camila Cabello of former R&B group Fifth Harmony.

For the 31 tunes listed below, we have indicated those that debuted on the charts prior to 2019 (there are two) with an asterisk (*) as well as tracks that were still on the charts as of December 31 (there are 11) with a cross (†). The latter may reach higher peak positions in 2020. Interestingly, Michael Bublé‘s “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”, released in 2011, reached its highest peak position in 2019 at #14 and is looking to be a perennial favourite.

Below are 2019’s significant hits with Canadian artist involvement divided into three categories: Franco hits that made the Hot 100, Canadian artist hits that made the Top 40, and partially Canadian hits that made the Top 40.

Canadian Hot 100 Franco Hits

Tu Trouveras La Paix – Various Artists, #51 on Mar 19
Coton Ouate† – Bleu Jeans Bleu, #56 on Nov 19
L’amerique pleure† – Les Cowboys Fringants, #64 on Oct 15
Sometimes, All the Time – Loud ft. Charlotte Cardin, #72 on Jun 04
L’etrange pays – Jean Leloup, #76 on Jun 04
Fallait y aller – Loud, #99 on Jun 04

Canadian Artist Top 40 Hits

If I Can’t Have You – Shawn Mendes, #2 on May 14
Blinding Lights† – The Weeknd, #2 on Dec 10
Heartless† – The Weeknd, #3 on Dec 10
Money in the Grave – Drake, #5 on Jun 25
Omerta – Drake, #8 on Jun 25
…Look a Lot Like Christmas*† – Michael Buble, #14 on Dec 31
Price on My Head – Nav ft. The Weeknd, #18 on Apr 02
Loyal† – PartyNextDoor ft. Drake, #19 on Dec 03
It’s You – Ali Gatie, #25 on Oct 29
Behind Barz – Drake, #28 on Oct 01
With You* – Tyler Shaw, #34 on Jan 08
If the World Was Ending† – JP Saxe, #34 on Dec 24
Love Me – Felix Cartal & Lights, #38 on Aug 13

Top 40 Hits Partially Credited to Canadians

Seniorita† – Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello, #1 on Aug 27
I Don’t Care† – Justin Bieber & Ed Sheeran, #2 on May 21
10,000 Hours† – Dan+Say & Justin Bieber, #2 on Oct 15
Con Calma – Daddy Yankee ft. Snow, #6 on Jun 18
No Guidance – Chris Brown ft. Drake, #7 on Jun 18
Lalala† – Y2K & bbno$, #10 on Oct 01
I’m Not Alright – Loud Luxury & Bryce Vine, #13 on Oct 08
Lost in the Fire – The Weeknd and Gesaffelstein , #14 on Jan 22
Takeaway – Chainsmokers & Illenium ft. Lennon Stella, #31 on Aug 06
Gold Roses – Rick Ross ft. Drake, #33 on Aug 06
Won’t Be Late – Swae Lee ft. Drake, #34 on Aug 27
Jerry Sprunger – Tory Lanez & T-Pain, #34 on Nov 26

Is the End of the Album in Sight?

There has been recent chatter of an inevitable demise of the album with the rise in popularity of streaming. Some foresee that things will revert back to the 1950s when the single was the main release and studio albums were simply greatest hits or various artist compilations or, as was the case with The Beatles in the early days of the band, a collection of additional songs.

Talk like this is not new, as the same points were put forth when iTunes went live allowing the public to download individual tracks from albums.

While it is a fact that the purchase of physical and digital albums as a whole has been in decline for some time now, there is no indication that the number of studio LPs being released is on the decrease. The Canadian Music Blog has been tracking albums for several years now. In 2014, the number of professional Canadian artist studio albums that came to our attention was 620. That number dropped in 2015 to 591 and again in 2016 to 510. However, it rose again to 623 in 2017. With still a few weeks left to go in 2018, the number is currently 540. So, the numbers are up and down from year to year but remain within the 500 to over 600 range.

