Weird Canada is setting up a digital music distro service

First they set up physical distribution, now Weird Canada is going digital. Image by Kyle McDonald.

After launching a Canada-wide distribution service for vinyl, cassettes and CDs in February, Weird Canada has now set its sights on the brave new world of streaming.

They're partnering with the National Campus and Community Radio Association to provide streaming of new, independent Canadian music to stations across the country. The project is just starting out (and they're looking for funding), so don't expect an Wyrd-ified take on iTunes in the immediate future. But it has some pretty promising potential to take down some barriers to bands that can't put together the cash for a physical release for every project.

It would also make things way easier for campus DJs to get their hands on new independent music if there was a centralized space where new stuff was hosted.

Their physical distribution service, Wyrd Distro, gets funding from FACTOR, which Canadians can apply to for cash towards their recording projects. FACTOR gets its funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, private Canadian broadcast corporations and donations.

Want to get involved? Email digitaldistro@weirdcanada.com.

Hundreds of indie labels are promising fair digital deals

"@jagjaguwar is proudly united w/indies globally in our commitment to the #fairdigitaldeal4artists"

The music industry is going through yet another tumultuous phase as big streaming deals are revaluing music in bulk form. But hundreds of independent labels are making a promise to ensure the artist doesn't get a raw deal.

The rise of free and subscription-based services is turning the whole royalty system on its head, labels getting a large lump sum for granting access to their catalogue, while artists get a per-play rate low enough to get Thom Yorke ranting at Spotify last year. This new kind of deal got some global ink when The Financial Times reported last month that a Google VP was threatening to block indie labels from YouTube if they don't agree to the terms of Google's new music service.

To combat this, hundreds of independent labels are signing a pledge to ensure they make transparent and equitable deals with artists as once again the distribution model gets disrupted. It's a move to create a new norm, one that doesn't short-change the artist as music subscription becomes a major source of income for labels.

They're signing the Fair Digital Deals Declaration, launched yesterday as a pledge that these indie labels will not diminish the value of songwriting as they explore increasingly-popular web distribution tools such as streaming.

The declaration states five principles:

1. Ensure that artists’ share of download and streaming revenues is clearly explained in recording agreements and royalty statements in reasonable summary form.

2. Account to artists a good-faith pro-rata share of any revenues and other compensation from digital services that stem from the monetization of recordings but are not attributed to specific recordings or performances.

3. Encourage better standards of information from digital services on the usage and monetisation of music.

4. Support artists who choose to oppose, including publicly, unauthorized uses of their music.

5. Support the collective position of the global independent record company sector as outlined in the Global Independent Manifesto.

The declaration was drafted by the Worldwide Independent Network, an organization that advocates for the rights and business of independent musicians and publishers. They're posting live updates of signatories (at over 730 after only one day) with the Twitter account @winformusic.

Streaming revenue in the U.S. grew to $220 million in 2013, with its market share rising to 21% — up from 15% just one year before according to RIAA data reported by Billboard. And that market is only growing.

Read the whole declaration / add your name at Winformusic.org.

More KBT News

Weird Canada has a NXNE improvement plan

There's been some controversy over NXNE's decision to extend its no-play radius to 45 days, including one band being kicked out of the fest for playing a benefit concert. To get some documented opinion on the decision (and because it's pretty damn presumptuous for NXNE to think that 45 days with no gigs in the area can't hurt a band's momentum) Weird Canada is asking bands (and indie music fans in general) to fill out a Google form to seek out advice to improve the festival.

The form includes questions about how the fest should respond to unofficial shows, how it should give back to the community, and of course about the radius clause. They're tweeting the anonymous responses too, with the hashtag #NXNEimprovementplan (including choice quote "It's an ouroboros of self-loathing broken dreams. But, you know, Swans at Y/D Square. That's cool.")

"NXNE likens artists to gourmet cheeseburgers, but in reality they’re human beings," reads a petition against expanding the radius posted by Weird Canada on Change.org.

The showcase requires bands to apply via Sonicbids, a paid onesheet site used by artists and industry people. According to the first 50 odd responses to Weird Canada's form, that's not so popular either.

UPDATE June 20: NXNE has issued a statement that they and Canadian Music Week have reached an agreement to scrap the 45-day no-play radius for next year.

“Unintended consequences of our policy were pointed out. We are making changes that address these issues - changes that don’t hurt up-and-coming bands, and yet still protect the integrity of NXNE’s lineup,” says Michael Hollett (co-founder of NOW Magazine and NXNE) in the statement.