Kelly: Streaming habits add sombre note to celebration of Quebec music – Montreal Gazette
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Kelly: Streaming habits add sombre note to celebration of Quebec music – Montreal Gazette

As the ADISQ Gala prepares to honour the province’s best, francophone artists remain scarce on services like Spotify and Apple Music.
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The best from the effervescent Québécois music world will be celebrated Sunday evening at the ADISQ Gala, the annual celebration of musique d’ici. But there’s a dark cloud hovering over the festivities held at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts and broadcast live on Radio-Canada’s ICI TÉLÉ beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Quebec has always prided itself on being home to a booming francophone music scene — and it still is, as underlined by the eclectic slate of artists nominated at the awards ceremony, led by critically acclaimed glam star Hubert Lenoir, who garnered 11 nominations for him and his team.
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Other contenders include Acadian singer Lisa LeBlanc, melodic singer-songwriter Vincent Vallières, inventive artist Les Louanges and pianist Jean-Michel Blais, each of whom are in the running in six categories.

But all is not well in the music scene in la belle province. The most recent statistics on music listening habits in the province, compiled by the Observatoire de la culture et des communications du Québec, reported that Quebec music accounts for just over eight per cent of the music listened to on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. And that figure also includes English-language music.

Eve Paré, the director general of L’Association québécoise de l’industrie du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo (ADISQ), said in a telephone interview this week francophone Quebec music has a roughly five per cent share of listening on the streaming services, which is how the vast majority of people now consume music.

Paré notes that only a few years ago, when fans were still buying music in physical format, local francophone music accounted for around 50 per cent of sales here.

In short, it’s a catastrophe for homegrown artists singing in the language of Charlebois. And there’s no easy solution. For years now, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has imposed quotas on French-language radio stations in Quebec to help promote local artists. Radio stations like CKOI and Énergie have to play 65 per cent francophone music.

That was a good solution back in the day when radio was almost the only way folks heard new music, but obviously there are a lot more online options today, starting with streaming services like Spotify and Apple but also outlets like YouTube and SoundCloud. These international services tend to be massively focused on English-language songs.

“There’s much more foreign content that’s available to listeners who consume music via the streaming services,” Paré said. “If you can’t discover something, you can’t consume it.”

Paré and her colleagues at ADISQ — and many others in the industry here — believe there is a potential solution. It’s the proposed federal law, Bill C-11, which was passed in the House of Commons in June and is currently pending approval in the Senate. The bill would allow the CRTC to force global streaming services to make commitments to supporting Canadian music, similar to obligations imposed on Canadian radio stations. It wouldn’t be quotas, but it could be, for example, forcing services to give a percentage of their revenues to Canadian musicians.

“We don’t expect the CRTC to apply quotas, that’s not the goal,” Paré said. “It’s to force the platforms to better showcase more Canadian and Québécois content, and contribute financially, like broadcasters do, to the development of Canadian content. And we feel we’re almost at the finish line. We just hope it gets adopted very soon.”

Like musicians everywhere, Quebec artists rely more than ever on the sale of concert tickets and merchandise to make ends meet, but revenues have dipped big time in recent years, Paré said.

Two pre-galas were held on Wednesday, the Gala de l’Industrie at Club Soda and the Premier Gala de l’ADISQ at MTelus.

Here is a partial list of the winners:

Hubert Lenoir, PICTURA DE IPSE: Musique directe: alternative album of the year and album chosen by the critics.

Naya Ali, Godspeed: Elevated: anglophone album.

Patrice Michaud, Grand voyage desorganisé: adult-contemporary album.

Shirushi, TEKE::TEKE: album of the year, other languages.

Angèle Dubeau, Elle: classical album.

Lendemaine de vielle, Le party est pogné: country album.

Jay Scott, Ses Plus Grands Succès: folk album.

Carl Mayotte, Escale: jazz album.

Laura Niquay, Waska Matisiwin: album of the year, Indigenous languages.

Millimetrik, Sun-Drenched: electronic album.

Jean-Michel Blais, Aubades: instrumental album.

Afrikana Soul Sister, Kalasö: world music album.

Lisa LeBlanc, Chiac Disco: pop album.

Souldia, Dixque d’art: rap album.

Bon Enfant, Diorama: rock album.

Le Vent du Nord, 20 printemps: traditional album.

Les Cowboy Fringants, Bande sonore originale du film L’Amérique pleure: album of the year, reinterpretations.

Damien Robitaille: artist with the most success on the web.

Half Moon Run, Look & Listen Tour 2022: anglophone show of the year.

bkelly@postmedia.com

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