An Inside Look at Music Sharing and Distribution

I have always had a fascination with music. Not just listening to it in the car or making it myself, but finding it. I find joy in discovering new music. New being a subjective term in this instance as anything new to me may not be new to someone else. Nonetheless it is gratifying to uncover a piece of work lost to time only for it to resurface on my computer screen years later. With the internet expanding at an exponentially high rate over the past couple decades, no one could argue that music is consumed in the same way it was before. The internet has figuratively and literally become a library or archive for all of humankind’s accomplishments and failures, but that’s besides the point. Music has become much more accessible to consumers, with any genre, song, artist being a couple clicks away. But I feel proper pay and protection of one’s own songs have been sacrificed for easy exposure.

Music sharing sites like the now-defunct Napster, Limewire, and Kazaa were the catalysts for what was to become the new form of the music industry. I could definitely debate on whether these sights were a reliable source for music, but it layed out the groundwork for online file sharing. Anyone and everyone had the power and freedom to share any piece of music. Now Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, and my personal favourite Soundcloud and Bandcamp are the front runners for music streaming. Throughout High School I used Soundcloud and Bandcamp religiously, spending hours everyday sifting through one project after another. I believe I found joy in straying away from more mainstream music services. On larger platforms smaller creators are left in the shadows, limiting explorability and discoverability. I found some of my favorite artists and musicians from Soundcloud and Bandcamp and still listen to them to this day. Soundcloud and Bandcamp function differently as a streaming service as they promote smaller artists and provide them a platform to share their content in an effective manner. However impersonation of artists and illegal uploading of copy written music is still prevalent amongst these platforms taking money away from musicians. So how are musicians turning a profit on their work and how much are they getting paid?

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I think we can all agree that the consumption of physical copies of music such as CD’s, cassettes, and vinyl is dying out. There’s still a niche audience for physical copies of music, but the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) claims physical music sales have dropped over 15 billion dollars within the last two decades alone. This immediate downfall of tapes and CD’s was due in part to the sudden take over of streaming services. This switch turned the whole music industry on its head from how artists get paid to how billboards keep track of what is most popular. Let’s start with payment. Even though digital and physical copies of music are still sold, streaming is the primary source of income for artists. Streaming sites such as Apple music, Spotify, Amazon music, and even Youtube pay musicians on average 0.4 cents for a single stream. With all these sources of streams, Billboard sites combine the total plays from all streaming services to ensure consumers know what is trending. Even when streams are totaled up and given exposure on billboards, artists are only receiving a fraction of the money earned.

These methods of music distribution have side effects that sadly put the artist at a great disadvantage. Although the populace are overwhelmingly for the “internet era” of music, the business side of music struggles to generate a living income off of this new technology. Justice for Spotify Is a petition seeking to raise the minimum payout per stream from the average 0.004 cents to a whole cent. 

That’s 0.4 cents or four-tenths of a penny. At this rate, a musician would need around 250 streams to earn just a dollar, or about 650,000 streams a month to make the equivalent of $15 an hour.” – Alan Cross, Global News

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The current pay structure is still smaller in comparison to before, when consumers bought music outright. Many artists have come to the conclusion of performing live more often to make up for the lost profit on streaming, but due to COVID-19, shows are limited to URL events and online live streams.

The positives of “internet era” music seem to only benefit the consumers. Streaming services charge a fraction of what it would cost to outright buy an artist’s music. In a sense consumers are paying per stream instead of paying for unlimited plays. Consumers are also free to listen to music with ad-based streaming. When talking about music in regards to the internet, we must also take into consideration reuploads of music, leaked music, and download websites. All these factors that accelerate the consumption of music on a larger scale contribute to loss in profit for artists. In a manner consumers, musicians, and streaming companies must come to a compromise If money is to be made across the board.

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Spotify has already been making efforts to make up their losses. Streaming sites are having to continue operations at a loss due master agreements freezing their margins.

Streamers are handicapped by master agreements that make it very hard for them to be profitable. The more users/subscribers they attract, the more their fixed costs rise in lockstep with new revenue. Margins cannot increase through synergies and efficiencies, so the streamers are forced to continually operate at a loss.” – Alan Cross, Global News

Streaming sites are now resorting to branching out into podcasting, ASMR/meditation audio, and storytelling. Spotify is hoping to satisfy approximately 20 percent of their viewership with podcasts and other related audio. No royalties must be paid in regards to podcasts, which will in theory reduce the money needed to pay out for music. 

