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Local musician, Jon Neher. Photo By Khang Nguyen

Jon Neher labels himself as part-time student, part-time teacher, part-time barista, and part-time musician. He sits down to eat his lunch—a bottle of Sprite and two sunny-side-up eggs. “They’re a little runnier than I wanted them to be,” he says as, the eggs fall off of his fork before they reach his mouth.


“Right now I’m a student, intern, and musician. I’m living at home and my costs aren’t that high. I’m not a full-time anything right now. I’m going to give it a go at being a full-time musician sometime, but it’s very possible that I won’t be able to make a go of it.”

A new royalty rule, known as Tariff 8, set by the Copyright Board of Canada earlier this year will make Neher’s transition from part-time to full-time musician even harder.

Under Tariff 8, artists who use streaming services like Rdio, Pandora, or Spotify to share their music will receive 10.2 cents per 1,000 plays, or just 0.0001 cents per play. These rates are only 10 percent of what music licensing company Re:Sound tried to negotiate for artists this spring.

Even big Canadian acts like the Barenaked Ladies weren’t spared from these new rates. In a viral article that helped spark the debate, Music Canada calculates that it would take 9,216 plays of the band’s song “If I had $ 1,000,000” for them to afford that box of Kraft Dinner they swoon over in the tune.

“It’s really unfortunate for those that are in the lower streaming categories,” Neher says.

“We’re an important part of the service, but I don’t feel like we’re compensated fairly ... If you have 100,000 plays, then 200,000 plays are easy to get to because there are more people listening and sharing the music, telling people about it. But at these smaller levels, each play and listener is so valuable to us.”

Neher lends his musical talents to several different projects and bands across the province.

His band Orphan Mothers has received 628 total plays since March of this year on BandCamp, a music sharing website that does not compensate the artists.

“If we were getting paid, that would be under 10 cents,” he says, laughing.

Another of his projects, Nick Faye and the Deputies, receive royalties for plays on Google Play, but Neher says the money they receive is split between the bandmates, making the income very minimal.

“I think I still want those services to be there. They offer a really cool service and it’s just unfortunate that the service isn’t paying the content providers very much—but as a consumer, I love it.”

Sylvan Audet of Copyright Board of Canada says that the final numbers of Tariff 8 were decided after months of proceedings, pleadings, and analysis given to them by Re:Sound.

“One of the main things that came out of the evidence was that a non-interactive stream competed with traditional radio in terms of users. We looked at the rates proposed and compared those to the equivalent to traditional radio,” he says.

“It’s always from the perspective of the stream. If one song is played by the webcaster to 1000 people, that’s 1,000 plays. If there were 100,000 people listening at that moment that would be one $1.02,” he says.

On June 16, Re:Sound filed an application for judicial review of Tariff 8. This means Re:Sound must make another plea which will be heard before the Federal Court of Appeal.

Organizations and musicians across Canada have joined Re:Sound in this judicial review with a group called ‘I Stand 4 Music’, including SaskMusic and Neher.

“A great musician, John McCaslin told me that there are three reasons he does gigs,” Neher says. “For money, for the people, or for the music, and there needs to be at least two of the three for him to do a gig.”

“There are plenty of gigs I play where I make a lot of money and I’ll play music I’m enjoying, but the people aren’t really enjoying it—but at least I’m making that money and playing music I like. There are lots of shows that I’m playing music that I love for people who love it and enjoy it, but I’m not making that much money, but having those two are enough to keep me going.”