The Canadian Music Week conference kicked off today (March 12) with industry leaders debating the role Internet service providers will play in the Canadian music business, as well as having Kiss bassist Gene Simmons flex his promotional muscle for his new record label.

With Canadian music sales slumping more dramatically than many other countries, several hundred spectators from the music industry showed up to hear a panel that included John Kennedy, chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry; Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association; Duncan McKie from the Canadian Independent Record Production Association; as well as representatives from publishing and the broadcast industry.

At the center of the discussion was the question of the role ISPs will play going forward. The issue was a hot topic at the recent Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications new media hearings and Kennedy and Henderson raised it as a central issue facing the industry.

Henderson said Canada has lagged behind other countries when it comes to setting up rules to diminish piracy, while Jonathan Potter, executive director for DiMa, a lobby group for the likes of iTunes and Rhapsody, said piracy rates have likely contributed to slower growth in digital music services.

After the panel, Henderson said he was hopeful ISPs and movie and music companies could work more closely in Canada. "I do think the thing to watch is the emergence of bringing content creators together with the ISPs," Henderson said, adding he was optimistic the two sides would commence discussions soon.

David Basskin, president of the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, scoffed at that notion. "There's no financial upside for the ISPs to do that," said Basskin. "It would raise a question of financial liability and that would lead to a question of how much."

The industry panel was followed by Simmons, who announced his new venture, Simmons Records with Universal Music Canada, earlier this year. The music legend was at Canadian Music Week to promote the label. Hundreds of Kiss fans, some in full face paint, lined up to hear the legend talk up the label and show a bombastic video.