Why Canada’s Independent Music Depends on Global Markets

Posted on
December 15, 2016
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Music In Motion Study: 6 in 10 Canadian Companies Say Exporting Is Critical to Their Survival
The global music landscape has shifted significantly in the past decade. As borders continue to shrink, export-initiatives play a larger role for music companies than ever before, with no signs of slowing down.

Through our recent Music In Motion study, we discovered that 87% of independent Canadian music companies say exporting is at least a key part of their business plans, while 59% say it is vital to their survival. Higher demand for Canadian music abroad is an exciting development. In an era of rapid change and huge potential for growth, however, Canada’s independent music industry needs flexible, long-term support to rise to the occasion.

Physical sales continue to decrease, and companies can no longer depend on traditional record sales occurring mainly within Canada. To meet the pace of technological change, the industry must diversify its revenue streams, including by exporting to global markets.

Without adequate support from the Canadian government, however, it is difficult for small companies to make an impact internationally, even if this goal is now critical to their business plans.


The importance of export activities and touring (domestically, as well as internationally) cannot be overstated.

In our Music In Motion survey, we learned that 90% of Canada’s independent music industry is comprised of small companies with 15 or fewer full-time employees. Unlike typical small businesses – music businesses now significantly rely on breaking into global markets as a means of sustaining their artists’ careers.

It is essential for music companies to reach fans both at home and abroad. Conducting a global export activity, though, is much costlier than doing the same activities in Canada. Tours and performances cost companies approximately 103% more in an international market than they would at home.

At the same time, the return on these expenditures has the potential to be vast. The higher the risk, the higher the reward.

At this critical stage in the development of Canada’s music industry, proper funding for export activities would reduce the risk that small companies must shoulder, and enable the industry to take advantage of growing international demand for Canadian music in the United States and overseas.

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Social media and streaming platforms have created new opportunities for bringing Canadian music to the world. But these sources of revenue can only take music creators so far.

To fully unlock the full potential of the global marketplace, artists and music companies need to strike while the iron is hot. To do so, they require support from federal programs that include greater funding levels, fewer restrictions, and more flexible deadlines and other program guidelines.

The global marketplace remains vital to the success of Canadian music. Consequently, we must ensure that our options for capitalizing on international markets are not hindered.

Although reaching global audiences costs twice as much domestic music activities, promoting ‘breakthrough’ artists who are on the verge of achieving major international success can cost 21 times as much for Canada’s independent music companies.

Accordingly, while digital technology has helped to popularize Canadian talent around the globe, Music In Motion suggests that more robust, flexible support programs are also needed to ensure that Canadian music exporters can continue to thrive in a global, 21st century music economy.



For more information on CIMA’s Music In Motion study, and to read a full copy of the report, click here.

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