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CASL Anti-Spam Legislation: The Future of Email Marketing for Canadian MusiciansMarketers have certainly had to cope with a lot of changes in the email marketing space as of late.

First, Gmail introduced tabbed inbox browsing. As result, Gmail automatically sorts incoming emails and slots them under different tabs, such as ‘Primary’, ‘Social’, and ‘Promotions’.

From a user perspective, this is a cool, handy feature. From a marketer’s perspective, it hasn’t been all smooth-sailing.

If your email campaigns are clearly of a promotional nature, they automatically get filed under ‘Promotions’. People weren’t really checking that tab when this new inbox management system was first introduced.

There is a growing awareness of how it all works now, but if your messages arrived in the ‘Promotions’ tab when tabbed browsing was still new, you may have observed a decline in email opens.

Some marketers are finding workarounds. For example, Pat Flynn says he makes sure to address people by name, and he also keeps the tone of his communication conversational. By doing this, he can still land his emails in people’s ‘Primary’ tab (this is a key point, so keep it in mind as you read the rest of this post).

In Canada, we may have another email-related issue to deal with. Musicians using email to market their music should definitely take note.

CASL Anti-Spam Legislation

The CASL anti-spam legislation will take effect July 1, 2014.

According to Adam Froman, CEO of Delvinia and Asking Canadians:

CASL is all about consent. It’s about withdrawal of consent. It’s about keeping records of consent and withdrawal of consent. It’s about transparency and clear communications. It’s about the content/context of the electronic messages. In order to ensure that fits within the exemptions outlined by CASL, organizations need to ensure they have the proper consent from their recipients.

The truth of the matter is that it’s about as ambiguous as it sounds. However, the basic intent of the legislation is to deter the propagation of spam in Canada.

Unsolicited email messages are really just the beginning. This legislation is being put into place to tackle identity theft, online fraud, spyware, and so on.

What it Means for Email Marketing

According to the Government of Canada website, if you are a legitimate business owner, you can still send out email campaigns to your subscribers. I assume musicians would fall under that category too.

However, if you have been sending marketing messages to people who have not opted in for your list, or you are in the habit of sending bulk marketing emails to those who have not asked for them, you could risk violation.

Other forms of spam like malicious attachments or viruses could also land you on the wrong side of the legal system, though I’m going to assume that anyone who’s reading this isn’t in the habit of sending emails like that.

What to do About it

If you are already using an email service like AWeber or MailChimp and your subscribers have all opted in to receive your messages (i.e. signup forms), you are on the right side of the law.

These services usually include ‘subscribe’ and ‘unsubscribe’ links by default, but you should check to make sure that all of your marketing messages have them, as your users need to be able to take these actions of their own volition.

The Government of Canada website also notes:

…businesses must get consent prior to sending commercial email or have a pre-existing business relationship with a consumer.

In other words, don’t send marketing messages to those who have not asked for them.

I would also recommend keeping your future email campaigns transparent and as clear as possible.


Just in case: I am not a legal advisor, nor do I pretend to understand this issue in its entirety. The forthcoming changes could have further reaching consequences, but then again, they may not.

One of the reasons this legislation is being put into place is because of the sheer volume of spam email. The Government of Canada notes that 75 – 90% of all email is spam, and network providers have had to put more and more resources and effort into preventing malicious software, viruses, botnets and other forms of spam from spreading.

For further reading, I would encourage you to take a look at the articles I’ve already linked out to.

David Andrew Wiebe
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