Music Industry

Tales From Much Music

From August 31st, 1984 to the late 1990’s, Much Music was truly Canada’s Music Station.

In its heyday this 24 hour television channel featured music videos from both major and independent labels, interviews with both popular and new artists, and live performances from multiple genres. And it introduced Canadians to both domestic and foreign performers and songwriters, causing the relatively new Canadian music industry to flourish and gain international notoriety.

Written by songwriter and former VJ Christopher Ward, “Is This Live ?” chronicles this network’s early history through excerpts of interviews with former Much Music staff members, on air personalities and popular recording artists from that period.

Christopher Ward had been one of the first VJs on Much Music and was a regular host on the channel until the late 80’s, occasionally hosting programs on the channel though-out the early 90’s, so i’d say this book qualifies as being the most definitive account of the stations early history.

As an avid watcher, I had always been curious about some of the finer details that were not included in the newspaper and magazine articles I had read on Much Music and Musique Plus’ history. And I believe this book pretty much covers it all, with a few extras about some of the station’s most popular Canadian music videos.

I highly recommend this book. And yes, it is available in hardcover and in digital format from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, chapters.indigo.ca and iTunes Canada.

No to Internet Tax !

Apparently Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly is considering an Internet Tax to fund Canadian content, according to University of Ottawa professor Micheal Geist. And unfortunately for Canadians this tax may make internet access more expensive.

There are currently two taxes being considered ; One on content providers like Netflix and iTunes and another general sales tax on internet access. And although the previous tax may sound better than the latter, one has to wonder if all music, television programs and films purchased or rented online would be subjected to this tax, including those that are made available through the internet television providers.

SiriusXM subscribers are already subject to taxes and a “Music Royalty and Regulatory Fee of 14.2%”. But would the service also be subjected to this additional tax ? Will Apple Music subscribers need to pay for this additional tax ?

We currently pay nothing to listen to radio and to watch television offline. We also already pay taxes on compact disc, DVD and blu-ray purchases, which would not be subject to this new tax. It therefore makes no sense to charge people more taxes for the same content, especially when it involves the streaming of purchases matched or uploaded to a Cloud service.

Why does the government not fund Canadian Content by taxing Canadian broadcasters that run adverts online, when they stream foreign content ?

I’m sure Rogers and Bell would likely oppose this because they’d likely rather see the foreign services taxed instead. But the foreign services have no legal obligation to collect these taxes and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement would disallow this requirement, if passed.

We also currently pay taxes on our internet provider subscription fees so any additional tax would simply make it unaffordable for many Canadians.

Canadians spent on average $203 per month on communication services in 2014, according to a CRTC Report released in 2015, an increase of approximately 6% from 2013 ($11.92). And according to CBC News, there was a 10% increase on wireless and internet services specifically from 2013.

To dissuade use of foreign services like Netflix and iTunes, Canadians are also already subject to data caps and the proposed tax would simply make the unlimited internet plans less affordable.

Many Canadians also still pay a “Digital Services Fee” on their cable, satellite and television subscriptions, a fee that cannot be justified now that an analog service has been fazed out.

Could the government not demand this fee be replaced with a Canadian Content Improvement Fund fee instead ? Or will this obsolete fee be buried like that of Bell’s $2.80 Touch-Tone fee, which netted Bell $80 Million in 2013 according to CBC News ?

At the moment Bell is claiming the Digital Service Fee is collected to improve their services. But isn’t that what their investors are paying for ? Why their customers are being asked to pay more per month for television ?

Prior to September 2014, cable and satellite television subscribers in Canada paid a monthly 1.5% fee to the Local Programming Improvement Fund, which netted $106 million in 2011 for television stations in markets smaller than a million. And although this fee was discontinued, these subscribers barely noticed because they were asked to pay more for their television subscriptions shortly after.

The average monthly rate for television services paid by Canadians climbed from $65.25 in 2014 to $66.08 in 2015, according to CBC News ; A difference of 83 cents per month when the average monthly rate for Canadians for the Local Programming Improvement Fund was 50 cents. And with the mandated “skinny package” changes some have seen their monthly rates rise significantly since the spring of 2016.

I believe it makes more sense to apply a Canadian Content fee of a dollar or two to the sale of television antennas, digital converter boxes, digital television receivers/set top boxes, satellite/internet radio receivers and streaming media players in Canada, although some members of the public would likely not enjoy the prospect of paying it in addition to a Provincial environmental handling fee and having both fees taxed.

Perhaps a monthly fee of 1.5% on unlimited internet packages or bundled packages over $150/month would be the path of least resistance because it would likely be negligible to the subscribers of these specific bundles or packages.