In countries (not mentioning any names) with 99% piracy, where streaming and free downloads have been going on for many years, studio albums continue being made at a feverish pace.

Speaking from the perspective of music consumers, we have observed that, while creating and listening to various artist playlists of favourite tracks has its rewards, sometimes we miss and feel a yearning for listening through a studio album, especially one that is solid from start to finish. When all songs on the disc are good, it serves to take us on an enjoyable ride that has its own special appeal. We can all think of albums that do the trick, and listening to them on a good stereo system with a high bit rate (i.e. CD quality) is a very gratifying experience. We can all think of that one album that changed our lives. Usually we heard it in our youth. It knocked our socks off and remains an entertainment highlight that we never forget. We would venture a guess that with that kind of valuable phenomenon affecting the masses, it is unlikely that the album will cease to exist in the future.

Adult Contemporary Preferred Far Above Rap

You know that the Canadian media’s unstated and culturally damaging objective is to break Canadian artists in the United States when they hype artists they think have the best chance of doing so and who in fact have created some buzz in the Republic. We say it harms Canadian culture because it encourages Canadian music being made to take a shape that appeals to foreign rather than domestic tastes. And we see the evidence of this in, for example, the exclusion of Francophone music from everything printed in English while heaping praises upon and including high profile features on music recorded in the Spanish language. Spanish speakers make up 8% of the U.S. population; Francophones make up 22% of Canada’s. With the success of Drake, his OVO label artists, and The Weeknd, domestic media constantly asks why other Canadian urban artists are not being heavily promoted (mostly male, mostly from Toronto) before touting such artists themselves.

If the objective is to cater to American tastes in music, however, certain assumptions have been made about what kind of music Americans like, and these appear to be completely false.

Nielsen’s portable people meter (PPM) market data for 2017 shows some surprising preferences when assessing the top 10 radio formats of the year in Liberty Statue land. While Canadian media seems to think contemporary urban music is all the rage States-side, it comes in last place (10th). Yes, rap is the least popular genre at radio in the United States. It reminds us of those schoolyard rhymes dislikers of it liked to repeat teasingly:

“Parrots squawk because they can’t roar.
Goons pick fights because they can’t score.
Bunters bunt because they can’t swing.
And rappers rap because they can’t sing.”


Classic rock, on par with classic hits, is also not as popular as one might think. We may have experienced goosebumps the first time we heard Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” while skating at the arena, but after hearing it a thousand times, we might have developed a hunger for something new. However, modern and alternative rock did not even make the Top 10; thus, the Pet Shop Boys may have a point.

“We were young but imagined we were so sophisticated
Telling everyone we knew
That rock was overrated
We stayed out ’til late
Five nights a week
And felt so chic
They called us the pop kids
‘Cause we loved the pop hits
And quoted the best bits”
–The Pet Shop Boys, “The Pop KIds”

The most popular genre of music at radio is, lo and behold, ADULT CONTEMPORARY, followed by COUNTRY, then pop/CHR, all three being pretty close. Continue reading

The Disappearance of Domestic Hit Single A-Listers

Remember the days when all kinds of Canadian acts, unknown outside the country, populated the domestic charts? Well, those days appear to be over.

The year-end Billboard Canadian Hot 100 annual charts began in 2008. That year, there were 15 songs with unique Canadian artists who made the cut. From 2009 to 2012, things held steady at 17 or 18 unique Canadian artist songs among the top 100 of the year. Things reached a peak in 2013 with an impressive 19. After that, we see a significant decline. The 2014 chart had 16 unique Canadian artist songs, 2015 had 13, and 2016 only 12. Cut the latter number in half and we arrive at this year, 2017’s horrifying 6. Yes, that’s all, six: Alessia Cara, Drake, Justin Bieber, Shawn Hook, Shawn Mendes, and The Weeknd, all signed to American record labels.

Coincidentally, Canada granted access to foreign streaming service Spotify in September 2014. And, suspiciously, that very same month, Nielsen decided to include streaming data in compiling the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 charts. Notice too that artists and labels, both foreign and domestic, around this time began telling fans to stream their music but would mention the name of only one streaming service of the many out there. Guess which one?

