Radio


Open Letter To Alan Cross

Open Letter To Alan CrossDear Alan,

How are things at CFNY Edge 102? You may recall I wrote you back in late March regarding the line up for Edgefest 2004. I wrote "Good Charlotte represents everything your station isn't. They have absolutely no edge. They wear black and make up and try to act "punk" when they're as popified as Matchbox 20. Their target audience is pre-teen girls who think they're cute and deep. I listen to a great deal of "modern rock", and I find the weak Good Charlotte sounds completely unlistenable.... I'm sure you stopped playing them because you realized your listeners don't like them and they are merely pop dressed in black. Promoting them as headliners for your Edgefest concert is just pathetic. You won't even play their music for heaven's sake." Amongst other things...

I appreciated your prompt reply. You wrote "Good Charlotte was part of the playlist until sometime last year and, believe it or not, they were insanely popular with a significant portion of our audience. We stopped playing them because the album had run its course and we moved on to other things. That being said, the band can still sell a ton of tickets--something that we need to do if we were going to make the thing profitable and thus worthwhile (again, it's FAR more complicated than just booking a bunch of cool bands. Trust me.) The drawing power of Good Charlotte is enough to help us pay for Something Corporate, Jet, Jersey, Billy Talent and the rest of the lineup...And if we manage to sell out the show this week (which is something we think we'll do), we'll have enough cash to maybe do something else this summer."

Alan, I couldn't help but notice you're heavily promoting Edgefest 2004 this week in a last ditch effort to sell the many remaining tickets. Lawn seats are suddenly available for $10.21. You certainly didn't sell out in a week as you hoped you would. In fact, you didn't sell out at all, did you?

I'm not trying to gloat here, but I saw this coming a mile away. Your listeners don't like Good Charlotte. In fact, the majority of them despise their weak-ass sound. You could not have selected a worse headlining act and I sincerely hope you take a bath on this one. With all due respect, you deserve it.

Your faithful listener,
Mike

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Payola 2004

PayolaThere's a growing trend in the United States that sound an awful lot like payola. As you'll read in this Reuters article, many record labels are shelling out thousands of dollars per week to have songs played between midnight and 06:00.

You see, they have these songs aired as 30 second commercials. What makes this "legal" is the fact the clip is preceded by a voice over letting listeners know it's a paid advertisement. This happens dozens of times between midnight and 06:00 when the only people listening are truck drivers, those working the night shift and a few slackers with insomnia.

The end result of these paid spins is entry into the elite top 10 on Billboard magazine's national pop radio chart. Radio program directors across the country use this chart to spot hot new tunes so entering the top 10 there guarantees you more exposure throughout the country which inevitably results in more record sales. All of this is because record labels are paying to have songs played a' la the payola scandal of the 1950s.

Is it just me or is this incredibly unethical? How is it that songs played as commercials can count towards the Billboard top 10? This system has to change, even though it's been aiding our very own Avril Lavigne. "In all, sources said, WQZQ aired Don't Tell Me as an ad at least 40 times the week ending May 23, accounting for more than one-third of the song's airplay on the station." Say it ain't so, Avril. Say it ain't so.

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Toronto Radio Ratings

Toronto Radio RatingsI love listening to the radio. Back in July I wrote about my six favourite stations at the time and how I've always enjoyed the radio.

The Bureau of Broadcast Measurement has just released the Toronto radio ratings for Spring 2004. Here they are in order along with their share of the market. Also, because I know you care, I'm including my opinion of each station.

CHUM-FM 8.5 - Here at number one we have my mom's favourite radio station. Need I say more? If you like middle of the road safe pop music, you'll like this station. The first thing I do when I step into my Mom's car is dive for that radio dial. CHUM-FM is brutal.

97.3 EZ Rock 7.8 - The music on EZ Rock makes the music on CHUM-FM sound like Motorhead. EZ Rock appeals to boring chicks by playing Celine Dion three times an hour. It doesn't get any worse than Toronto's second most popular station. Judging from the top two, Toronto loves crap. Please don't hold this fact against me.

CBC Radio One 7.2 - For a brief period of time, I was a CBC Radio One listener. Depending on the topic, it can be rather interesting and refreshing. I don't listen very much anymore, but every once in a while I catch an interesting subject and enjoy myself immensely.

