Michael McCarty, president of Canadian music publisher ole, told a crowd at the kickoff of Canadian Music Week that Internet Service providers need to start paying for the content users freely take over their networks.

Comparing ISPs to the "neighborhood bully charging kids $5 to loot the store," McCarty said the companies, which include Canadian telecom giants like Rogers Communications and Telus Corp., are "the enablers of the trading of music and are making tons of money from it."

"Someone has to say the ISPs are liable," he added. McCarty argued against net neutrality, saying it was up to ISPs to create a legitimate marketplace that compensated musicians, record companies and publishers for the free trade of their material.

McCarty's comments today (March 11), given to several hundred conference attendees, followed remarks by Will Page, chief economist of PRS for Music in the U.K., which represents songwriters and publishers, as well as Eric Garland, chief executive of media measurement firm Big Champagne.

Page said the latest figures peg the global trade value of music at $11.6 billion, down from $20 billion in 2005. He said digital sales are "not plugging the gap."

"The base is shrinking and it is shrinking at an accelerated rate of decline," he adds.

He commented that the Canadian music industry was struggling, but not to the levels seen in the U.S., where retail presence has fallen significantly. However, he said music sales in the U.K. have stabilized, adding "flat is the new up."

"Something is happening in Britain that is not reflected elsewhere," he says.
Garland pointed out that digital interest in an act does not necessarily translate into sales, contrasting the rise of Lady Gaga, who has garnered huge interest online, with that of Susan Boyle, whose physical sales have come with nearly no online success. He predicted the industry will need to redefine itself to be successful.

"[The music business] is going to get healthier by getting leaner, more focused," he says.

Other key speakers on the first day of Canadian Music Week included former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, who was interviewed by former MuchMusic DJ, and current CNN journalist, John Roberts.