Fairness Rocks

So, have you guys heard of an independent film called “This Is Spinal Tap” ?

I guess you haven’t heard of this film because according to French media company StudioCanal it allegedly only made US$98 dollars in soundtrack and US$81 in general merchandise sales since it was released 34 years ago.

Yes, the Vivendi subsidiary allegedly stated the vinyl, cassette, compact disc, VHS, laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray sales were that low. A rather interesting claim seeing that I managed to purchase Spinal Tap recordings and merchandise over the past few years, with little to no effort.

Seriously, this is a critically acclaimed film that has had a cult following since it premiered in theatres in March 1984. The quoted figures can’t be right so what happened ?

A lawsuit has just been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by actor, writer and composer Harry Shearer alleging StudioCanal had “engaged in anti-competitive and unfair business practices, as well as fraudulent accounting, directly related to its management of the cult-classic film, This Is Spinal Tap.”

Harry Shearer co-created Spinal Tap with Christopher Guest and Michael McKean in 1978, co-wrote the film’s soundtrack and portrayed the cucumber packing bass player Derek Smalls in the film itself :

“Almost 40 years ago, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner and I created the somewhat legendary band Spinal Tap,” said Shearer. “We thought there was something real and really funny about the characters, and between that inception and the theatrical release of This Is Spinal Tap in 1984, we poured ourselves into nurturing and perfecting the paean to rock loudness that has entertained so many people, even today. But despite the widespread success of the film and its music, we’ve fallen victim to the same sort of fuzzy and falsified entertainment industry accounting schemes that have bedevilled so many other creators. In this instance, the fraud and negligence were just too egregious to ignore. Also, this time, it was personal.” – Press Release 10/2016

As a fan I had hoped that the creators of Spinal Tap had been properly compensated, ensuring the possibility of more sequels. But it as pretty much become the norm in the entertainment industry for creators to get crumbs for their work, making fans like yours truly wonder where content will come from in the future.

Yes, people will continue to write screenplays and compose music but the channels that most fan use to access material are controlled by the major players. And it appears that to have one’s material distributed one must get naked in a desert and hope the vultures won’t come in for a snack.

So what’s a fan to do ?

I, for one, had previously decided to wait for a blu-ray release that included the “Break Like A Wind” music videos, being quite content with the special edition DVD I had purchased years back. And i’m hoping that this will all work out so I will have the opportunity to complete my collection. But for now i’ve decided to only link the official case website, instead of posting links encouraging the purchase of the Spinal Tap film and soundtracks.

I support fair compensation for content creators, whether it is for music or for film, and will actively discuss and promote campaigns for both. I encourage fans to do so as well through their social media accounts.

Vinyl : Good News / Bad News

The Good News – A new 20,000 sq. ft vinyl record pressing plant will open in Burlington, Ontario in a few days and it will be the second largest plant in North America. Precision Record Pressing Incorporated will be handling independent releases, including some from Isotope Music, and major releases from Universal and Sony Canada.

The Bad News – Music blogger Pitchfork has reported that some independent records stores in the states have had their accounts closed by WEA, Warner Music’s distributor, because they’ve had less than $10,000 in orders per year. If this continues smaller retailers in the states might have issues keeping albums from Warner and their subsidiaries in stock.

CraveTV – First Thoughts

So I had finally decided to take a look at CraveTV, the streaming service that offers television programs and documentaries online and thought i’d give you my first thoughts on it.

Although I like having access to some concerts, music documentaries and the “Classic Albums” and “Behind The Music” television programs, it still feels like more can be done with the service.

At $7.99 it is quite affordable but unlike Shomi and Netflix, it only has a few feature films. And although I am tempted to remain subscribed for the extensive Monty Python, Absolutely Fabulous and Star Trek television program libraries, I don’t think I will remain on this service for long.

Like Netflix, there is just too little to watch on the service and i’ve already watched what I really wanted to within a month. The rest I already have on DVD or blu-ray.

CraveTV also would have held my attention longer if it wasn’t missing the Mythbusters episodes from 2011 and on. I’ve already watched the Seasons 5,6 and 7 episodes they have on Discovery Science and I get that channel for three bucks a month.

Perhaps I will rejoin in November and December to avoid the Christmas programming but I think all of the streaming services will need to add more television episodes, feature films and European releases to keep me subscribed for a longer period than three months.

Honeymoon Suite On PledgeMusic

Honeymoon Suite are working on a new nine track EP and are crowdfunding it through PledgeMusic. This campaign will end in two months. Click here for details.