The main issue is that while streaming platforms are eliminating physical sales, it isn’t replacing the revenue needed to support artists. Like I said before musicians are having to resort to live performances, and licensing of their music to TV and movies to stay afloat. Although streaming is becoming the new norm, giving customers access to a plethora of music to listen to, it is clear artists are struggling to make ends meet. It is a very complicated matter indeed, but it’s on a matter of time before one party falls behind.

Gang Violence in the Lower Mainland

BC has seen a sudden surge in gang violence and crime in the lower mainland over the past month. Citizens are becoming weary as Vancouver PD make serious efforts to calm the recent public shootings in Metro Vancouver, the most recent one taking place in Burnaby. On the 13th of May three people were shot outside of a Cactus Club. One person, 23 year old Jaskeert Kalkat was killed while a man and a woman suffered severe injuries. Both the man and woman are expected to make a full recovery. The man killed was known to police. Kalkat was affiliated with gang activity, most likely with an opposing gang from the shooters. Police also suspect all three were targeted in the shooting at 8:30 that night. What is shocking residents and police is that these gang related shootings are happening in public places, with bystanders in the area. Shootings are also taking place in broad daylight. Sgt. Frank Jang confirmed the getaway vehicle in the Burnaby shooting later that night in South Surrey. The car was set on fire and left near 184th Street and 16th Avenue half an hour away from Market Crossing shopping center . Police are urging anyone to come forward with any information or footage of the get-away drivers or their vehicle.

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Not even a week before on May 9th another shooting occurred at the Vancouver international airport where 28 year old, Karman Grewal was shot dead in broad daylight outfront of the airport’s domestic terminal. Police say Grewal was targeted and possibly tied to gang activity. A chase ensued, part of it was caught on a dashcam. The video showed a maroon vehicle speeding off from YVR during the afternoon. Police were unable to maintain pursuit after the shooters when the men inside the vehicle started open firing at the police cruisers. Police made an effort to block off roads to catch the men but were unsuccessful. The maroon SUV was found that same day, burnt to a crisp only 15 minutes away from the crime scene. It’s clear to see that these gangs are ruthless in their tactics, putting regular people in danger. There have been 11 shootings in BC’s Lower mainland in less than a month, seven of them involving casualties, and most of them taking place in public places. With tensions rising we turn to Police in hopes of a solution.

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A public warning put out by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC) revealed 6 men who pose a threat to public safety and are connected to the recent spike in gang related crime in the Lower Mainland. On Tuesday 5 more men were added to this list of known suspects. Police believe that anyone within proximity of these individuals are putting themselves in danger. The CFSEU-BC issued the public warning in order for relatives, friends, and the general public to take extreme measures to ensure personal safety. Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald ensured that police across BC will continue to use all their resources and tools to halt and disrupt gang-related activity. BC police are planning on using overt and covert enforcement strategies and future public warnings to keep citizens safe.

Gang violence in BC and the Lower Mainland is sadly nothing new to BC police. The 2000’s and  2010’s were spent fighting against one of the most violent gangs in BC. The Bacon Brothers were a trio of gangsters from Abbotsford, BC who are now suspected of multiple firearms and drug trafficking charges along with multiple homicides. The Bacon brothers Partnered with another notorious gang, The Red Scorpions to compete against rival gang, United Nations. After countless fights with the law two of the three bacon brothers were apprehended. The oldest of the three, Jonathan Bacon was killed in Kelowna in 2011, while Jamie Bacon was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his part in the Surrey Six killings. Jarrod Bacon was recently released from prison in mid march after previously serving 8 years in prison for drug trafficking and violating parole. Even though the Bacon Brothers cease to pose an immediate threat against BC residents, there is no denying that BC has a long and violent history with gangs.

In more recent times, many are noticing a steep shift in age amongst gang members. 

“A disproportionate number of South Asian youth have been lured into this gang lifestyle and have become victims of the social disease.”

Said Sukhi Sandhu, a spokesperson for a group called Wake Up Surrey which aims to prevent gang violence in the city. Sandhu is one of many concerned citizens willing to make a change in his community. Cities all across the Lower Mainland are reaching out to kids and young adults to figure out why the younger generation are turning to gangs. Manpreet Sarai, a supervisor and educator with the anti-gang program at the South Asian Community Resource Office in Abbotsford says kids turn to gang life for a variety of reasons. Most cases seem to be linked to a loss of identity and trouble fitting in. However, Sarai also attributes the youth joining gangs to a fascination kids have with gang activity. 

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 “The youth do like to talk about what’s happening in the community, who’s getting shot at or who’s been shot at. Usually the youth know before anyone else finds out in the community.”

  • Manpreet Sarah

To a parent this could be quite the concern, but one can easily compare it to the spreading of information. Whether it be gossip amongst friends or broadcasting news. The way we interact with others and the way we interact with social media creates a never ending stream of information far faster than the word of mouth. So it’s no wonder the youth are constantly in the loops with what takes place around them.

