Canadian Content regulations haven’t turned out so well for Canadian Culture. In the music industry, Canadian Content – called “Cancon” – is indicated on a recording by way of the MAPL symbol which appears on the record album dust jacket or CD tray card to indicate the percentage of Canadian Content per recording.
Elements of any recording are broken into four segments:
M is for the composer of the Music
A is for the Artist
P is for the Performance recorded in Canada, or performed and broadcast live in Canada
L is for the composer of the Lyrics.
25% for the Nylons themselves as Canadian principal Artists, 25% for Performance– recording it in our home and native land. But non-Canadians Gilbert and Sullivan wrote the Lyrics & Music.
When Michael Kaeshammer records his own compositions in Canada, the recording would be considered 100% Canadian Content. Yet there is no MAPL designation at all on the Michael Kaeshammer Lovelight CD I bought last year at a jazz festival. Why wouldn’t an internationally renowned Canadian performer want a MAPL designation?
So What’s the problem?
The very existence of Canadian Content regulations indicates a lack of confidence that Canadian Content can compete in Canada on the basis of merit alone.
CanCon quotas assume that not only would Canadian DJs choose not to play Canadian music, but Canadians consumers wouldn’t willingly listen to it either.
CanCon rules tell the world that Canadian content is so bad that the only way anything Canadian made can get Canadian radio air play or TV exposure is if it is government mandated.
That message is simply not true.
As many great Canadian acts show, Canadian Music is quite capable of competing globally. Both at home and abroad, Canadian artists have created a great deal of wonderful music over the years.
Currently a 15 year old Canadian boy named Justin Bieber is continuously “Top Trending” on Twitter. (For the uninitiated that means there are so many people “tweeting” about him that his name is on the Twitter front page banner.
has millions of users worldwide. This is an indicator of extreme fame and a fanatical fan following. In the few minutes since I began typing the Justin Bieber portion of the article, the Twitter Justin Bieber page has racked up more than six thousand Tweets. Since Bieber’s fan base is young girls, and I’m writing this on a Friday morning, there is a very good chance that a many of these tweets are being generated in classrooms.
Granted some of the Tweet traffic consists of people hoping to catch the Justin Bieber wave to get their tweets ReTweeted, and some of it is trashing the young R&B performer. There are whole web pages devoted to dissing the entertainer — now that’s fame. Weirdly enough a good bit of anger is directed at him because all these very young girls swooning over him… Unlike geriatric rock stars young girls have swooned over for years, Justin Bieber is an appropriate age. OMG, he’s not 15 he’s really an old man of 16! But you know what they say– “no publicity is bad publicity”. And the Twitter trend proves it: even those dissing Justin Bieber are adding to the tweets that are keeping him on the top of the heap.
Ye gods! Even Google has a Latest Results for Justin Bieber live feed.
Legend (and Wikipedia) has it that Bieber’s Mom began posting his home made music videos on You Tube to share with family members in 2007. (As an internet savvy mom myself, I’m willing to bet she knew exactly what she was doing.)
Three years later Justin Bieber is a superstar.
Justin Bieber is of course a prime example of my point: Canadians are talented, and given a level playing field can certainly make it in the world of arts & entertainment. The Internet is levelling that playing field, by making it possible for artists to find their audiences. And although I am making the case for talented Canadian artists, the Internet provides the same opportunity to artists in every country around the world, because the Internet breaks down distribution barriers. And as any artist knows, the lively arts do not exist in a vacuum.
Granted, I’m decades older than Justin Bieber‘s target audience, but I will admit that although I have seen the name I had no idea who he was until I saw someone mention he was a Canadian musician on Twitter today. I only mention this because THAT is what the Internet can do.
DRM artificially imposes regionality on DVDs
British pressed DVDs are unplayable on a Canadian DVD player, as Canadian pressed DVDs are unplayable in the UK. Consumers accepted this at first, since the NTSC and PAL video tape formats were incompatable most of us assumed that was just the way it was. The reality is that regional encoding, the DRM that restricts where you may play the DVD you have bought is a DRM additive. Your DVDs would play on every DVD player were it not for the DRM. (My guess is that the reason consumers have so much trouble burning DVDs that will play on DVD players is due to DRM as well. I had to buy two different commercial software packages before I was able to burn my home movies to DVD.)
The Internet allows music or movies released online to be seen and heard everywhere. This is the ultimate distribution network, which will be good not just for our artists, but all the artists who make use of the distribution methods available here.
Locking down the Internet with bad laws like the UK Digital Economy Bill, the American DMCA and bad treaties like CETA and A.C.T.A. is intended to stop this Internet distribution revolution in its tracks. This is why the big media corporations are pushing for these laws: so that they resume total control of the international distribution. For the past fifty years or so they have been the “gatekeepers” who decided what artists could have the opportunity to find an audience. They held this power because they controlled the major distribution for the entire world, not because they had any particular ability to discover or promote talented acts. Citizens are beginning to fight back through initiatives like The Wellington Declaration because a free Internet is incalculably valuable to us all.
World Famous Canadian Musicians
The following is just a very small sampling of the many Canadians who have shared their music and our culture around the world.
- Guy Lombardo,
- The Rankin Family,
- Avril Lavigne
- Shania Twain,
- Oscar Peterson,
- Blue Rodeo,
- Holly Cole Trio,
- Robert Goulet,
- K. D. Lang,
- Paul Anka,
- Alanis Morissette,
- Stompin’ Tom Connors,
- Diana Krall,
- The Arrogant Worms
- Sarah McLachlan,
- Moe Koffman,
- Gordon Lightfoot,
- Joni Mitchell,
- Honeymoon Suite,
- Molly Johnson
Unfortunately many of these websites are flash dependent which will make them inaccessible to a lot of people. I was particularly impressed with Paul Anka’s site, which offers flash or non-flash versions. If you’re interested in finding out more about these artists, all are featured in Wikipedia and included on the Wikipedia: List of Canadian musicians which doesn’t scratch the surface of great Canadian artists.
The problem with Cancon is that it creates a self fulfilling prophecy.
When radio or TV stations are forced to adhere to a quota system, they will follow it because they must, but the moment the quota is filled, the door slams shut. They certainly are not going to exceed the Canadian content quota.
Under the Commercial Radio Policy, 35 per cent of all music aired each week on all AM and FM stations must be Canadian. In addition, 35 per cent of music broadcast between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday must consist of Canadian content.
The easiest way for any broadcaster to manage filling this quota is to ghettoize Canadian music identified as MAPL. Segregating your 35% Cancon in a separate area makes it easier to ensure that you will meet the quota. Once this onerous task is done, you can now play what you WANT to play. Since broadcasters are forced to play Cancon, it is unlikely they will ever exceed the quota.
That’s why so many of today’s independent Canadian Artists are deliberately NOT identifying their music as MAPL.
Do the math. 100% Canadian content allows Canadian musicians a shot at 35% of the Canadian dial. Is it any wonder that more and more Canadian musicians are not stamping their work with the stigmatizing “MAPL” label?
Without the Canadian content MAPL designation, suddenly 65% of the dial is open for your music.
Canadian Independents are making use of the Internet to distribute their music internationally. When you’re making your tracks available for download, MAPL isn’t an issue. And if you’re selling CDs internationally MAPL may well be a handicap.
[I’ve been working hard on my novel which is part of why this article has taken so long. The other part is that it has been growing… since the draft was pushing 4,000 words– long even for me– I decided to break it down into manageable segments.
[Novel permitting, I hope to publish Why CanCon Hurts Canadian Culture [part 2] Canadian Film & Television next week.]