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Bob Ezrin: “Please don’t let this be the day the music died”

Esteemed Canadian music producer Bob Ezrin has published the following op-ed on the Copyright Board of Canada’s Tariff 8 decision in this week’s edition of The Hill Times.

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE HILL TIMES, SEPT. 22, 2014

Please don’t let this be the day the music died

By BOB EZRIN
Published: Monday, 09/22/2014 12:00 am EDT

TORONTOIt’s always been a mixed blessing to live next to the economic and cultural behemoth to our south. On one hand, we have access to the world’s largest market, while still enjoying the more liberal and enlightened Canadian life. On the other hand, they can easily overwhelm us with sheer bulk and easy access to our market.

One of Canada’s most valuable resources—and most profitable exports—is our culture. Per capita, we may be the world’s largest exporter of culture and talent. This has been made possible by the wise decisions of our hard-working parents and by forward-thinking government policy to support the arts in schools and in the marketplace and to provide developmental resources to Canada’s creative class.

We’ve grown successive generations of creators who are the equal to any of their global counterparts. And we have a vibrant national cultural industry.

Historically we’ve ensured that our creators are not just “sponsored” as they grow, but able to earn a sustainable livelihood. But now we face a major sea of change in the marketplace that begins with Canadian music and will ultimately swamp Canadian television, film, and even literature.

It is clear that in the future most music will be consumed through digital streaming services, offering low-cost “all you can eat” subscription plans in place of selling “à la carte” songs or albums. This will become true for television and film as well.

Streaming services want rights holders to believe that, with universal penetration, we will earn much more than we used to collect selling our creations. The reality is quite different. Historically, huge global hit songs would generate millions and fund the industry’s investment in tomorrow’s hit-makers—our R&D.  Today, in the streaming model, the return is a fraction of that.

And in Canada, we are beginning to set rates that are dramatically less than that.

Today, a massive hit streamed 100,000,000 times on  “non- or semi-interactive” services in most developed countries earns performers and their record labels between $130,000 and $220,000. Under the tariff set by our Copyright Board earlier this year, 100,000,000 listens in Canada—a near impossibility given our size—would generate a whopping $10,200. That is less than 10 per cent of what is paid in most other major markets—and roughly 10 per cent of what our industry had already negotiated in direct deals with the streaming services here! And the amount paid to Canadian songwriters and publishers is a similar pittance.

I know that the board operates with the best of intentions, but I am afraid in the case of Tariff 8 it has miscalculated what this industry needs, and Canadian music creators will suffer the consequences.

In short, if the Copyright Board’s inadvertent devaluation of our music is widely adopted and spreads to other rights, we’re dead. Our homegrown Canadian music industry cannot survive this. We will shrivel and die. And when we shrink, it will affect all the workers who support us, from graphic artists to marketing people to truck drivers to hotel workers to stagehands and software engineers—because many of us will simply no longer be able to afford to be creators and marketers of music, or to put our shows on the road.

Perhaps the worst result of the low rate is that we will be granting a 90 per cent discount to American streaming companies that covet our market and will eagerly sweep in here with powerful and well-funded systems that will wipe out any Canadian-owned competition—all at the expense of the creators Canada has historically supported with thoughtful policy.

My message to our government and the Copyright Board is simple:  Please pay attention to the marketplace, because that’s where we make our living. And please recognize that if our digital marketplace is to flourish, it will depend on the health and sustainability of our creative industries, which provide the content that fuel the digital marketplace. Please reconsider Tariff 8. And let’s sit down together to find a way to protect this most valuable of Canadian resources—our culture—in the new economy.

Please don’t let this be the day the music died.

Bob Ezrin has produced some of the world’s most important music artists, including Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel, Johnny Reid and Young Artists for Haiti. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2013. In 2013, he was also named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Music. Bob can be reached at:  bobezrin@nimbusarts.ca.

 

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