At this time we cannot predict what is to come in regards to the gang activity in our communities, but we can continue to help those who are in need of purpose and guidance. To show someone in need a little compassion can go a long way.

The Struggles of Online Learning

Myself and many other students are all too familiar with the new reality of schooling. Waking up at the crack of dawn, dragging yourself to the computer, and presenting yourself to classmates you barely know, bed head and all. Although online learning is becoming the new norm for high school students and college students, experts are saying that there is a noticeable decline in student performance and overall happiness. It is impossible to get the same educational and social results from online learning. In-person schooling offers a complex relationship-oriented style of learning where students can collaborate and express themselves with others in their own unique way. I tend to reminisce on my high school years with my friends as there was so much that it offered. To be completely honest, school and learning wasn’t necessarily what we looked forward to, but it was the glue that brought all of us together and allowed us to share once in a lifetime experiences, inside jokes, riveting conversations at the lunch table and making a fool out of ourselves during classes. These experiences last a lifetime, and I feel bad for the new generation of kids who won’t get the opportunity to create these memories.

For instance, I look at my brother who is in his senior year of high school. For all of last year and most of this year he has had to stay inside and observe his classes from his computer screen, unable to create new friendships with his classmates. Recently he has been able to attend in-class learning but social distancing and the many precautions that need to be taken to ensure an entire school is virus free, greatly diminishes a student’s eagerness to create friendships. He goes to school and comes straight home. His routine has greatly changed, not because he wants it to, but because it had to change. School is not a place to spark up conversations and share memorable moments with peers anymore. It’s purpose has solely become educational.

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So what does a student feel when they are cut off from these experiences and interactions? The term mental health is definitely a front runner for what online learning is effecting. Students are experiencing a great amount of social isolation which can lead to anxiety and depression. Students with attention deficits and behavioural disorders are not able to be stimulated in a manageable and consistent manner, causing many to fall behind in their studies. Parents and students are now looking towards schools for better mental health care, seeking counsellors and psychologists for more immediate help. However I do not believe teachers are to be the only ones to take the burden of ensuring students a better environment for learning and mental wellbeing. My mother is a grade 7 teacher at a Vancouver Elementary school and has experienced the hectic and frustrating task of teaching online. 

“I can only do so much as the teacher when teaching long distance. I try my best to stay in the loops with my students and check in on their well-being, but these online interactions pale in comparison to meeting my class in person. Online learning doesn’t feel human” – Gaye Dalla-Zanna

On top of these struggles Teachers are also put at risk of catching COVID-19. School procedures on the Vancouver School Board website state that a teacher is to continue teaching from home if they contract the virus. Students who contract the virus are sent home immediately and must continue schooling if able. In a sense we are cycling students and teachers in and out of schools, making it a slow and frustrating process. However there doesn’t seem to be any viable solutions that pose any greater success in the returning of students to class full time. Figures were collected in mid March detailing the number of teachers in BC who have contracted the virus at school. 

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“The teachers’ union says claims are increasing, suggesting in the last two weeks there was an increase in files by about 15 per cent.” – Alyse Kotyk, Reporter, CTVNewsVancouver.ca

It is clear as day that not only school boards, but parents as well must chip in to help with recovery efforts. Parents are being urged to continue to advocate the importance of wearing a mask during school hours to ensure the safety of fellow classmates and teachers. 

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While the rules regarding COVID-19 are restricting, myself and others have still tried to make the best of this situation. Communication is still possible through social media and the internet.  Even though it may not be the prime choice for most students to interact with others, the youth have made a tremendous effort to keep morale high. My class and I have set up movie nights and game nights to talk and get to know one another. Video calling apps such as discord and zoom have made it possible for distant classmates to find similar interests and grow friendships. My class also decided to make a class group chat. I believe this has been the most beneficial in our studies and socializing. The emotional support I was able to gain from talking to my peers about school work and everything else under the sun was a big reason why I was able to get through the school year. Being able to share joyful moments as well as stressful ones made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

It’s hard to pinpoint when things will start to return to their normal state let alone feel normal. The trouble is that we make progress but all of it is foiled by more waves of COVID-19. The rules and restrictions on lockdown are being lifted slowly but surely, even with the public perception making you think otherwise. This has and will be challenging no doubt, but we have to keep our sense of optimism present in our minds. No matter how much we dislike the rules set upon us, we cannot disregard them for our own selfish affairs. Continue to keep others in mind, ensuring a brighter future ahead.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Trends of Quarantine

Since January of last year, The majority of the globe and Canada as a whole has been under strict quarantine, restricting the possibility of venturing outside and partaking in normal activities with friends and family. There is no doubt that this time has been a struggle for most, adapting to a more confined way of life, but due to these circumstances, I’ve noticed like-minded people have made an effort to try new hobbies and start projects. COVID-19 has taken a lot away, but simultaneously brought with it, an explosion of new and unforeseen trends. These trends do vary from down right unethical to right-minded, and I’ll be covering all of the ones that have stood out to me the most this past year and a half. 

