Canadian content

In 1971, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) implements the Canadian Content Regulations. When it comes to music, 35% of the musical selections aired between 6AM and 6PM, Monday through Friday, must be Canadian. The intent is to provide adequate opportunities for Canadians to appreciate the country's cultural production. Without such regulations, the country would be submitted to the market reality of a neighbor almost ten times its size.

Caught in an English-speaking ocean of 332 million people, Québec's cultural production faces an even more challenging situation. Its population seems dismal in terms of market potential for local production. Still, Québec marches to a different beat.

The Québécois are a creative bunch and they love their artists. Bridging European influences with North American knowhow, the province's music scene is vibrant and permeates the country's music sales. Based on Nielsen SoundScan, for the week ending May 7, 2009, five of the top ten selling albums in Canada were by Québécois artists.
  1. Mille excuses Milady, Jean Leloup (Québécois)
  2. Fais-moi de la tendresse, Ginette Reno (Québécoise)
  3. Ailleurs - volume 1, Éric Lapointe (Québécois)
  4. Together Through Life, Bob Dylan (American)
  5. Hannah Montana Movie Soundtrack (American)
  6. Wooden Arms, Patrick Watson (Québécois)
  7. Annie Villeneuve, Annie Villeneuve (Québécoise)
  8. Quiet Nights, Diana Krall (Canadian)
  9. Only by the Night, Kings of Leon (American)
  10. Passione, Paul Potts (British)
These figures are obviously not typical, but it's not uncommon to find Québécois artists selling as many albums in a market of 7.7 million people as Canadian artists do in a market of 33.6 million people.

One might dismiss it as some sort of language-based chauvinistic reaction. It probably is to a certain extent, but Patrick Watson doesn't sing in French. Yet, his album found its way to numerous Québécois households that week. It was at number two in Montréal and at number three in Québec City. At the same time, it was in the top twenty in only three other major cities, Vancouver (#17), Toronto (#13) and Ottawa (#19).

The way I see it, the popularity of Québec music is a demonstration of the privileged relationship the province's population maintains with its artistic scene. Some artists produce mainstream music. Others have their own very distinctive sound, Beast, Daniel Bélanger, Daniel Boucher, Champion, Coeur de pirate, Richard Desjardins, Mes Aïeux and Pierre Lapointe to name a few.

Radio stations in search of homegrown variety to fill their Canadian content quotas have a lot to choose from.

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