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April 2, 2020 6:55 pm  #1

Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

I am out in my car around 6pm running around and doing my weekly shopping. I had Sirius XM on 1st Wave.

Caught the last half of Pop Goes the World by Men Without Hats, which they play a lot. Then they go right into Echo Beach Martha and the Muffins, a song that didn't get any top 40 airplay in the US other than college radio and never saw the Billboard top 100.  That's odd, I didn't recall ever hearing Echo Beach before on Sirius.

The next song on 1st Wave is Spoons Nova Heart, and not the AM version, but a long dance cut. OK what is going on here?  Nova Heart also not a hit in the US.  The next song is The Box and not one of their bigger tunes with Crying Out Loud for Love, and finally The Payolas with Eyes of a Stranger, which  I have heard on Sirius.

Five cancon songs in a row on Sirius XM 1st Wave and only two that they normally play. Host Richard Blade comes on and thanks the listener who requested the songs for their Theme Thursday. He then goes on about all of the bands they just played and how the show tonight featured all Canadian new wave bands. Richard is a Brit and he mentioned how Echo Beach had never been played on 1st Wave before and what a big song it was in Canada and England 40 years ago. And he also seemed quite familiar with  the Box and Spoons which US audiences wouldn't know.

Anyway kind of bizarre I had never heard of Theme Thursday before, let alone five cancon cuts back to back, and they fit in perfectly with the format. 


April 6, 2020 9:36 am  #2

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

LOVE all those tracks and groups mentioned, and funny thing I played a vinyl from The Box last night.  


April 6, 2020 10:22 am  #3

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

The Box is such a highly underrated group.  Always loved them.  Remember being blown away by Jean-Marc et al at the BombShelter at UofW (pun intended) when they played there years ago.

It's funny how Canadians tend to "poo poo" our own music whilst other countries love it.  I remember back in the 80s shopping for discs at the Record Theatre in Buffalo and marvelling at this huge display they had in a prominent place of nothing but Canadian music.  

British singer/performance artist Toyah Wilcox even covered Echo Beach.


Last edited by Peter the K (April 6, 2020 10:23 am)


April 6, 2020 12:12 pm  #4

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

As some of you know this is a bit of a bug bear for me. I think it is more that some Canadian broadcasters continue to  "poo poo" Canadian talent and not so much the public.  Some still do the absolute minimum since they feel hard done by being "forced" to play cancon. This is why we see some broadcasters who play very little new Canadian music or can't be bothered programming much or just rely on gold and safe artists to make up the bulk of the quota. But then you have a potential of song and artist burn out.

Other than the US, most countries actually do have a quota or percent of music that must be played on the radio that is home grown. And most broadcasters do so willingly and are excited about breaking new local artists. Unfortunately we still have some broadcasters that have a lousy and dated attitude regarding Canadian talent and artists.  And we have lacked television programming that showcases homegrown talent.  Remember when MuchMusic was breaking so many new artists and songs?  MuchMusic was doing what Canadian radio was not, and eventually many stations did start to play these artists that were first playlisted on TV.

After all these years, nobody has ever been able to show that the cancon regulations have hurt radio broadcasters in anyway, either ratings or revenue.  There is a ton of great music that never sees the light of day, so lack of quality cancon is not the problem.  The real issue would be the songs actually receiving any airplay.. 

     Thread Starter

April 6, 2020 12:32 pm  #5

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

I’ve always been of two minds on this. (That’s assuming I even have one worth using!)
While I agree they needed to force Canadian stations to play CanCon back in the day (although I strongly disagreed with it) it did work to foster a Canadian recording industry that’s mostly been thriving for the past six decades. So it can be argued they achieved their aim.
On the other hand, how long do these edicts need to remain in place? As noted, Canadian talent is now played and lauded all over the world. Think of it like an infant learning to walk. At first, you hover over the kid, trying to ensure he or she doesn’t fall. But eventually they take those first few steps, then more and more. And eventually mom and dad back off and let them go as they get steadier on their feet, finally running free.
It could be argued that now that the Canadian music child has long been taking its own strides, it might be time to either loosen the regulations that forces them getting played or remove them altogether. People seem to enjoy them, not because they’re from here but because those who make it are talented and deserve the airplay. And in many cases, they’re now getting heard and appreciated in both the U.S. and Europe.
So why should the “parental” government continue to hover over them, trying to stop them from falling, when they’re already able to race away on their own?
I’d like to see a halt placed to what I perceive as dated rules and see what happens. I very much doubt Top 40 stations will stop playing Justin Beiber just because he no longer has special protection in his home country. 


April 6, 2020 1:31 pm  #6

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

Artists like Beiber, The Weeknd, Shawn Mendez will receive the airplay regardless of regulations and they are  getting the airplay right now not because they are Canadian. Most of their material actually isn't cancon since they don't write the bulk of their songs and don't usually record here. Drake actually records in Toronto a bit, but his material doesn't get much airplay here. He is much bigger in the US and Europe. 

The regs should be updated, and hopefully this will happen this year. I think gold or oldies stations should have something around 20% cancon and top 40/AC/Country 30% with an emphasis on newer artists and songs and less reliance on gold and artists that will get played regardless.

I don't think the analogy of the government "hovering" is actually accurate. The CRTC isn't the Gestapo!