When we look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of trends that have started due to COVID-19, let’s start with the ugly and get it out of the way. Now this first one isn’t so much of a trend as it’s more of a shift in a social mentality. Since the start of the virus in Wuhan, China there has been an explosion of xenophobia across the world against people of asian descent. In Canada it has become a huge issue country wide. But for the sake of familiarity lets narrow it down to the Lower Mainland of BC. In Vancouver, the VPD has seen a 717 per cent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes since 2019. To current times, British Columbia has surpassed any sub-national region in North America for having the most reported anti-Asian hate crime incidents per Asian capita. Myself being of Asian Descent I have sadly heard and seen these crimes from family members and friends. I can’t understand the blind rage for someone who has nothing to do with the spreading of the virus. Most of these anti-Asian hate crimes are being committed against people who are native to BC and have grown up here. For another person to make irrational claims that someone else has caused harm because of their nationality or the colour of their skin, will only work to heighten disdain between both parties. 

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Not only has racism sparked a panic amongst BC residents but drugs as well. As COVID-19 started it brought on an opioid crisis that shows no signs of stopping. Vancouver Downtown Eastside has been hit hard by the opioid crisis as it houses one of the largest homeless populations in BC. Fentynal has played a huge part in overdoses during COVID-19 as it has become more cost effective for drug dealers to use it as a replacement for other chemicals in the drugs. The BC Coroners Office put out a report late March describing the effects toxic drugs have had on British Columbia. On average 5.5 people per day died of illicit drug toxicity in the month of February alone. At this point in time, drug toxicity per 100,000 BC residents is at its all time worst rate since 1995. In Mid April the BC government requested a federal exemption from Health Canada to decriminalize drug possession. The BC government believes this will destigmatize drug use and encourage users to seek help or at least seek safer supplies. It’s a slow start to combating such a prevalent problem in our city but it could very well be what gets the ball rolling.

Switching to a more palatable topic, I believe COVID-19 has brought on a better appreciation for what we can make in and around our homes. Gardening has seen a huge increase as Canadians rush to stores to buy potting equipment and seeds. People’s reasoning for putting their green thumbs to work ranged from food shortages and higher prices to wanting to pass the time. According to research done by Agri-Food at Dalhousie University, one in five Canadians started Gardening in 2020.  

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“We believe that the gardening rate in Canada was a little over 30 per cent before the pandemic, but we’ve clearly seen a COVID bump.” – Sylvian Charlesbois, Agri-Food Analytics Lab, Dalhousie University

Said Sylvian Charlesbois, a professor from Dalhousie University. Prof. Charlesbois continued to say that research shows a 51 per cent increase since COVID-19. At the start of COVID-19 my brother, my dad and I all started a huge project in the backyard. For most of 2020 we dug out our whole backyard and built a whole garden full of vegetables, herbs, and spices. It was a very cool experience for my brother and I, being the first time we had spent a lengthy time with our dad and working with our hands. It was rewarding in the fact that we were able to accomplish something so large during a time when little could be done. 

My family also, as well as many others in our neighbourhood were building more than just nice gardens. My dad, my brother, and I were able to build two sheds within the span of a year and a half. One was for all of our outdoor gear and tools, and the other one has become somewhat of a relaxing area. My mom tends to call it her “she shed”. My dad was quite price conscious when it came to acquiring building supplies, however he still needed to pay quite a bit for lumber. This past year, home renovations weren’t the only thing that exploded, but lumber prices as well. Due to a shortage of lumber, costs for basic lumber like two-by-fours have doubled since 2018. The reason for all this being mass closures in lumber mills across Canada.The lumber mills that are still in operation aren’t able to work at max capacity due to concerns of spreading COVID-19. For those building houses or doing large renovations, you’ll be spending an arm and a leg to get your hands on lumber. Before COVID-19 home builders were able to buy a thousand board feet for $550, but now prices are upwards to $1400 for the same amount of materials. In this case there seems to be a positive and negative that came out of this situation.

