Coalition to CBC: ‘No fair, we want more money.’

This has been irritating me more and more as the day goes on.

I think it is equally disturbing and awesome that one must look to the government for what is new and interesting in music in Canada. It’s disturbing if you look at it in an Orwellian sense of the government dictating what citizens should listen to (but how bad would it really be if they said ‘you must listen to the Handsome Furs’?) But it’s awesome that CBCmusic will play a spectrum of music regardless of commercial viability to promote independent artists and music in Canada. Apparently this is a problem for big businesses like Rogers, Cogeco and Chorus Entertainment and a coalition of these companies who are trying to stop CBCmusic’s streaming music website.

When I was a kid (here we go) living in suburban Toronto, CFNY (aka, 102.1, the Edge, owned by Chorus Entertainment) was where you’d go for new music. In the pre-internet days, CFNY was the only place to discover new music and the only station playing the likes of the Smiths, New Order, the Cure, etc. Saturday nights had a harder edge to it and featured bands like Ministry, KMFDM and Skinny Puppy. Canadian rock was still in its infancy, but CFNY was a good place to hear bands like The Tragically Hip, Chalk Circle, 54-40 or the Grapes Wrath hitting their stride.

Canadian music has come a long way since and commercial radio has become much more irrelevant. Where 102.1 was once the tastemaker, it now needs a band to reach a certain critical mass before it’s worth noting.

A look at the respective charts is telling. The top 3 from Edge 102’s Thursday 30 are:

1) the fun – We are Young (30 million YouTube views),
2) Grouplove –Tonguetied (2.05 million YouTube views)
3) the Black Keys – Gold on the Ceiling (2.14 million YouTube views).

All three are American acts. The Thursday 30 does have some CanCon on it:

Big Wreck (who knew they were back?)- Albatross has 206,475 views,
Our Lady Peace (also back)- Heavyweight (126,950 views).

There are also a few bands on the list familiar to a CBC listener – the Arkells, the Pack A.D., Yukon Blonde, but the majority are bigger acts from outside of Canada. 102.1’s daily song playlist is very limited and repetitive (I don’t need to hear Gotye’s Somebody I Used to Know ever again), interspersed with commercials and inane DJ banter. They’re a business and they need to make a profit off their listeners, so they have to play music that will draw listeners. Fine, I get it.

The top 3 from CBC’s R3-30 Countdown:

3) Zeus – Anything You Want Dear, which has no official video and a whopping 969 views for their CBC live recording.
2) Islands – Hallways – 69,229 Views
1) Trust – Sulk has no video but 27,056 people streamed the audio on YouTube (which, of course, the coalition isn’t interested in tackling).

CBCmusic is promoting the little guys, they’re helping make careers for Canadian artists. I actually liked the Edge’s top 3 songs, I hadn’t heard them before, but I didn’t think they were any better than the R3-30’s top 3. And I haven’t heard a finer song than this in a long time (thanks CBC):

Galaxie Music, owned by Stingray Digital is part of the coalition. Galaxie has a great Canadian Indie stream and plays many of the artists CBCmusic does. There is also some overlap between some of Galaxie’s 50+ channels and the feeds provided by CBC music and I think that’s where the problem arises. What about the areas where there are no overlap. I’m sure CBC has no interest in entering the Bollywood/Latin Beats/Headbanger arenas. And where will the Aboriginal voice go? I’m sure Chorus Entertainment can throw this fine Aboriginal rock song right into Q107’s regular rotation.

Perhaps I’m missing the point, these corporations don’t want CBCmusic to go away. They still need CBCmusic to be the tastemaker in Canada, to give a voice to these artists and to make them popular for them to profit off of. They just don’t want CBC to stream music, which they’ve always done. It’s clear that the people who will be affected most by the coalition’s actions are the independent artists. If you read between the lines of Stingray CEO, Eric Boyko’s absurd comment, “the only music that you can hear for free is when birds sing,” the petulant message is pretty clear – “No fair, we want more money.”

Support the arts in Canada. Listen to Canadian music. Read Canadian books. Watch Canadian films. Fuck the corporate coalition.