Andrew Cash Singer-songwriter, co-founder of Canadian Music Creators Coalition

Andrew Cash Singer-songwriter, co-founder of Canadian Music Creators Coalition
Andrew Cash is an award-winning singer-songwriter who has released a dozen records over the last 25 years. Co-founder of the seminal Toronto post-punk band L’Etranger, Cash has released four solo records including his latest Murder =, and four with the Cash Brothers (with brother Peter Cash of the Skydiggers). Cash is a regular contributor to the Toronto weekly NOW. He helped found the Canadian Music Creators Coalition (CMCC, www.musiccreators.ca ) in 2006.

What is the CMCC?
We started out as a very loose coalition of artists who came together to speak publicly with one voice about what we felt was a misrepresentation by the spokespeople of the larger Canadian music industry on the issue of downloading music and file sharing. The spin was that all musicians think this is theft and that anyone who does it is a criminal. But many musicians don’t have a huge problem with P2P file sharing. So step one was to come out and say that suing fans seemed counterproductive and counterintuitive in terms of trying to connect with fans. We also did not like the idea of DRM and didn’t think that was the way to go because it creates a huge amount of hassle for fans. We didn’t really realise or expect that we would get so much attention, in fact so much that we were invite to Ottawa by various members of the House of Commons. We discovered then that the lawmakers had no idea of any alternative other than what they’d heard floated by the mainstream industry, which was to lock content down and to sue fans.

The CMCC has endorsed the SAC proposal. Do you think that blanket licensing is the way forward?
The spin that was put out [when the CMCC first spoke up] was "These guys just want music to be free” and of course that’s preposterous. We’re all musicians trying to make a living. Some have made lots of money, but most of the people in the group haven’t. We talked about many different ways and the one that’s out there now is the one floated by the Songwriters Association of Canada, which is a $5 levy on your ISP bill, to be divided up. It’s not the only way and there are lots of problems with it. But what I like is it’s an idea that’s been well researched; it accepts the idea of P2P and the idea that you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, and I like the fact that it engages music fans as citizens rather than just consumers — that music is part of our commonality, our culture.

How are artists going to get a seat at the distribution table? Will the CMCC play a part?
We don’t even have an office or a telephone number! But that touches on an important issue, which is representation of artists in the new age of the music business. Let’s be frank: artists have never been represented to their benefit fully or equally in the music business. The history of the music business is littered with 1001 tales of highway robbery of artists. Someone said the music business is a great place to get rich but a lousy place to make a living. It’s feast or famine. Now there’s an opportunity for a middle class of artists, which is very exciting. How is that going to evolve? It would require a lot of attention by some organisation that has musicians’ interests in mind. But trying to get musicians together is like herding cats. That’s a problem that goes very deep into the psyche of the business. Musicians are, on one hand, supposed to be blissfully ignorant of the business in order to dedicate themselves to the pure artistry of their craft. Yet [other] copyright stakeholders have legions of fulltime lobbyists and lawyers so it’s a real, incredible disadvantage as an artist collective unless you can find a cheap lawyer who’s going to work for you. And most of us are out there trying to make a living, while this could take over your whole life. When are you going to find time to be a musician if you’re out fighting this battle all the time? So I don’t know what’s the answer and I don’t know if the CMCC is the answer.