There is no CanCon in streaming. And the artists who are being promoted on the services are those signed to the big U.S. record labels who can outspend everyone else in marketing.

There are rumours that Apple will be dismantling the iTunes store, an act that, if carried out, would be a major earthquake for both the music industry and music consumers. Sunrise records is selling popular CDs for as much as $25 while they have bins full of DVDs selling for $2 and Bluray discs for $5. Does it make sense for audio only to be more expensive than audio plus video? Regarding online retail, it is often dependent on credit card purchases. Studies have found that 35% of Canadians refuse to use credit cards online with all the hacking going on. Remember the massive credit card hack into the now defunct A&B Sound’s online shop?

What is becoming clear is that the music industry as a whole is making it more and more difficult for people to purchase music, a suicidal move. It is interesting to watch the entertainment media interviewing recording artists who plug their new CD, when there is nowhere to purchase it easily.

There was a major political movement that spread significantly in the 20th century. In this system, masses of people were convinced was a good idea, the state owned everything. The individual owned nothing and could only be granted access through saving up coupons, performing extra work, or providing special favours to the members of the elite. What we are seeing here is something similar happening to the music industry. The concept of owning music is being phased out by special interests. Our money doesn’t allow for ownership, only for access. And all that money is discreetly, via gradual changes, being channelled into the pockets of a single individual. His name is Daniel Ek, and he now has an individual net worth of 1.6 billion dollars.

The Changing Face of Canada: An Opportunity for the Entertainment Industry

Statistics Canada’s recent release of 2016 census data on ethnicity, culture, and immigration together with its previous release on mother tongue is yet another reminder that the face of Canada is very different from the one the entertainment industry thinks it is catering to (i.e. White Anglophones only). At times too it feels that the Canadian entertainment industry is trying to cater to the demographics of The United States. But note that their demographics are radically different from ours. It is perhaps for these reasons that the industry is failing to engage the masses and ring in the big bucks.

Canadians who reported their ethnic origins (in whole or in part) as Asian make up 14.5% of the country’s population. Let us repeat that: at least 14.5% of Canadians are of Asian descent. European origins accounted for 46.7% (less than half). American origins (including both South and North America, indigenous peoples, and multigeneration Canadians) made up 36.1% in the census. Oceanic folks (including Australians) made up only 0.2%. Africans made up 2.5%. It should be noted however that many people from places like the Caribbean owe their more distant ancestry to Africa and Asia (India in particular). Statistics Canada says that as of 2016, 21.9% of Canadians are foreign born and from all over the world speaking all kinds of different languages and of course lots of cultures. The Top 3 are The Philippines, India, and China.

The restaurant industry has already done a smart job at serving cuisines from around the world. It may seem like a radical idea to some, but making Chinese pop music, Korean soap operas, and Indian movies in Canada, doing an even better job at it than they are doing overseas, and playing them on our radio stations, TV sets, and cinemas, in addition to exporting them overseas, just might be a gold mine in the waiting. Fasten your seatbelts, the times they are a-changin’. Here’s to a beautiful and exotic future!

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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Parliament Hill Concert Vs. CanCon-Deprived MMVAs

Canadian artists are topping the charts and selling out arenas all over the world, but in the minds of the organizers of Canadian events, they are not good enough to perform. For the past three years, foreign acts have headlined the Grey Cup half-time show. Moreover, we predicted when Robert Pittman’s iHeartRadio became involved with the Much Music Video Awards (MMVAs), that it would lead to a death of CanCon, and as we see in the performance lineup for the 2017 MMVAs, that is exactly what has happened. It is bad enough to allow Francophobia to exclude Francophone artists from performing at such nation-wide events, but to shut out Canadian artists as a whole can only mean that a 150-year-old country has no confidence in itself.

