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A Musician’s Guide to Canadian Content and Radio Quotas

Researched and Co-Written by Tyler Anthony

Depending on your age, “Canadian content” might remind you of a John Candy film, a Bare Naked Ladies song, or CBC shows like Heartland.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulates exactly what makes content “Canadian,” in their Radio Regulations, 1986 (SOR/86-982). They also mandate virtually every broadcaster in Canada to play a weekly quota of Canadian Content, lovingly referred to as CanCon.

As a Canadian performer, composer, or lyricist, you have a much better chance of getting picked up for broadcasting if your musical work qualifies as CanCon.

This article provides an overview of CanCon rules for artists and broadcasters.

What Makes Content Canadian?

Your work needs to satisfy at least two conditions under the Music, Artist, Performance, and Lyrics (MAPL) system to qualify as Canadian Content.

  • The Music is composed entirely by a Canadian
  • A Canadian Artist primarily performs the music or lyrics
  • The Performances are recorded entirely in Canada or performed wholly and broadcasted live in Canada
  • The Lyrics are written entirely by a Canadian
Instrumental works and performances

Performances of instrumental works composed by Canadians, and instrumental performances of music composed by Canadians also qualify as CanCon.

International Collaborations

Canadians who collaborate with non-Canadians get at least 50% of the credit as composer and lyricists according to the records of a recognized performing rights society like SOCAN (Canada), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), or SESAC (United States). This exception only applies to works performed live or recorded after September 1st, 1991.

Grandfathered songs

If your music already qualified as Canadian content under the regulations in effect prior to 1986, it still qualifies as CanCon, even if it doesn’t meet the current requirements in Radio Regulations.

CRTC Quotas for Radio Stations

The amount of Canadian Content that radio stations are mandated to play varies based on the category of music and the type of radio station.

Music Categories

The CRTC rules break down musical works into 5 categories, but the Canadian content requirements on focused on categories 2 and 3.

Category 2: Popular Music

Pop, rock, dance, country, acoustic, and easy listening genres.

Category 3: Special Interest Music

Concert music like classical, opera & theatrical performances, folk world beat & international, jazz & blues, and non-classic religious & experimental music.

Radio Station Types

The CRTC’s radio content quotas also vary based on each station’s license type.

Community or campus based radio stations have to play CanCon for at least 35% of all music in category 2, and at least 12% of all music in category 3.

Commercial stations also play CanCon for at least 35% of all music in category 2, but category 3 gets more complex – at least 25% of musical selections in subcategory 31 (Concert) and 20% of musical selections in subcategory 34 (Jazz and Blues) need to be Canadian.

Radio stations must also abide by licensing and copyright protection when they pick songs or perform live DJ sets.

In our next article, we discuss the copyright laws that govern Canada’s music industry.

Written by:

Claudius is an experienced commercial lawyer who specializes in acquisitions, financing, and securities law in relation to corporate commercial law.


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