In all my years on air and as a program director, I only recall twice being checked on by the CRTC regarding cancon.  So two days in 15 years isn't really very demanding.  But we played by the rules, treated all of our cancon the same as all other songs with the same rotation.  If you don't follow the regs, then you could be putting yourself under the microscope more. Even if you are under, it is just a warning to get your act together.  With the CRTC you need to be a major screw up in many areas and totally incompetent to actually not have your license renewed.

     Thread Starter

April 6, 2020 2:26 pm  #7

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

I think my point is that they've achieved what they wanted and the Canadian music industry can now stand on its own - and proudly so. At the very least, reduce the CanCon requirements and let music directors decide what should be played.

That is their job, after all, and unlike the CRTC, they may actually be able to determine what's worthwhile and will please listeners instead of being forced to put on both the good and the bad to fill a made-up number requirement. I have never been comfortable with any government organization dictating what must be played in even a limited form in a supposedly free society and medium.

I know it's an overblown comparison, but it smacks of the old Soviet Union or the current regime in China, where you reported what they wanted you to say - or else. And it has always made me profoundly ill at ease.   

As for the Commission coming after stations for not enough CanCon, I'll admit that PD is not a job I ever had in the biz. My background has always been in news. But I read the CRTC's releases every single day and I can't tell you how many times I've seen stations cited for not fulfilling their Canadian Content regulations.

They almost never lose their licences over it but they often get shorter renewals to prove they've cleaned up their acts. So someone is definitely watching. 


April 6, 2020 4:22 pm  #8

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

I agree it is time for the regs to be updated and reduced in most cases. Music Directors have always ultimately decided what to play, cancon or otherwise.  It is just that some music directors and companies are better at the job than others. As I have mentioned there is a lot of great material which never gets any airplay largely because of technology, laziness or hesitation to play new music and artists.  In the 50's and 60's music directors read Billboard and that was the extent of music research in most cases.

That is the reason why the regs came in the first place. Stations were not playing Canadian artists by and large.  They were encouraged and even warned for years by the then BBG to play more homegrown artists.  In the 50's and 60's in most cases, the only Canadian artists to get any worthwhile airplay at home usually happened when the song was played in the US.  So most broadcasters here were following the lead of a foreign country to determine what Canadian artists if any they would play.  That is both pathetic and funny.

I like to think that times have changed and they have,  but some stations still try to bury their cancon in off hours and and overplay artists and songs. Mind you they overplay a lot of artists and songs in my opinion,  that is another discussion. Stations like CHUM FM, CHFI, Pattison Group stations, CHYM FM and a few smaller groups like Bayshore, Byrnes, many country stations and others do a great job with cancon.  

The CRTC has never told radio stations what to play or say, so your comparison of the Soviet Union is as you say is overblown. If a station habitually is not playing enough cancon, it likely is an indicator that there are other things they are not doing as well.  So yes you will get watched by the CRTC as you should be. If your company can't be professional or mature enough and follow the rules, guess what, you could get a shortened renewal.  Start acting like an adult and you will be treated as one.  In the US if a station doesn't follow the regs, they get a fine, and sometimes a big fine. So the CRTC is far from repressive.

Anyway, I don't think cancon should be dropped all together but I do hope  that the regs are updated and lowered for certain formats and that broadcasters rise to the occasion, get creative and not  squander the opportunity if it presents itself.

     Thread Starter

April 6, 2020 4:26 pm  #9

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

Well, we certainly agree on at least one point - assigning a 30-35% CanCon requirement to an oldies station results in the same songs being played over and over and over until people tune you out. I'm sure Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot are wonderful people, but you don't want to hear from them non-stop because that's all they seem to be able to find. 

The old CHUM-AM when it went all oldies was especially guilty of this and frankly, after a while, it was a tune out. It's a great song but there's only so many times you can hear "Snowbird..." 


April 6, 2020 5:10 pm  #10

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

Yes an oldies station (50's-70's) a cancon level of 15-20% would be more in line. I am surprised by Roger Ashby's show,  so far is programming his show better than what CHUM was doing when it was oldies.

Roger sounds like he is playing 35% cancon and he is only playing music from 1955-75, so that is a big challenge.  He has played some early cancon that sounds great, but other than CHUM didn't get any airplay nationally. Even heard a request from the US a couple of weeks ago.
He is only on 3 hours per week and is playing a lot of secondary tunes overall and I wonder if he is getting too obscure, but time will tell. He does play the Beatles and Elvis almost every week, oddly enough haven't noticed Anne Murray yet, but I have heard Gord a few times, with early 60's songs. 

Daryl Maclean's Beach Party handles cancon very well, but his era goes from the 50's well into the 80';s  so quite a bit more to choose from. 

     Thread Starter

April 6, 2020 5:41 pm  #11

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

Ashby's show has become one of the must listen to programs on the radio for me. As always in my case, it's not the music so much - it's his material between the songs and how it's presented that I find fascinating. 


April 6, 2020 7:07 pm  #12

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

Well as always RA, thanks for the discussion. Helped to put in the afternoon!

     Thread Starter

April 6, 2020 7:13 pm  #13

Re: Did Radio Cancon Hell Freeze Over at 6pm on Sirius XM?

The idea of varying Cancon levels by format is logical, but it would require the retroactive defining and regulating of formats and individual songs. From a regulatory point of view, there is no such thing as an AC station or a Classic Hits station. 

About the only way to do it without a massive bureaucratic mess would be a system that ties in release year with a point system of some kind.

Regardless, there's a clear move away from that kind of micro-regulation so I don't see any of it happening.