Cross Country Checkup·CHECKUP EPISODE

Do Canada's musicians and songwriters still need Canadian content rules to survive?

As the Canadian music industry celebrates its best in the JUNO awards, some wonder if Canada's musicians still need protection in an increasingly borderless digital world.
Arcade Fire is seen here at the 2011 Juno Awards. (Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode56:43

Protecting Canadian music. 

In 1970, a song called American Woman by Winnipeg band, The Guess Who was climbing high in the charts.  As lead singer Burton Cummings belted out "American Woman ...stay away from me," it was a time when Canadians were worrying about being swamped by American culture. 

Then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau described in a Washington speech that living next to America was like sleeping with an elephant. The Guess Who may not have intended the song to be interpreted politically, but it was ....and that was a sign of the times.  

One year later, Canada's broadcast regulator the CRTC brought in tough new rules forcing radio stations to play 30 percent Canadian music. CanCon was born, and some say it was the foundation of the Canadian music industry today.

Did it work? You be the judge. This is the week of the 2018 JUNO Awards where the best of Canadian music is celebrated and showcase. And it's no accident that those awards took their name from Pierre Juneau, the man who presided over the CRTC and brought in the CanCon regulations in 1971.  Did they succeed in giving Canadian music enough room to breathe?  

The regulations are all about radio play, but how many people listen to their music on radio now? In a world where the music has moved to digital downloads, streaming music services — YouTube, Vimeo, Vine — it's now out of reach of the only place where Canadian music is being counted — on radio.  Do you care where your music comes from, or is it like food...better to buy local?

Some music critics complain that the CanCon rules only give already-established artists more airplay, and that the Junos showcase and reward those artists unfairly propped up by CanCon rules. 

Our topic today: Do Canada's musicians and songwriters still need Canadian content rules to survive?


Kai Black, Executive Producer, Special Projects & Branded Content for CBC Music

Shachi Kurl, Executive Director, Angus Reid Institute

Jasmyn Burke, lead singer of Weaves. Their Album Wide Open is nominated for a 2018 JUNO for Alternative Album of the Year

Ruth B., Edmonton singer who won JUNO Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2017. This year she's nominated for three JUNOS: Artist of the Year; Album of the Year; and Pop Album of the Year for Safe Haven

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