CHFI 6.9 - Along with the top two stations in this market, CHFI plays it safe by playing ultra safe and boring pop music. A little Sting here, a splash of Phil Collins there and a dose of Shania Twain to stir things up a little...but only her ballads. Her rockin' stuff is way too hard for CHFI.

Q107 6.5 - For most of my life I was a big fan of this station. I love rock on the radio and Q107 used to be a great rock station. The top ten at ten is where I'd go for the latest Guns N' Roses tune or Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road". Now, they're Classic Rock and I haven't been in a classic rock mood for many months. As a result, I've probably heard six minutes of The Mighty Q all year.

CFRB Newstalk 1010 6.3 - Conservative minded people love the chat on this talk radio station. I don't. If you're a close minded person who hates immigrants and homosexuals and thinks we should lock up jaywalkers and throw away the key, this station is for you. No Dubya bashers allowed, but Paul Martin haters are welcomed with open arms.

Classical 96.3 5.3 - Perfect for any dentist's waiting room. Otherwise, avoid unless about to fall asleep.

AM 740 5.0 - I couldn't tell you a thing about this station. I'm surprised they got a 5 share.

102.1 The Edge 4.7 - This is the station I listen to 80% of the time. It's the station I hear in the shower and throughout the day. They play the music I want to hear and I love them for it. Without this station and their format I'd listen to a great deal less radio. I've been listening to CFNY for over fifteen years now and I don't plan to stop...unless they go country or start playing Good Charlotte.

680 News 4.2 - I must admit, if I'm stuck in traffic or need a weather report, I scoot over to 680 News for a few minutes. In and out.

Mix 99.9 4.1 - How the mighty have fallen. I don't think the Mix people will be happy with a 4.1. These guys want to be with the big boys like CHUM and EZ Rock but instead they're stuck between an all-news station and some station I've never heard of. Poor Humble and Fred...

Z103.5 3.5 - I've never heard of this station. I suspect they're dance and have a weak signal because I don't pick up much between CFNY and CHUM-FM.

Flow 93.5 3.3 - I tried to like this station because I enjoy a good rap and hip-hop tune now and then, but I rarely hear rap or hip-hop on this urban station. It's mainly R&B when I cruise on over and I'm not a fan. Flow should play more Public Enemy and less Usher.

Jack 92.5 3.2 - I'm glad the ratings are low for Jack. "Playing what we want", they say. Playing crap like the other middle of the road stations is what they should have said. I don't have time for more Rod Stewart and Dixie Chicks.

Fan 590 2.2 - The Bob McCown show during the afternoons entertains me. If something extremely interesting is going on the world of sports, I'll give the Fan a slice of my radio day. Their 20/20 sports updates are convenient for a sports buff like myself.

CBC Radio Two 1.9 - I've never heard this station but I think it's mainly classical snooze stuff.

1050 chum 1.8 - I don't listen to 1050 because I don't have any interest in hearing oldies on the radio. The Everly Brothers are fine, but there's about twenty other stations I'd rather hear.

Country 95.3 1.8 - The country music you'll hear here sucks.

Mojo Radio 1.7 - Mojo airs Leafs games, but listening to their biased commentary on my team is painful. These guys drive me to the Fan for my sports discussion and news. Mike Stafford in the afternoon is a fairly smart show, but the rest is just stupid. Brain dead radio for guys who don't want to think.

Jazz FM 91 1.6 - Jazz bores me.

Foxy 88.5 1.2 - I think this is another oldies station. One is one too many.

Other 11.2 - A few of my favourite stations would be filed under this "other" category. I enjoy 97.7 out of St. Catherines, 108 out of Hamilton and 92.9 out of Buffalo. 92.9 is a particular favourite of mine because they broadcast The Howard Stern Show, a favourite of mine for the past seven years.

There you have it, my thoughts on Toronto's radio scene. Most of it I dislike, but I'm a big fan of 102.1 The Edge and a sometimes listener of 97.7, 108, 92.9 and the Fan 590. Once in a blue moon I hear Mojo Radio, CBC Radio One and 680 News.

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Chop Suey!

Chop Suey!Never underestimate the power of the right song at the right time. Take this morning for example. I'm driving along on a wet looking Tuesday morning with a lot on my mind and feeling a little blah when CFNY Edge 102 plays "Chop Suey!" by System of a Down.

