On May 24th, artist & entrepreneur Miranda Mulholland spoke at the Economic Club of Canada, sharing her frank perspective on the challenges that artists face in the digital age. Her speech, “Redefining Success in a Digital Marketplace,” highlighted the devaluation of artists’ work and provided a series of recommendations on how artists, consumers, industry members, and governments, can help improve the situation for creators. Video and text of her remarks are now available at https://www.mirandamulholland.ca/advocacy/.
Mulholland was one of the original signatories to the Focus On Creators joint letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly, and she spoke to the inspiration for the launch of the initiative in her speech.
“At Minister Joly’s ECOC Speech last June, I was able to have a conversation with her and her message was that ‘artists need to speak up’, that she needs creators on her side – Out of this came Focus On Creators – a coalition of Canadian musicians, authors, songwriters, and other members of the creative class, which was created to bring focus to the artists’ perspective in light of some major federal cultural policy activities,” said Mulholland. “At this years Juno Awards in Ottawa, I had the opportunity to speak to Minister Joly again and again she said that artists need to speak up. It’s a little uncomfortable to do, I’ll admit – as the outside perception of success is so often wrapped up in financial security and I’m here admitting to all of you that it’s looking pretty grim in that regard on a day to day basis, let alone saving for the future. It is also scary – and I told the minister this – to be openly critical of the hands that feed you, even if they are only feeding you morsels, but she only reiterated that we need to speak up. So here I am. Speaking up.”
Many of Mulholland’s points aligned with the messages in the Focus On Creators joint letter. Her experience confirms key points in the Focus On Creators letter and background documents; specifically, that Canadian creators have mastered the necessary digital tools, and have monetized everything they can, but still struggle to earn an adequate living.
Mulholland’s speech was followed by a Q & A session moderated by Kate Taylor, author, film critic and arts columnist at The Globe and Mail. Taylor also recapped the speech in an article titled ‘What happens when we starve our artists’, published last Friday.
“I was asked to moderate Wednesday’s event, and the first thing I did after Mulholland had finished her speech was to congratulate her on her courage,” writes Taylor. “It is hard to understate how tough a step she has taken: In a world that equates money with success and in a business that markets glamour, she is admitting to poverty.”
Mulholland’s speech clearly resonated with many of the artists in attendance and online.
“Feeling so validated hearing discussion between @miramulholland & @thatkatetaylor at @ECofCanada about digital economy for artists,” tweeted Lisa Patterson, award-winning songwriter, producer & engineer. “@miramulholland You articulated our struggles so clearly. Helpful take away. On personal level I feel validated on unspoken frustrations,” she continued.
“@miramulholland absolutely blown away by your incredibly sensitive and insightful speech which left me in tears on several occasions,” tweeted singer and songwriter Damhnait Doyle, who performs in a band called The Heartbroken.
Mulholland’s speech has also made an impact with government. At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday, MP Julie Dabrusin raised the speech as she asked Minister Joly a question about the upcoming review of the Copyright Act.
“Last week I attended an Economic Club luncheon, and Miranda Mulholland spoke very forcefully about what she is saying is some of the negative impact of the digital shift on music creators,” said Dabrusin. “And even over the weekend in my riding, I have spoken with local authors and creators, who have raised issues – and a lot of them turn on the Copyright Act. So my question to you is, what are the government’s plans with respect to the review of the Copyright Act?”
“Thank you Julie. Of course, I am happy you were at the lunch of Miranda. I have had the chance to discuss with her about the impact of music streaming, and her capacity to live from her work, and the evolution over time, in her career, in terms of remuneration,” replied Minister Joly. “I am very, of course, concerned about the question of fairness to creators, in the context of this digital disruption. And that’s exactly why I decided to launch a conversation, an international conversation, about the importance of cultural diversity and fairness to creators with digital platforms.”
Joly added that fairness for creators would be included in the upcoming review of the Copyright Act. “We will be working on this, and certainly the importance of fairness to creators and protecting IP for creators is something that we will be putting forward.”
We thank Miranda for her courage and honesty in speaking to her experience as a creator in the digital age. The reaction from her fellow artists shows that many in the creative community are experiencing the same challenges. If you are a Canadian creator, and you haven’t yet signed the joint letter, we invite you to do so at https://focusoncreators.ca/sign-the-letter/.