Hello. Bonjour. I'm speaking today as a Canadian songwriter and recording artist.
The music industry as it existed 15 years ago in my experience is dead. The Internet has been an obvious game-changer. We have gained amazing things from this invention, yet business and government seem to have failed to keep up with the pace of the Internet revolution. The music industry is crumbling under the weight of illegal downloading. Those who still peddle the pros of BitTorrent sites and the like have fallen behind on the narrative of those in the know. And those in the know are people like me, who are directly and painfully affected by the velocity of events.
I am a songwriter and musician who has poured endless energy, sweat, and passion into my life's work. Our band released our first record on a major label in Canada this past year. When Shania Twain released her first album, as an example, she sold about 50,000 copies, which is an average yet modest sales figure for an emerging artist backed by good marketing, advertising, and distribution support in a healthy market. That was then. Today my band has this same support. We are in the middle of a tour, playing to sold-out, 400-seat rooms, yet sales of our CDs total less than 5,000 copies.
Two weeks after its release, our album was available on every BitTorrent and downloading site, and was ripped for free countless times. Our mechanical royalties earned to date from record sales have amounted to just over $4,000, and that's split among four members. Added to touring revenue for in excess of 150 shows played this year, and excess revenue from being a musician, my personal yearly income will still be less than $15,000. Yet I work an average of at least 40 or 50 hours each week.
Let me tell you, I'm not alone. The list of famous Canadian musicians and songwriters--my friends, my peers--whose work is known and cherished by fans but who can no longer make a living from their life's passion will come as a shock to most people in our country. Illegal downloading has stripped us of our main source of income, and therefore our livelihood.
In a free market economy, consumers can choose whether or not to purchase a product, but they do not have the right to take it without permission. That's why I see downloading as nothing less than theft, and we need laws to protect our rights as workers.
We have a wonderful national musical heritage, one blessed with the likes of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Cockburn, to name a few. Our musicians, our songwriters, and artists of all genres make up a large part of the Canadian brand. Taking the example of Arcade Fire, my fellow Montrealers who won big at this year's Grammy awards, music forms a large part of our Canadian identity abroad. This identity is built in large part on the work of these artists. These artists will reward all of us if given the opportunity. At the very least, I believe, they deserve fair treatment under the law.