"Chop Suey!" was exactly what the doctor ordered. I jacked this tune to 11, picked up my invisible drum sticks and started screaming the lyrics to one of my favourite songs of all time. The song is only 3:30 but by the time it was over I was a new man. I was totally buzzed and I'm still riding the high.

Wake up!

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Not Sold Out Yet

Edgefest 2004Back in March I bitched openly about the crappy Edgefest 2004 line up. You may recall I exchanged emails with Alan Cross in which he stated, and I quote, "If we manage to sell out the show this week (which is something we think we'll do), we'll have enough cash to maybe do something else this summer". Alan was justifying the inclusion of Good Charlotte as headliners. It's all about moving units, apparently.

All week long I've been hearing radio advertisements for Edgefest 2004. Tickets are still available, it seems. Not only did they not sell out that week in late March, but it's almost May and they still haven't sold out. I wonder why?

Edgefest 2004 hasn't sold as well as Alan Cross hoped because it's being headlined by Good Charlotte. The people who listen to CFNY Edge 102 and the people who would be interested in the Edgefest franchise don't want to spend their hard earned money to sit around all afternoon when the closing band is Good Charlotte. What a joke. I hope CFNY Edge 102 takes a bath on this one. It serves them right.

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Top 100 Moments

Top 100 MomentsThe Ongoing History of New Music on CFNY Edge 102 have listed their Top 100 Moments. Here are their top 10.

  1. Death of Kurt Cobain.
  2. Edison invents recorded sound.
  3. Invention of the electric guitar.
  4. Collapse of the Mercer Arts Centre and CBGBs convinced to have a rock night.
  5. Ramones at the Roundhouse 1976.
  6. Sex Pistols swear at Bill Grundy.
  7. The release of the first Sex Pistols single, "Anarchy in the UK".
  8. Nirvana releases Nevermind.
  9. First online downloads.
  10. Invention of the MP3.

Interesting... This is so incredibly subjective, we could argue about it forever. The death of Kurt Cobain and the release of "Nevermind" are certainly important moments in the history of new music. The first online downloads sort of goes hand in hand with the invention of the MP3, both significant developments in terms of how we get and listen to our music. I am absolutely consumed by my thousands of MP3s I play with Winamp throughout the day. The MP3 has completely revolutionized the way I store and play my tunage. The invention of recorded sound and the electric guitar were essential, but I'm not certain about the others listed in the top 10. But again, we could argue about this forever.

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Cross & Lopez

Cross & LopezI got in my car this morning and started channel surfing as is my usual routine. I heard the 07:00 news, a great tune from Broken Social Scene and then switched to 92.9 to hear what Howard Stern was up to. The voices eminating from WBUF did not belong to Howard, Robin or Artie but a couple of perky deejays going by the names Cross & Lopez.

Cross & Lopez were everything I hate about radio. They were 100% pure American cheese playing top 40 music from Britney and the gang. It was garbage, it was boring and it was an April Fool's joke.

Apparently, the station's general manager opened this morning's broadcast by reading a statement that Infinity Broadcasting had parted ways with Howard Stern following pressure from the FCC and Cross & Lopez was the "fun without the filth". A lot of people bought it hook, line and sinker. I thought it was a good wake-up call for people. This exact scenario could play itself out in the not too distant future if the FCC and Congress get their way. The sanitization of the public airwaves has already begun. Get used to Cross & Lopez, they may become the only voices heard on the radio.

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The Reason

The ReasonThis morning I heard Alan Cross' explanation as to why he suspended the Dean Blundell morning show on CFNY Edge 102 following a particularly rowdy appearance by Steve-O of Jackass fame on Friday morning.

According to Alan Cross, the suspension had nothing to do with the content from the show but with Dean Blundell's refusal to follow orders. Apparently, when it became apparent things were getting out of hand, Cross called the studio and ordered Blundell to cut off the guests' microphones and have security escort them out. Blundell continued with the show and that's why he's suspended. "Insubordination" is how Cross described it this morning.

In my entry of Saturday morning I expressed my concern that we were becoming a Puritan culture in much the same way our neighbours to the South are. Suddenly, everything seems to be offending someone. If it's true this suspension was a result of their failure to obey the boss, I can accept that. I was beginning to fear "The Edge" had as much edge as a bowl of Jello.

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Dean Blundell Suspension

Dean Blundell SuspensionI got a couple of messages via the Contact Mike regarding yesterday's suspension of the Dean Blundell morning show on CFNY Edge 102. I guess my site is listed high on various searches for the station, Dean Blundell and Alan Cross. Remember, I did praise Dean's replacement when he went on holidays in December, more than once. I've never been a fan of the Dean Blundell morning show.

