Canadian Hiphop Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum

By Brian Capitao

Oh Canada! You glorious nation with an inferiority complex constantly reminding people that you’re great. We get it! You’ve been here for years – don’t call it a comeback!

You see Canada has always been proud of its hiphop movement. From Maestro Fres Wes to Kardinal Offishal and Choclair – and now we have October’s very own, Drake. Things seem to be looking up.

But please people let’s remember what it took to get here. I recently viewed the short doc, Northern Touch and boy oh boy! did it provide some interesting insight.

First, let’s talk about the overall market share that is a fraction of America’s. Then let’s talk about the fact that fans don’t support local urban music here in Canada. Let’s use Toronto as an example; according to Numeris ( the Canadian audience measurement organization) Flow.93.5 has a 3.0 share as of Aug 2015. Not stellar, for a station that has been operating since 2001. Now, this wouldn’t be too bad if a loyal and dedicated fanbase helped sustain operations but like I said community support (unfortunately) does not pay the bills. While people petitioned for an urban music station to exist in Toronto in the first place, it became inevitable that they would move in a Top 40 direction. Being in urban music is like walking a tightrope – you need to have perfect balance. Urban radio pushed for more people to listen, so they played artists they knew would attract more listeners.Of course, the blame doesn’t belong solely on the square shoulders of the consumers; as the more they played (pop)ular artists, the more they pushed away people who would have been dedicated followers. It’s a catch-22. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Unless all of a sudden more people start listening to community radio hiphop and actively support artists, the market won’t recognize the gap.

Basically, there’s not nearly enough there to sustain an urban market hungry for advertisers. That’s why it takes crossover appeal.

Canadian artist Jazz Cartier and becoming a household name

In a recent Forbes interview, Toronto’s latest emerging act, Jazz Cartier, has listed all of the various projects currently under his hat. From licensing his music for Ubisoft’s The Crew videogame to selling merchandise at his liveshows, the rapper has proven to be a deft businessman. Applying Just-in-Time (JIT) delivery methods, keeping less than 200 shirts per design; nevermind his deals with Nordstrom and Roots Canada; it seems that Cartier has accrued quite the acumen. He has gotten his booking fee up as much as 10 times, to what he was paid the previous year. At $35 a pop for a shirt, he makes on average $2,100  a night selling T- shirts, according to Forbes.

And this is only the beginning, as his popularity increases alongside fellow Toronto artist, Tory Lanez. A 2015 report put out by Ernst and Yong titled, Cultural times:The first global
map of cultural and creative industries cites that “Canadian music is also showing great success in international markets. International revenues from Canadian created music reached US $51.3m in 2014, from US$47.7m in 2013 and US$43.9m in 2012.”

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