To the rescue comes an all-Canadian lineup, as it should be and as it has always been, for the Canada Day concert on Parliament Hill. To celebrate the nation’s 150th birthday, concerts across the land will take place. At the Canadian Museum of History July 1 at 6:30 p.m. local time, find the Souljazz Orchestra and at 9 p.m. The Lost Fingers. Major’s Hill Park’s players are Ruth B at 6:30 p.m., Jonathan Painchaud 7:15, Laurence Nerbonne 7:30, Moon Vs Sun featuring Raine Maida (Our Lady Peace) and Chantal Kreviazuk 8:30, and Mother Mother 9:30.

The flagship concert will take place on Parliament Hill at 8:30 p.m. Ottawa time, and here is the impressive lineup:

Alessia Cara
Cirque du Soleil
Dean Brody
Gordon Lightfoot
Kelly Bado
Kinnie Star
Lisa Leblanc
Louis-Jean Cormier
Mike Tompkins
Serena Ryder
Walk Off the Earth

We can only hear organizers of other events justifying their lack of CanCon by pointing out the full-slate of maple stars at the Canada Day concert. It’s very sad.

The Politics of Dancing: Gloating to Scapegoating at the 2017 JUNOs

In our view, the 2017 JUNO gala, if watched and treated as a whole, was quite a good one. However, when several incidents within the two and a half hours are brought under the magnifying glass and examined on paper, its shine fades into darkness, something that looks like co-host Bryan Adams’ dusty faded black jacket draped over unceremonious jeans. A slant towards honouring works made by the dead and ailing, an opening skit containing foul language, ego-driven babbling with arrogant statements like “this is my arena, not yours,” the gloating roundabout self-promotion of politicians, and certain jokes from a co-host to which a number of folks chose to take offence—all of these failed to derail the overall wholesomeness of the broadcast.

It is interesting that Russell Peters’ jab at the Governor General, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in the Dominion of Canada, was ignored by the press. The comedian pointed out that the Prime Minister was in attendance “and so is our Governor General, but let’s be honest, you’re more excited about the Prime Minister.” What was picked up on were his comments that sexualized women, as he referred to the Minister of Heritage as “hot” and called underage, attractive girls in attendance, “a felony waiting to happen.” The Minister in question later on called such remarks inappropriate, and JUNO president Allan Reid issued a statement of apology basically absolving CARAS from being responsible for the co-host’s off-script jokes.

If the JUNOs felt such comments from Peters were inappropriate, we question why the organization invited July Talk to perform its song “Picturing Love”. Have you read the lyrics? We can also take a look at lyrics of songs that have been nominated at the JUNOs. The Weeknd, for instance, was nominated for the Songwriter of the Year award last year for his song “The Hills”. Have you read the lyrics? (We love July Talk and The Weeknd who make great music; it is the double standard we are questioning here.) We can even look at similar statements made by Russell during his previous JUNO hosting duties, for example his comment about Anne Murray. Why is the fuss bubbling up now?

Besides the fact that CARAS has been under pressure since last year for a lack of female representation in award nominations, this year politicians were present. Politics and music do not mix. Politics is about dividing people, while music is all about bringing people together. It was a tricky situation this year, as it is Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Thus, one might expect some form of government presence. The nonpartisan Governor General, the Prime Minister and his wife, and the Minister of Heritage were there, the latter three presenting. There was mention made of the current U.S. President (who ironically was elected despite making a much more lecherous statement), and a former U.S. president (who ironically has been accused of sexual assault) showed up in a tribute to the Hall of Fame Inductee. Many felt this was all a bit too much. The focus of the JUNOs ought to be on the recording artists, not on politicians.

We would suggest that one of the reasons for the strong political presence and also for the emphasis on diversity at the gala was a Canadian attempt to counter the climate in the United States, a country that has been extremely vocal against its current leadership and its perceived suppression of diversity. Whether the spirit behind Canada’s stepping up to the plate to show the opposite of both is more of a taking over the reins of a faltering sister nation in a posture of humble assistance or more of a showing off that we are better in these areas is up for debate. In any event, the political presence put CARAS in a tight situation, because you see, ultimately it comes down to pleasing one’s sponsors for fear of losing funding. And obviously, the politicians were not amused.

