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What Makes Canada so Creative?

Fame and success are hard to define. The Canadian Music Hall of Fame evaluates candidates according to the criteria of “musical excellence; commercial success both domestically and/or abroad, critical acclaim; and demonstrating a significant contribution to Canadian music.[1]” Others might look at performance indicators like “career satisfaction and success[2]” or try to measure celebrity through the lens of “media mentions and public recognition”[3].

But no matter how you frame it, there’s no doubt that Canadians are no strangers to success in the creative arts. One study was even able to conclude that “Canada has the largest share of creative economy employment, the largest share of workers in creative occupations, and the largest share of creative workers embedded in non-creative industries”.[4] Every Canadian has felt that familiar jolt of pride when our foreign friends realize just how many of today’s top musicians and performing artists are from our homeland, especially when one responds affirmatively to the statement “did you know they’re actually Canadian!” in an Aha moment or revelation.

A short list includes world-famous acts like Céline Dion, Drake, Shania Twain, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, Shawn Mendes, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gregory Charles, Diana Krall, amongst many, many others (since the 1870’s![5]). Just last month, Abel Tesfaye (a.k.a. The Weeknd) became the first Canadian solo artist to headline the Super Bowl halftime show.[6] His performance drew over 90 million viewers and streamers, plus another 17 Million views on YouTube®.

The Canadian Invasion at the 2021 Grammys

Nowhere is evidence of Canadian excellence in music on greater display than on this year’s Grammy nominee list. At least one Canadian name has been nominated for 23 of the 83 categories (and let us not forget a spoken word nomination for a reading of the late Alex Trebek’s memoir)[7], making Canadians well represented in the running for the evening’s honors.

Canada clearly punches above its weight when it comes to producing international superstars. So, what is it exactly that makes Canada such a hotbed of creativity? Is it our cold winters? Government and private funding for the arts? Tax credits? Is it something in the maple syrup?

“Its yours. Own it”[8]: Promoting creativity and a robust Canadian IP system

It is impossible to determine for certain what that X factor is, but we can likely point to one of the key ingredients in the Canadian recipe for success: Creative output is respected because Canada takes the rights of artists seriously.

Canada is home to a large rights management organization, known as SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada). This association “serves music creators, music publishers and visual artists, ensures users are Licensed to Play, and collects/distributes royalties in Canada and worldwide.”[9]But this organization could not effectively do its work without Canada’s robust IP system.

As a member of a wide range of IP-related treatises[10] and agreements[11], Canada is committed to protecting creative works in numerous ways, including trademarks, patents, copyright, amongst other forms. Awarding these copyright protections serves as an assurance for artists that they will get credit for their hard work and bold experiments. This freedom to create without the fear of intellectual property theft certainly establishes conditions that allow Canadian creativity to flourish.

In 2018, the Canadian government published an excellent resource on intellectual property, It’s Yours, Own It (with a title that pays homage to Canadian artists by referencing classic Drake lyrics.) While this is an excellent place to start, understanding the finer points of IP law and ensuring that creative output is truly protected requires the counsel of an expert. Durand Lawyers has years of experience providing clients with top-notch support on all questions related copyright and trademark, doing their part to make sure Canada continues to be a home for top talent.

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[2] Mauboussin, M. J., The True Measures of Success, Harvard Business Review, available at:

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