Yesterday, my new friend Alan Cross, Program Director at CFNY Edge 102, suspended Dean Blundell and his two cronies indefinitely as a result of guest Steve-O's antics on the show yesterday morning.

I'm hard on the FCC and their ridiculous rules that are suffocating Howard Stern's show in the United States, but I always praised Canadian air waves for giving Canadians credit for knowing how to turn the station or turn the radio off completely. I'm no longer sure we're any more progressive up here. As much as I dislike Dean Blundell as a radio host, his suspension is entirely unfair.

The story from the National Post claims Steve-O urinated on the studio floor and performed a gag he called Unwrapping the Mummy, using duct tape and his genitalia. This action got hosts Dean Blundell, Jason Barr and Todd Shapiro suspended without pay indefinitely. As I mentioned, it was an internal suspension. Alan Cross made the call, apparently a pre-emptive strike. I think it was way overboard.

Where do I begin? First of all, Steve-0 is famous for performing outlandish stunts. This is the guy who stapled his scrotum to his thigh. Unwrapping the Mummy is what you'd expect from him. Secondly, and most importantly, this is a radio show. Nobody can see the stunt. Doesn't it sound ludicrous that you can get suspended for urinating on the radio? If radio hosts are going to become 100% accountable for the actions and comments from their guests, nobody is safe. They may as well play wall to wall music... although I distinctly heard the S-word during a Sum41 song the other day, and it was the middle of the day. Where do we draw the line? What's happening to our society? Are we all to become Puritans? How fucking boring is that?

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Alan Cross' Reply

Alan Cross' ReplyEarlier this week, I wrote Alan Cross, CFNY Edge 102 Program Director, regarding this year's Edgefest line up. He wrote me back and I posted my original email and his reply.

What I didn't mention was the fact we continued our conversation. I replied to his reply and so on... Below you will find my second email to Alan Cross and his second reply.

Thanks for the prompt and honest reply. I appreciate it.

It seems pretty clear to me your station made a concerted effort to remove Good Charlotte from the playlist. The album may have been played, but that's never stopped you from continuing to play previous hits from bands like Sum41, Blink182, Green Day and The Offspring. Despite the fact you claim they were insanely popular with a significant portion of your audience, not a trace of them can now be heard on 102.1. I believe it became apparent they were the wrong genre.

You hit the nail on the head when you wrote "the band can still sell a ton of tickets". I'm afraid this is all about popularity and making money, and radio is a business that's looking to maximize profits, so there's nothing wrong with that. I just wish you weren't promoting your signature concert series with a band that has obviously been eliminated 100% from your playlist. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I hate it when business interferes with the integrity of the music....almost as much as I hate the weak sound from Good Charlotte the kids are eating up.

This rant is officially over. Thanks for reading (or deleting, I'll never know). I hope you do one day make "The Ongoing History of New Music" available via the web as either a downloadable MP3 or even streamed so I can listen while I work. And keep playing the hell out of Nirvana...but try to add a little more Alice in Chains in the mix.

Thanks,
Mike

p.s. When I was 15 I worked a game booth at the CNE. You used to broadcast from there remotely. You were very cool to us - I used to bum a load of CFNY stickers from you. I'm glad you're back at the Edge.

And Alan Cross' reply...

Yep. We're all about making money. Seriously. This is the raison d'etre of any commercial radio station. BUT we're also trying to walk that fine line between art and commerce. We want to create great radio AND satisfy our owners at the same time. That's a tough, tough job, but for the most part, I think we do a pretty good job.

Keep in mind that musical relevance is highly subjective. What's crap to you is gold to someone else--and vice versa.

One more thing: Edgefest also features Alexisonfire, Jersey and Something Corporate, three highly credible bands that don't get a lot of airplay (yet) from us for different reasons. It's all for balance, you know?

I won't bore you with our further exchanges. I just thought I'd post this final exchange in an effort to close the communication loop. I still think selecting Good Charlotte as the headlining act was an act of desparation. Think of all the bands that would have made more sense. There are dozens, and apparently none were available or willing to play. They might as well have prodded Hootie and the Blowfish out of retirement to "rock" the Amphitheatre... It makes as much sense to me.

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