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Overall COVID-19 has been the base of horrible trends, but I feel as a community we are starting to work towards fighting these issues in effective manners. I believe as individuals we have been able to reconnect with family and our surroundings we tended to neglect before lockdown. I feel more lively knowing there is more to do around my area than meets the eye. 

 

COVID-19 Recovery Efforts Canada Vs. U.S.

 The efforts taken by Canada and the rest of the world to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus has varied. Complete success rates are few and far between with cases fluctuating throughout each country. Only a few countries have had the wherewithal and precaution to stop the virus in its tracks and continue a regular life. I want to focus on North America, thought to be a place that leads the world in innovation and freedom. However it’s shocking to know that Canada and the U.S. are struggling or have struggled to manage COVID-19. I want to take a look into how Canada has and is handling our COVID-19 recovery efforts compared to the U.S. and if there is anything we could learn from our neighbours south of the border.

In 2020 Canada’s efforts in preventing COVID-19 started to take action in late January with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing a cancellation against non-essential travel to outside countries. During this time Canadian epidemiologist Dr. Bruce Aylward led WHO research team to investigate the outbreak in Wuhan, China. However the outbreak in Canada was too much for hospitals and care facilities leading to quick spreading of COVID-19. At the end of February, The World Health Organization issued a global health alert in regards to COVID-19. In March the government of Canada issued more travel warnings and cancellations. The Canadian government urged people only to travel if completely necessary. In late April the federal government announced they were going to invest $1.1 billion dollars into COVID-19 research strategies. $115 million were put into vaccine and treatment research, $662 million for clinical trials in Canada, and $350 million for expanded testing and modelling. It’s clear to see that despite the overwhelming amount of adversities the Canadian government was facing, they made a valiant effort to keep the virus under as much control as possible.

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During this time, the U.S. were taking a very different route in combating the virus. I have a very vivid memory of watching the news and clips on social media of people partying right as spring break started. The countless interviews with teenagers and adults downplaying the effects of the virus. It felt as if there was a blissful ignorance to the whole situation. While the rest of the world was preparing for the worst, the U.S. seemed to push the issues aside. I believe Donald Trump played a big part in the lackluster attempt at controlling the virus. Donald Trump’s multiple claims throughout his presidency lulled the U.S. into a state of comfort until it was too late. Some notable claims he made while in office were, “When we get into April, in the warmer weather—that has a very negative effect on that, and that type of a virus.” and, “The U.S. has among the lowest case-fatality rates of any major country anywhere in the world.” Mind you these claims were made last year early and mid 2020. This lapse in judgement and the embrace of hyper optimism led the U.S. to lead the world with over 20 million cases and 346,000. Despite the U.S. government’s efforts, the was not able to provide the initial 20 million doses to the public by December 31st.

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Fast forward to present day the roles have reversed. Canada is struggling to match the U.S.’s output of vaccines and vaccinations. Canada’s decisions to outsource vaccines has been detrimental. Due to high demand in other countries where the vaccines are being manufactured, Canada is sadly getting the short end of the stick. Canada has only been able to receive 1.5 million doses per week from overseas. Only 33% of all Canadians have gotten their first shot of the vaccine and only recently 2.68 per cent of Canadians have gotten their second shot. The rise of misinformation and conspiracies have led many to put distrust in the vaccines. Protests are being held in public places denouncing the use of vaccines. I remember running into a protest in downtown Vancouver. These people blocked off the road holding signs and banners. However it was a hazard because all the protesters weren’t wearing masks. Protesters weren’t standing 6 feet apart and getting in the faces of passersby.  

The U.S. government has made significant steps to improve the situation of their people. Due to the U.S.’s domestic manufacturing capabilities, they were able to produce ten times the amount of vaccines Canada was getting shipped in. 45% of the U.S. has received their first vaccine while one in three people are fully vaccinated. The zero hesitancy early on to distribute vaccines has proved to be beneficial to the general public speeding up the process to returning to normalcy. However, hesitancy to get the virus has differed between states. Language barriers and transportation have also played a part in why people have not received their doses. The Census Bureau has picked up on patterns relating to vaccine hesitancy and political stance. States such as Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana which are all Republican states, show all greater resistance to getting the vaccine, with 30% of adults saying they are skeptical about getting a dose.

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It’s definitely been a rough road, but substantial progress has been made to combat COVID-19. As shown, there isn’t a singular way to go about treating COVID-19. You could argue one has made a better effort than the other however both countries are on the brink of pushing through the ceiling and into the clear of regularity. In recent news, vaccine rollout for people in Canada ages 18 to 24 is in full motion and signing up to receive your first or second dose is a couple clicks away. Canada is also on the verge of surpassing the U.S. in doses with the amount of vaccines being shipped in are reaching 2 million each week.