Is streaming hurting Canada’s music scene?

By Lindsay Dunn

There is a growing concern in the music industry that part of Canada’s music landscape could go the way of the eight track.

While Top 40 artists continue to thrive, independent artists are struggling to make ends meet.

The culprit? Streaming.

“You know, for the last five, six years if I look over my income, a chunk … is live revue and a chunk is record sales,” musician Danny Michel told CityNews. “Just this year, it’s gone.”

Michel has been making music for over 25 years and has toured from coast to coast. In a Facebook post last month, he highlighted the discrepancy between what streaming services and artists are paid.

It showed for about 750,000 streams of his music, he got paid just over $2,700 — less than one cent per play.

Michel said he’s fine with streaming services — he himself subscribes — he just wants them to pay artists fairly.

It’s a sentiment most artists relate to.

“The nature of streaming is interesting,” Arkells frontman Max Kerman said. “On the one hand, it allows you to have your music accessed by a lot of different people. You can maybe grow your audience by having people share your music. But on the other hand, it doesn’t necessarily pay the bills anymore.”

Michel’s post struck a chord with music lovers and musicians. His post was shared thousands of times in just a few hours.

“There is good news because there is money coming back into the music industry.” singer Miranda Mulholland said. “We had a huge depression and now it is going back up. But you can see that money is just going into the pockets of a very few people. This is a crisis. This is a real problem.”

Mulholland, an advocate for Canadian musicians, said the laws need to be updated to help musicians survive.

“What they are doing in Europe right now is they are trying to erase some of these safe harbours, which are allowing YouTube to pay less.

“YouTube says they are not a streaming service. But when you go on it, it keeps recommending plays — so, it is! They are benefiting because of these safe harbours that were put in place in 1997, and they need to change.”

There is some good news for musicians. Canada is undertaking a copyright review which could help artists get more revenue for their work.

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