Lobbynomics refuted: "Pirate Canada" actually a world leader in digital music sales

Michael Geist sez,

The IFPI, the global recording industry association, recently released its Recording Industry in Numbers 2012, which provides detailed sales data from countries around the world. Years ago, the Canadian Recording Industry Association would promote its annual sales data, but it no longer does. Perhaps that is because the data tells a far different story from the one CRIA (now Music Canada) seeks to promote. While CRIA talks about "rebuilding the marketplace", the industry's own data indicates that Canada already stands among the global leaders in digital music sales.

The most obvious metric (and one relied upon by IFPI) is paid digital music downloads. According to the IFPI data, Canadians purchased 94.2 million single track downloads in 2011, making it the third largest market in the world (trailing only the U.S. and UK). The Canadian numbers represented a 39% increase in sales, far ahead of the U.S. (8% growth) and U.K. (10% growth). The data shows Canadians purchased more single track downloads than Germany or Japan, and more than double the sales in France, despite the fact that each of those countries has far larger populations. In fact, Canadian sales were larger than all the sales from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden combined. Moreover, given the current growth rates, Canada seems likely to pass the U.S. on per capita single track downloads in about 18 months (not coincidentally iTunes entered the Canadian market 18 months after it debuted in the U.S.).

Not only is the Canadian digital market far larger than virtually every European market, it continues to grow faster than the U.S. digital music market as well. In fact, the Canadian digital music market has grown faster than the U.S. market for the past six consecutive years.

Recording Industry Data Shows Canada a Global Leader For Paid Digital Downloads


  1. I think what hurts Big Media is the single track sales.

    It used to be that one could buy singles in various forms in physical stores. But as vinyl and cassette made way for CDs this changed, the albums became the only option for the customer.

    This because most of the CD singles were still sold as full sized discs (there is a smaller option, but i have only seen it in real life once) and so costs as much to press as a album. But with fewer tracks the profit margin were thinner.

    Thing is tho that the studies are still using hit singles (in radio as well as music video form) to push the albums. This to the point where one risk finding that only said hit single is the really polished song on the album, with the rest being filler tracks of highly random quality (tho sometimes one or more ends up being more popular than the marketing pushed track).

    With online sales, one return to the singles sale. This then drives margins down once more, along with the customers demanding lower price because there is lower cost in the distribution (irrespective of the actual costs to produce the gold recording).

    This is at odds with the general finance thinking that capitalism should only do one thing, continually grow its profits. And so the MBAed execs balk at seeing their profit margins going the other way, and throws big sums at anyone that want to grant them special pleading.

    Never mind that they continually wrap themselves in the flag of the starving part time artists, when the only artists that has really made it big under the current system is a very small group that managed to catch the popular imagination of whatever generation that was hitting the teens during their peak. The rest find themselves doing what artists have always done, part time work and live tours.

  2. Music publishers are not necessarily locked into the ‘singles sale’ model. They could insist that online music retailers sell albums only as a complete album. In fact, for some albums you’ll find that’s exactly the case: you can’t buy individual tracks, it’s all or nothing. And typically, if an album is sold as ‘album download only’ by one retailer, it will be sold the same way by all the others. You can’t get around it by just shopping at a different store.

    So if single sales were really hurting them, they have that option. I think they’d be crazy to use it, though, because it would probably kill the nascent market for legally-downloaded music and drive all their customers to BitTorrent.

  3. Business is good for the music industry in Canada. And look at how we’re thanked: By being called a bunch of thieves who deserve to have our freedoms stripped away.

  4. This, of course, will not change their lobbying one bit.  They will thus be actively lobbying to make *less money.*  It boggles the mind.

  5. Here’s an idea…..artists, sell everything as singles.  Why should I buy an album for one good song.  The choice is yours, sell me singles or sell me nothing. 

  6. funny how there is a one to one correlation between music sales and music pirating.  while correlation does not equal causality, but it would appear that people that download and listen to a lot of pirated music ALSO buy more music then their peers and are key influencers in what their peers buy.  despite the large number of studies showing this the music industry doesn’t like to talk about it.

Comments are closed.