Regarding the sexism, if CARAS is really serious about tackling it, principles and standards need to be adopted rather than simply supporting politicians’ scapegoating of a politically incorrect comedian for one or two off-the-cuff remarks, especially when there are more deep-seated issues at stake that involve the music industry as a whole and beyond that society at large. If we are really serious about tackling sexism, then let’s have a conversation about why a male host who bowed out was replaced with two male hosts and why the dinner and awards was emceed by another male host who happens to be the third male in a row that the CBC has appointed as the host of Q. Let’s have a conversation about why many entertainment journalist summaries of the JUNO gala were filled with lengthy, positive remarks about Downie, The Hip, and Cohen while glossing over the wins by Alessia Cara Jess Moskaluke, and Ruth B. Let’s have a conversation about why male singers account for 71% of radio spins across all radio formats and female singers only 29%. Let’s have a conversation about why male singers’ voices are autotuned up to a higher register or they sing in falsetto to sound like women as a means of keeping female vocalists out of the game. Let’s have a conversation about why the designation of pop versus rock depends not so much on the style of music but the sex of the singer. Let’s have a conversation about why the media constantly calls female artists brats not acting their age, reminding us of their age at every opportunity, brands them with hot iron pokers as “one-hit wonders” before they have even had a chance to release new music, analyzes their red carpet looks more than their production skills, and treats their credibility as hinging on the males who work with them to make their music rather than stemming from their own talent.

And while we are all brainstorming on action plans to tackle these issues, let us begin thinking about the exclusion of Francophone artists and their performances and the francophobia that surrounds it.

Graham Henderson Speaks on the Broken Promise of Music’s Golden Age


While Sean Parker was busy reinterpreting legalities to justify unethical conduct in his pursuit of channelling $2.4 billion into his own personal pockets (or offshore bank accounts), something media mentions with cringeworthy casualness, the music industry’s fortunes dropped 70% from 1999 to 2013. From physical copies at legitimate retail outlets, to internet piracy and Napster, to digital shops, to streaming services, the twists and turns of music platforms were part of a course that has led to the stark modern reality that the average Canadian recording artist earns $7,200 per year.

On November 1, 2016, President of Music Canada Graham Henderson spoke to a sold-out crowd at the Economic Club of Canada presenting his thoughts on the state of the music industry and how its fortunes might be rekindled.

In a toxic environment in which greed is overlooked in the praises of cleverness used in poaching, he notes that musicians are not the only ones treated with contempt; authors are earning 27% less than in 1998. He points out that behind the disdain is the “offensive concept” that artists do not need to be compensated much for their works because they have an intrinsic need to create which is not sparked by remuneration. Henderson argues that the age-old mechanism that work leads to wealth is largely seized up in today’s world of precarious work characterized by “immigrant Uber drivers and millennial interns, part-time lecturers and the cleaners and couriers of the ‘gig economy'” becoming mainstream. He cites as a grotesque example Amanda Palmer’s remark that musicians would be happy to perform with her for “beer and hugs”.

Curious also is the apathy or feelings of impotence preventing players in the industry from taking hold of the rudder and instead abandoning it to the mindless will of market forces. Rather than being driven by human intelligence, reason, and moral rectitude, “the market determines how we live our lives and governments need to get out of the way”.

Interestingly, this “political and economic mess” was heralded by some as the beginning of a golden age, an idea shared by “artists, the media, pundits, professors and most importantly, policy makers around the globe”. It was assumed that “in return for the collapse of artists’ traditional marketplaces” they “would make more money from the sale of concert tickets, merchandise and other means” because the digital world would enable them to tap into a much larger audience. The reality now is “a world in which the creative middle class, within the span of a single generation, has virtually ceased to exist,” as recording artists have transitioned “to the world of the self-employed ‘entrepreneur’ … working longer hours … engaged in activities for which they have little aptitude, such as data entry clerks – all for scandalously less money.”

