Music Technology

Sad News For Vinyl Fans

Canada Boy Vinyl has closed their manufacturing plant in Calgary after only sixteen months of operations.

This plant had just opened in September 2015 and had expected to take advantage of a resurgence in vinyl’s popularity. But there weren’t enough orders to make the plant sustainable so Dean Reid, the founder and chief operating officer of Canada Boy Vinyl, decided to cease its operations.

Burlington, Ontario’s new Precision Record Pressing plant is now the only vinyl pressing facility in Canada.

Hopefully sales will grow to make a domestic industry in Canada viable.

New Streaming Service For Canadians

Amazon Prime Video is now available to Canadians.

The service can now be accessed via multiple devices and is free for Amazon Prime and Amazon Student subscribers in Canada.

Free trial subscriptions are available for both the streaming service and aforementioned shipping services – Click here for details on the 30 day trial subscription offered to the general public or click here for details on the six month trial subscription being offered to Canadians college and University students.

Loyalty Program Update and Tips

Air Miles has decided to cancel their plans to expire points that are five years old. And although that news is good, members may now need to keep an eye on the amounts they need to redeem for rewards.

Apparently the company that owns and operates Air Miles, LoyaltyOne, has stated in a document for stockholders (Form 8-K – Alliance Data dated December 1st, 2016) that they may adjust these amounts :

LoyaltyOne will adjust the value proposition to collectors to offset the lost economics resulting from a reduction in the breakage rate estimate and to maintain, as closely as possible, the economics of the AIR MILES reward program prior to cancellation of the expiry policy“.

I like Air Miles and will continue to collect them. But unfortunately I can’t use them to pay for music downloads anymore and have been using up my miles on groceries, theatre tickets and gas.

They do offer turntables, headphones, speakers and other electronics to members that collect Dream Rewards. But I chose the Cash Rewards program because it’s more convenient for me. And if ever I want a reward offered on the other program, I can simply take the money I would have spent on my groceries, theatre tickets, gas, etcetera and save it to purchase the reward elsewhere.

From time to time gift cards are discounted at grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations, so you could always buy those with your savings instead and save more.

With a bit of research you can find better deals, especially at this time of the year. And nothing stops you from using cash back rewards programs like eBates.ca and cash back credit cards to save more.

In regards to cash back credit cards and purchases made on credit cards via the rewards programs, it is always more advantageous to pay those amounts in full, before their high interest starts gobbling up your savings.

If you are able to pay these in full, you can always maximize your returns by using a cash back credit card on your eBates.ca purchases. And there are also bonus points offers out there.

For example, Air Miles collectors can purchase gift cards at participating Shell gas store locations can get up to 50 Miles by purchasing them in five separate visits this month (click here for details). These cards can then be used on purchases either for bonus Air Miles (via airmilesshops.ca) or a cash rebate from eBates.ca.

Unfortunately neither Netflix or iTunes is on eBates.ca but you may want to also take advantage of several offers on gift cards for those film and music download services this week.

Participating Rexall stores are giving 55 bonus Air Miles on $60 Netflix gift card purchases until December 8th, 2016 whilst participating Shoppers Drug Mart stores are giving 3000 bonus Optimum points on $50 iTunes gift card purchases until December 9th, 2016. Consult your local flyers for details.

In regards to other loyalty programs, note that Esso Extra reward point members can redeem 4,500 Points for $25 gift cards at Esso Gas locations (which includes card for Indigo and Cineplex) and Aeroplan members can redeem 3,500 Miles for a $25 iTunes gift Card or 13,000 miles for a $100 Indigo gift card or 68,500 miles for a $500 Best Buy gift card.

It should be noted that Aaroplan had decided to cancel their plans to cause their points to expire in 2013 and that Private Members Bill 47, the Protecting Rewards Point Act, is expected to pass in the Ontario Provincial Legislature next week.

Looking For New, Innovative Products ?

Amazon has decided to showcase new, innovative and interesting products on its site.

Amazon Launchpad features tech accessories and gadgets. It also features tools, products for the home & kitchen and products for pets.

The Canadian version of the site has significantly less product compared to its American counterpart but I suspect this lack of product is just temporary.

Canadian Amazon Prime subscribers should also note that Amazon Prime Video may be made available to Canadians shortly.

This service offers free television episodes and films to Amazon Prime subscribers, who can also rent and purchase films they can download or stream. Click here to see what the American service offers.

Bell & Apple Team Up

Bell and Apple have partnered to offer their television and app services to their customers.

Bell Fibe TV subscribers who have iPhones and iPads had been able to view 450 channels and control their television receiver from an app since October 2013. But now Apple TV users who have a fourth generation device can view live channels and on demand programming from Bell Fibe TV.

Basically a person can now use their Apple TV as an additional Bell Fibe TV receiver, simply by downloading the appropriate app on their device. But it should be noted that an unlimited internet usage package is required to so because the content will be streamed off the internet, and not through your Bell Fibe receiver/PVR.

I suspect Rogers, Shaw and Videotron will eventually offer similar services shortly because they already offer apps to iOS and android users. And some individual television channels are already available on Apple TV.

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.