Music Monday: Content regulation on radio stations in Canada

I’ve been following the Canadian Music Blog for a while, because they sometimes talk about francophone artists I like. Sometimes I even discover new anglophone artists. It’s very interesting to me. There’s a whole country of music up there! Most Americans hear the words “Canadian Music” and immediately think of Celine Dion or Nickelback. Then they go, “Blech!” Canadian music kind of has a bad rap in America. Justin Bieber probably isn’t helping matters. Carly Rae Jepsen might be. (I dare you to find anyone, anywhere who doesn’t love “Call Me Maybe.” If you do, they’re lying.)

The other day, the Canadian Music Blog wrote a post that almost made me lol for real. The post was called “Getting Canadians to Number One,” and it was a call to action for all Canadians to buy Canadian music, even if they only kinda sorta maybe like it, just because it’s Canadian! They said,

Only Canadian artists can sing with Canadian accents, use Canadian English in their lyrics, sing about issues to which Canadians can relate, add some choice French words and phrases into the songs, and make a style of music that appeals more to the Canadian ear.

I’m going to go ahead and not start quoting the lyrical genius that is the chorus of “Baby.” I’m sure you’ve heard it before. It’s sung with a Canadian accent, and it’s about real Canadian “issues.”

I’m kidding. I don’t really think that kind of music is what the Canadian Music Blog was talking about. But still, I just don’t agree with their premise.

Being an American, I can’t possibly understand what it’s like to have the music of my own “culture” (if that’s what you call it) completely overpowered by that of another. Actually, I’d like to see MORE musical diversity on American pop radio, but I’m talking about language, not country of origin. When it comes to the US pop charts, as long as you sing in English, we don’t care where you come from. The top ten songs on the Billboard Hot 100 right now include three Brits, two Canadians, and a Belgian. That’s 60%, and I venture to say that’s an unusually low number considering Adele, Rihanna, and David Guetta are all strangely absent from the Top 10. This week.

Based on those numbers, if we were in Canada right now, most Top 40 radio stations would just barely be following the law. That’s the Canadian Content law. It’s an actual law that states (among other things), all radio stations must play at least 40% content that’s written by a Canadian, performed by a Canadian, or recorded entirely in Canada. Exceptions are made for “specialty” formats, like classical, because, frankly, Mozart just didn’t record many symphonies in the Yukon Territory.

Canada isn’t the only country with these kinds of regulations. France has the same 40% rule only they take it a bit further, demanding that at least 20% has to be “new” French music. One can only assume that without that rule, 40% of the songs on French radio would be Johnny Hallyday and Edith Piaf.

I like the 40% rule as it pertains to other countries. It’s nice to turn on NRJ.fr or CKOI.ca and not hear Katy Perry 40% of the time. That being said, I’m glad I live in a country where our laws don’t dictate what kind of music our radio stations are allowed to play. Quotas are a slippery slope in any situation. It’s all quantity over quality. Do the Canadians themselves think that their homegrown music is worth listening to 40% of the time? Do the French? Maybe they don’t. Would they need to have a law about it if listenership already demanded those numbers?

Think about it. A Canadian radio station could only play the Beatles 60% of the time, but they can play Nickelback all they want.

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One Response to Music Monday: Content regulation on radio stations in Canada

  1. Pingback: Music Monday: Eurovision | Waiting for Take Off

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