Graham Henderson blames much of the share of problems on the fact that the regulations which govern the modern digital music world were founded on two nascent treaties adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1996: The WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. He believes these, borne of speculation, were made at a time when we knew little of the emerging digital world and now stand starkly obsolescent. The new rules were made with the intention of supercharging the digital marketplace in which both the creators and public would benefit. Creators, who in return would gain a wider audience, were asked to sacrifice receiving copyright payments for use of their works in order to subsidize the development of the new technology infrastructure. The safe harbours from liability insisted on by technology companies were codified in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Since the hasty regulations were slapped together, no golden age emerged. On the contrary, “digital technologies and the Internet were associated with sharply reduced demand, prices and sales, and consequently, to lower investment and employment.” Music Canada has identified what it terms a “value gap”, or “the gross mismatch between the volume of music being enjoyed by consumers and the revenues being returned to the music community”.

Digital’s promise to bring the buck back that was lost in internet piracy and Napster not only failed to deliver but as supported by statistics worsened conditions. Streaming is now parroting those same promises in its own interests, and it will not come as a surprise that Sean Parker has managed to weasel himself onto the board of Spotify. A lawyer, Graham Henderson expresses a number of suggestions regarding legislation, policies, and programs he thinks will help turn the fortunes of artists around such as ending “all the cross-subsidies paid by creators. Now.”

You can read the full text of the speech here or watch a video of it below.

Holiday Confusion: Wonderland, Poppies, Starbucks, and Beyoncé

starbucks-2016-green-cupSarah McLachlan is the first established Canadian artist to release a Christmas album in 2016, and it’s a really beautiful one, Wonderland. Speaking of the holidays, despite much vocal disapproval, many businesses put up Christmas decorations immediately after Halloween, nearly two months before Santa’s arrival. Today we saw Christmas trees up in a Roots shop. This practice in part trivializes the holiday on November 11. In Sarah McLachlan’s home province of Nova Scotia, outrage was expressed over the demotion of the Remembrance Day ceremony from Sydney’s largest indoor venue to make room for a crafts show.

And then there’s the matter of the new Starbucks coffee cups. The Howard Schultz coffee chain was previously criticized for washing out any holiday references to yield a plain red cup. Today, it introduced a green cup which some speculate is meant for the Christmas season. Howard Schultz is not a believer in the religion, but he has managed to channel $2.9 billion into his own personal pockets, so he probably is not too concerned with winning any best or worst coffee cup design awards. Consumers ought to remember that when they give the Starbucks cashier their money, it is all going to Schultz and virtually none to the helpful barista. The extravagant lusts of the few outweigh the basic needs of the many. That’s the American way.

No worries, folks. All of this holiday confusion can be cleared up tonight when Beyoncé performs at the Country Music Awards. What? Yes, you read that right. Is she nominated for any awards? No. Do organizers feel that actual country music stars are not good enough to draw viewers? Probably. Are the Americans turning it into a racial thing? Yes. Are any Canadian country music artists nominated? No. Would the hashtag #CMAsSoAmerican be appropriate? Almost: Olivia Newton-John is presenting. Viewership for the annual awards show has been way down since 2012. Things are not expected to pick up this year, as the televised spectacle will be on the same time as Game 7 of the world series. Baseball, cold showers, or Beyoncé twerking on a country music stage? Yikes. Most Canadians would probably pick the second option.

As for us, tonight we’ll just pick up a copy of the new Sarah McLachlan album to listen to later and settle down with a Tim Hortons coffee sprinkled with cinnamon, don a poppy, and listen to Dean Brody.

A Justin Bieber Weeknd at Guinness

justin bieber guinness

Who has wolfed down the most strips of bacon in 5 minutes is a pretty finite record in itself. These days, it seems Guinness is becoming even more microscopic. Which green-eyed 30-something male from Bolivia has wolfed down the most strips of Maple Leaf brand bacon in 5 minutes? Yes, let’s put aside for a moment the bacon question about sugar being listed as an ingredient while the nutrition facts template lists sugars at 0%.

