The Weeknd's Beauty Behind the Madness charmed the Grammy jury, earning the Toronto R&B singer seven nominations. Drake and Justin Bieber could walk away with Grammys of their own on music's biggest night. 

These three pop giants are also burning up the Billboard charts, alongside newer Canadian additions Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara.

But a Canadian passport is not all the five musicians have in common: they were all discovered south of the border, and originally signed to American music labels. 

"When you play in that mainstream, mega-media, big-radio world, I think you need a U.S. record company on board, that's what history has shown us," said entertainment lawyer Chris Taylor, referencing past successes of U.S.-signed Canadian exports like Nelly Furtado and Alanis Morissette.

He said the money and connections of U.S. labels have trumped their Canadian counterparts when it comes to discovering Canadian talent with global potential.

Kardinal Offishall

Rapper Kardinal Offishall is also an A&R executive at Universal Music Canada. He says Canadian subsidiaries of major labels are getting more leverage to sign and develop artists before launching them internationally. (Universal Music)

"Money is huge, it's 50 per cent of the discussion, the other [50 per cent] is infrastructure," said Taylor. "These U.S. record companies have massive radio departments working radio stations in the U.S., and you need that kind of focus and enthusiasm to push things through."

But Taylor, along with other Canadian music insiders, hopes the industry on this side of the border gets more of a say soon.

Where artists start their careers may make little difference to the fans, but it's integral to cultivating a truly strong, truly homegrown music industry. It means jobs for producers and songwriters working in Canada, and helps talent scouts here sharpen their instincts on finding artists who could be global stars.

Thinking globally

Many of in the industry are already thinking that way.

Ron Lopata, a music producer and one-time member of the band JackSoul, now runs the A&R department (artist recruitment) at Warner Music Canada.

"Whether you're signed in Canada or not, our job is to make it global — and to make it undeniably so — so that we're able to break artists outside of Canada," Lopata told CBC News during an interview at his Toronto studio.

His recent discovery, Scott Helman, has a domestic record deal right now and, as of last week, several Juno nominations.

Lopata hopes the 20-year-old singer/songwriter will be the next Canadian artist to break internationally, but he says there are benefits to getting signed in Canada first.

"There's producers, writers, artists, they've really had a chance to hone their craft in this country and when they go somewhere else, they're pretty awesome and the work ethic is crazy because you have to work so hard to achieve certain goals. So when you go somewhere else, you're ready."


Canadian Scott Helman has a domestic record deal and several Juno nominations. The 20-year-old singer/songwriter is looking to soon break internationally. (Tanja Tiziana/CBC)

Success breeds success

Rapper Kardinal Offishall, who also works as an A&R executive at Universal Music Canada, says things here are already changing, but slowly.

He says the awareness of the talent pool in Canada is now so widespread, Canadian subsidiaries of major labels are getting more leverage to sign and develop artists before launching them internationally.

"Now the people at the very top, they're like, 'Listen we don't care where a hit comes from. If you have all this talent in Toronto or in Canada, then we're going to give you the resources necessary to acquire that.'"

He hopes that, over time, it results in young Canadian artists no longer having to send their demos or move to the U.S. in order to have an international career. After all, success breeds success.

"That is how you change infrastructure: you have a few success stories that come from here, and it changes people's perception."

Lucas DiPasquale, one of the young musicians Kardinal Offishall helped discover, agrees.

He's signed to Universal Music Canada and is working on his first album, but he doesn't think that will forever brand him as a "Canada only" artist.

"I just think it's really cool that I'm here while this is all happening, and I think in another 10 years, there'll be a bunch more of us, a bunch more producers, a bunch more songwriters," Di Pasquale said.

He, too, hopes to be a part of the new Canadian musical ecosystem — the one that no longer just exports raw talent, but refines it, too.