Music Sales Climb 25% In Canada

It’s an advocates dream come true. News that sales have never been better in a country where the record industry associated with labels like EMI is in a “moral vacuum.”

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Many would say that this is living proof that downloading music for free not only doesn’t hurt the record industry, but stimulate growth in music sales. That is, of course, according to a report recently published by Canadian Heritage. This is coupled with another recent report that the Bare Naked Ladies sales on the latest album sky-rocketted under a new business model.

The latest report states, “Canadian artists have seen their sales increase since 2001. Sales of Canadian albums have increased from 6.8 million units in 2001 to 8.5 million in 2004, an increase of 25.3%1. In contrast, foreign artists have seen their sales fall 20.2% over the same period. The result is a remarkable increase in Canadian artists’ share of sales in Canada from 16% in 2001 to 25% in 2004.”

Does this further collapse the argument that downloading hurts artists? Not really. Generally, it’s difficult to impossible to guage whether an increase or decrease has anything to do with file-sharing as many other factors come in to play. As with the drops along with the rises, radio, large chain stores, etc. all play important factors in the rise tied with how the economy is doing and how much consumers are making. With too many factors to take in to account, it seems likely that file-sharing is merely a drop in the bucket in the otherall music industry… or is it?

The report goes on to say, “Teenage consumers are the most frequent users of digital music services, a 2005 Decima Research survey has found, with 23% of 15 to 20 year olds having bought music in 2004-05 compared with 11% of Canadians overall; teens also continue to be the most likely to download music for free.”

So how good is Canadian music? According to Canadians “The survey also found that 93% of Canadians feel music by Canadian artists to be equal or superior to music by international artists.”

One Canadian band might have fans that agree as the Bare Naked Ladies saw their latest album nearly get 1 million dollars in sales recently.

Not surprisingly, digital music stores saw a growth in sales. “Early sales figures from Canada’s emerging digital music market are also encouraging. Three of the four digital music services in Canada report selling 3.9 million individual tracks and 330,000 albums in the first ten months of 2005. Although the latter figure represents just 1% of total album sales over that period.”

It seems to be a sharp contrast to the infamous firestorm over the Pollara study back in March where the industry was quoted in saying that the Canadian music industry is on “an almost decade-long [downward] spiral.”

What are Canadians listening to? The report states, “Sales of popular music and rock recordings accounted for 66.7% of the $709 million in total sales in 2003, falling 24.1% between 2000 and 2003, from $623 million to $473 million. Classical recordings accounted for 7.8% of total sales, jazz and blues for 6.9%, country and folk albums for 6.8%, children’s records for 2% and other categories for 9.8%.” So, while rock is still hot, it’s dominence is slipping to other genres of music including folk, classical and even dance.

The report also went into detail over statistics gathered for downloading music for free, “Despite the growth of legal online music services over the past year, free downloads outpaced online sales of music files by a wide margin among all age groups. Among respondents with Internet access, 30% said they downloaded free music tracks, compared with 11% who bought tracks online. Teenagers are the top downloaders, with 68% of those aged 15 to 20 saying they downloaded tracks for free last year and 23% making at least one online purchase.” This might be an indication that ‘try before you buy’ is something practiced by Canadians.

Canadians are also said be be attending concerts: “Live Music Performances Two thirds of Canadians saw live music performances last year, with 46% attending one to five concerts, 11% attending six to 10, and 11% attending more than 10 concerts. Performances by Canadian artists made up approximately three quarters of all concerts attended.

“Around 29% of concert attendees bought CDs or DVDs at the shows and 19% bought other concertrelated merchandise.”

Another point of interest is the IFPI’s take in music sales in Canada: “The world recording market’s retail value declined 1.3% in 2004, to $33.6 billion, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). Of the top 10 sound recording markets in the world, only three – Canada, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US) – showed an increase in unit sales. And only the US, representing 36% of the world sound recording market, showed an increase in dollar value of sales in 2004.” This too was in sharp contrast to their earlier report which states: “For Canada’s music industry, the rise of file swapping has coincided with a 42 percent – or CAD$558 million – decrease in annual retail sales between 1999 and 2005” Why the conflicting data straight from the horses mouth is debateable. Either way, it seems to debunk the earlier report just like how CRIA’s opinion citing the Pollara study was seemingly debunked when released in full. Has history repeated itself?

Canadian Heritage’s report seems to paint one of the most positive pictures to date on the Canadian music market. With artists forming groups like the Canadian Music Creators Association tied with Copyright laws that allow music to be downloaded legally, who knows? Maybe it’s paying off. Maybe the market is saying, “Let them download and listen.”

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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