At one of his recent sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Justin Bieber was presented with 8 framed certificates celebrating his record-breaking achievements by staff from Jim Pattison’s Guinness World Records. (The publisher has dropped the words “Book of” from the title). These records will be included in the 2017 edition. While we, along with fans of the highly successful recording artist, are happy with the announcements, we are reminded by some of the records how over-inclusive the Guinness group has questionably become. They are supposed to be world records but included are records within a country. They also endorse certain brands. We will spell things out with comments following the Biebs’ records below.

1. The record for the most streamed track on Spotify in one week (“What Do You Mean?” – 30,723,708 plays).

2. The record for the most streamed album on Spotify in one week (Purpose, 205 million plays).

3. The record for the most YouTube subscribers of any male (20,711,202).

4. The record for the most viewed YouTube music channel (10,478,651,389).

5. The record for the most Twitter followers of any male (82,235,563).

6. The record for the first act to fill the three top slots simultaneously on the U.K. singles chart: (“Love Yourself” (No. 1), “Sorry” (No. 2) and “What Do You Mean?” (No. 3).

7. The record for having the most simultaneous new entries on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (13).

8. The most simultaneous tracks on the Billboard Hot 100 (17).

We wonder why Guinness is highlighting streaming brand Spotify in particular? Deezer, Pandora anyone? Streaming records only across all services would undoubtedly be more appropriate. For some things, records by age group, sex, ethnicity, etc. may make sense but some may not think it is a must for brands Twitter and YouTube. It is interesting that Guinness mentions Canada’s Justin Bieber in records for singles charts of The United Kingdom and The United States but not for Canada. A reminder to Canadian Jim Pattison that Bieber held not 17 but 18 simultaneous tracks on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100. Sure, that chart has only been around since mid-2007, but again these are supposed to be world records; we question the mention of success on certain national charts above the rest.

The spirit of this is not to rain on the Guinness parade but to express a desire for the system to be tweaked and improved. We’re happy for The Biebs.

weeknd guinness

The Weeknd scored a couple of entries as well: most streamed album on Spotify in one year (Beauty Behind the Madness), current (60 million unique listeners). He also gets one for the most consecutive weeks in the Top 10 of U.S. Billboard’s Hot 100 by a solo male artist.

Toxic Exclusiveness Continues in Country Music


The CMT Awards in the States left many country music fans scratching their heads. It featured performances from rock band Cheap Trick, rapper Pitbull, British R&B singer Leona Lewis, as well as Pharrell Williams and Fifth Harmony. Even Candace Payne, the “Chewbacca Mom”, made an appearance. It seems the industry still hasn’t been able to embrace the right kind of inclusiveness, and realize that welcoming artists from other genres does not justify its recent downplay of female artists and its chronic lack of involving Canadian country musicians. The latter did graduate a notch from a complete shunning to tokenism, as Calgary’s Lindsay Ell was nominated for Social Superstar of the Year.

Speaking of regional/ethnic cleansing in country music, the Canadian Country Music Association recently announced a Spotlight Contest where one country music artist will win a performance spot at Country Music Week. The association reached out to provincial music associations to select one artist from the province to participate in the contest. One would expect to find ten artists representing all 10 provinces, but alas there are only nine: BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, …, NB, NS, PE, and NL. The CCMA does not offer an explanation as to why it left out Canada’s second most populated province — Quebec — a region that has spawned a host of platinum certified stars of country music.

Cœur de Pirate, Metric to Play Parliament Hill Canada Day

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The Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly has announced the lineup for the annual Canada Day concert on Parliament Hill. 2015’s celebration had Kiesza, Francesco Yates, Andee, Karim Ouellet, Gord Bamford, Cassidy Mann, Jonas & the Massive Attraction, Marc Dupré, and MAGIC! (See photos and a link to video here).

