Canadian Music Has Evolved Into a Global Export. Canada Must Evolve With It.

As the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) updates the country’s Broadcasting Act, it faces a fundamental question: Who counts as Canadian?

This question arises in the midst of unprecedented success for the Canadian music industry, especially on streaming platforms like Spotify. According to our latest Loud & Clear data, Canadian artists were discovered by first-time listeners more than 3.8 billion times last year. In addition, between 2018 and 2023, royalties generated by Canadian artists from Spotify alone more than doubled, exceeding $435 million CAD.

But as it currently stands, the CRTC system designed for radio employs certain criteria to decide whether a piece of audio content qualifies as Canadian or not, focusing on the location of production or performance and whether the writers and featured performers are exclusively Canadian.

This setup means that some of the most recognizable Canadian cultural success stories in recent years—many of them up-and-coming artists and those from diverse and historically marginalized communities who have changed the face of Canadian music—wouldn’t be considered Canadian by the CRTC. 

For example, in November 2023, Tate McRae’s “greedy” became the world’s most popular song on Spotify, spending four weeks at the top of the charts and garnering over 860 million plays globally. But despite being headlined by a Calgary-born artist who is one of her country’s biggest cultural exports, the song is unlikely to be counted as Canadian, as it only fulfills only some of the required criteria.

Similarly, through his 4N Records imprint, Punjabi-Canadian producer Ikky has built bridges between India’s exploding music scene, Canada, and the world, engaging over 8.6 million monthly listeners on Spotify. 

For artists like Ikky and many others in genres like country or hip-hop (in which Canadian artists excel), the diverse backgrounds of collaborators are part of what makes their music distinctive and successful at home and around the world. 

In fact, 92% of all royalties generated by Canadian artists on Spotify in 2023 were from listeners outside of Canada. But the Canadian music market’s revenue is also growing. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s (IFPI) Global Music Report—which is an assessment of the music industry as a whole—Canada is outpacing the global industry with 12.2% revenue growth last year (compared to 10.2% globally). And on Spotify, Canadian artists are generating revenue at an even faster rate: When compared to 2022, their revenue grew by more than 15% in 2023. 

But for Canadian artists with a global mindset, much of their work falls outside the CRTC definition of Canadian programming today. 

Redefining ‘Canadian’

In light of the success Canadian artists are finding on Spotify today, we think it’s important for the CRTC to prioritize work toward an updated definition of Canadian and Indigenous music, as the Trudeau government directed it to do—especially if Canadian artists want to continue using Spotify to grow their audience. 

More broadly, a definition of Canadian and Indigenous music that works with the global realities of Canada’s contemporary music industry will ensure that Canadian artists continue to succeed at home and around the world.