Is Rock Radio Dying?

So asks Trent McMartin over at AntiMusic.Com in his Lowdown column. I should think he might want to clarify that commercial rock radio may in fact be dying due to restrictive formats that seem to play "Whole Lotta Love" and "Honky Tonk Women" ad infinitum but refuse to play the thousands of new indie releases released every year that would have most rock and roll fans shooting straight up off their futons and wiggling their ass and shaking their hips with delight. Maybe if some of these commercial DJs would stop playing it so safe and take a risk by programming some great new indie stuff mixed in with the "classics" and then maybe people would start listening again. What do they have to lose?

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  1. I hope radiostations play more indie music. Her is an article I found written by Trent McMartin on Canada’s attempts to get more indie music played.

    This article was originally posted May 31, 2005 at

    Change is in the Airwaves

    CBC News reported recently that Toronto based group Indie Pool, which represents several thousand indie artists in Canada, are calling on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to change content regulations on Canadian radio. The group’s president, Gregg Terrence explained that many Canadian radio stations repeatedly play the same artists over and over again to meet CanCon standards.

    The issue has raised some concerns over the future of the Canadian music industry. “Too address this situation a one size fits all solution cannot be administered,” says Nick Ketchum, Director of English Radio and Television Policy for the CRTC. “Most people agree that different types of music in Canada should be exposed because it’s better for the whole industry,” Ketchum said. “Who is going to replace the Shania’s and Celine’s? They won’t last forever”.

    The CRTC has responded to these concerns by calling a public hearing that will take place in the spring of 2006. “As of now we have a policy in place that doesn’t force radio stations to play certain artists. There is no distinction between our international stars and up and coming acts,” Ketchum explained. “At the hearing we will be open for suggestions like maybe increasing content up from the 35% it’s at now”.

    Many smaller artists are happy to see the issue addressed but know the problem will not be solved entirely. “Being a lesser-known indie artist myself, I would be in support of the proposed change in the current Canadian content regulations for radio,” says Bramwell Park of the Edmonton folk rock band Bramwell and the Leftovers. “Unfortunately, I don’t think this change would solve the problem, but every small step counts. This music business is a very cut-throat, over saturated rat race, and seeing multi-million music marketing campaigns rule the music pool can be very daunting for a small fish like myself, “ Park added.

    Phil Klygo, manager of the Toronto based band Elliot Brood has focused his attention on promoting his clients outside of Canada partially due to the lack of mainstream exposure. “I support anything that helps indie bands receive more exposure and there is a lot wrong with mainstream radio but I don’t really have time/interest in trying to change their directives”, Klygo said. “My indie artists are internationally known and we focus a lot on spending time outside of Canada touring”.

    Though the majority of artists see this as a step in the right direction there has been some resistance from various radio stations. In the CBC News article, Dave Farough, program director of Toronto’s classic rock station Q107 was quoted as saying “It’s impossible to make new classic rock”. He went on further by saying “they (classic rock radio stations) play music people know and love. Why should we be penalized for that?”

    Many radio stations across Canada refused to comment on the topic by either not answering our requests for interviews or responding with no comment. Marty Forbes, General Manager of Edmonton’s 100.3 The Bear responded to my enquiry saying “This is obviously a large issue and is under discussion in our company at the current time so I’m not free to comment at this moment”.

    Nick Ketchum of the CRTC acknowledges that some radio stations may be hesitant especially those with a specific format. “There may be a problem because if they (radio stations) play oldies or classic rock, there is no new classic music to play”, Ketchum said. “The CRTC will look at ways to be more effective and we will not force stations to play certain music but encourage them to play lesser known acts”, he added.

    The CRTC is viewing this situation as an opportunity to update some of its policies many of which were created in the 1970’s. The last time they had a public hearing was in 1998 where they increased the percentage of Canadian radio content to 35% up from 30%. So until 2006 the situation of mainstream radio will be that of the status quo. But there are alternatives as many indie artists have pointed out. “Indie music has a strong forum with our university station”, says Chris Vail of the Calgary act Vailhalen. “CanCon has already ruined our major label industry by breeding mediocrity. It has also helped create a clear line between main stream music and indie music, since decidedly independent bands go out of there way to sound different than what they hear on the radio”, Vail explained.

    “Personally, I’d rather have CanCon cease to exist altogether”, Vail said. “Then the Canadian mainstream music industry would have to produce good music, which would get played based on it’s own merits as opposed to it’s Canadian content”.

    Writer: Trent McMartin

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