Performers of the 2016 concert just confirmed are BC world music JUNO winner Alex Cuba, Quebec pop star Alex Nevsky and internationally successful Cœur de Pirate, Ontarian multiplatinum newcomer Coleman Hell and electronic rock band Metric, New Brunswick indie folk trio Les Hay Babies, and Manitoban indigenous group Indian City. The concert will be hosted by Toronto rapper Kardinal Offishall and Montreal Musique Plus / CBC personality Rebecca Makonnen. Oui! Cœur de pirate et Metric au spectacle de la fête du Canada!

A crowd of 50,000 is expected to turn up on July 1 to view the spectacle which will be broadcast live. The CBC is touting the diversity of geographical origin and musical genres of the performers, a lineup that, like the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, excludes representation from the 15% of Canadians of Asian heritage, born on Canadian soil prior to Confederation. It is a form of ethnic cleansing that the country has not yet successfully rooted out. On the plus side, the inclusion of Francophone and Aboriginal performers is to be commended, though it is not new with this year’s event. A milestone of the maturation of the country would be that performers and presenters at Canadian spectacles reflect Canadian demographics rather than those of a foreign country (one that does not recognize the sovereignty of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II).

“I’m very pleased to be taking part in my first Canada Day as Minister of Canadian Heritage,” Joly said in a statement as reported by the national broadcaster. “I invite all Canadians to show their Canadian pride during the celebrations taking place in your part of the country.”

Besides the main event on Parliament Hill, there will be celebrations and concerts throughout cities across the country as well as Major’s Hill Park in Ottawa and the Canadian Museum of History in the Gatineau.

The Maple and Estrogen Ghost Town in Country

ghost town

With the nominations announced for the Country Music Awards states-side, the growing separation of forces is more apparent than ever. American country artists are all over the radio in Canada, but Canadian artists are practically barred from airplay in the United States. Is this fair? We do not know to what extent country music is popular throughout the world, such as in the UK and Australia, but Canada has a rich history of country dating from Wilf Carter’s debut in 1929 (he is known in the U.S. as Montana Slim). Canada is inviting American artists to perform at its CCMA awards. Is this leading to Canadian performances in the U.S.? Again, something is certainly wrong.

While American broadcasters are snubbing artists from the north of the continent, Canadian broadcasters have been icy cold towards female artists (estimates are 12.5% of airplay). The best-selling country album of all-time is from a Canadian female. Yes, Shania Twain’s Come on Over. Mother nature has not genetically modified people’s ears since that album came out. There is thus big discrepancy between what the people want to hear and what broadcasters seem intent on airing. From an economic standpoint, inclusivity, not exclusivity, increases profits because more people are engaged, listenership grows, advertising rates rise, and more people buy music. Speaking out will not necessarily change the attitudes of the suits, but we are happy to give it a try.

The Canadian Country Music Association Awards takes place in Halifax this weekend.

To What Extent Is Retailer Incompetence Contributing to Declining Music Sales?

How many times has the following scenario happened. A new album is released from a popular artist. The media has hyped it and assured you that it is available at all major retailers. Excited, you travel to the record shop and cannot find any copies in store. You ask the clerk who checks the computer which says that there are copies available in store. He chooses to believe it and wanders all around the shop looking for it. After several minutes, he returns to you and apologizes that there do not appear to be any copies in stock. You ask how long it would take to order it. He says, “several weeks”.

What retailers are failing to take advantage of is the fact that many music consumers do not accept the low sound quality of iTunes music with 256 kbps which results in horribly distorted sounding bass. They also refuse to acknowledge the fact that many Canadians (estimates are over one-third) refuse to use credit cards online due to all the hacking, putting purchases from online retailers like Amazon out of the question. For many consumers, shop purchases of CDs are the only viable option. When these retailers fail in their duties to satisfy customers, the music does not get purchased, probably streamed for free or pirated.

There was a time when you could find just about anything at the record shop, from the best-sellers to the obscure, from old releases to new. These days, most releases cannot be found. The supply falls far short of the demand. Gone too are the days of staff bending over backwards trying to please the customer.