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September 23, 2020 4:50 pm  #1


Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

I was looking at Buffalo radio ratings for August 2020 and noticed that WYRK, the country station at 106.5 FM (now buried by Elmnt FM in the GTA) is number one - again. It's been the solid leader in the market for a long time, which continues to surprise me because I never really thought of the Queen City as a country kind of place.

WBEN-AM, the conservative talker is a firm second, followed by WBLK and WGRF. WHTT, aka Oldies 104, is a very respectable fifth. 

Buffalo Radio Ratings Aug. 2020 

I know every market is different and we're in a completely separate country, but I've always wondered why certain formats seem to click in one place and be almost absent in another. Yes, we have KX96 based in Ajax for our C&W, but it's hardly in the upper echelon of the last book. And we all remember when Rawlco tried KISS-FM as a country format and failed miserably.

The old CFGM was the closest the city proper ever came to having an actual country station - and it was based in Richmond Hill (above a  restaurant, if memory serves.) But in the last survey, KX96 wasn't even listed. 

Then there's Oldies. With the demise of CHUM-AM and CKOC, there has been somewhat of an oldies void in T.O. that AM740 doesn't really fill. (It has too much peripheral programming, like talk shows, old time radio, Big Band shows and more to really be a fulltime oldies station in my mind.) Even if you count it, though, it's still comes in near the bottom of the pack (managing just 0.8 in Adults 25-54.). I suppose BOOM could be considered an oldies station of a kind, but I'm not sure it would define itself that way. They do very well with an extremely targeted playlist.

(Buffalo actually has three oldies stations - WHTT - technically called "classic hits", WECK and WWWS.) 

Boom aside, I've long wondered about this. What is it about the Toronto market that it can't seem to support a fulltime oldies or country station, and that the ones that are available here don't do very well? Clearly, they are viable formats almost everywhere else. And whatever you may think of Buffalo, it can hardly be considered Nashville. Yet there's WYRK in the top spot book after book.  

Why don't these formats ever seem to catch on - and become high raters - in Toronto? I've never been able to figure it out. Perhaps someone here can explain it.

 

September 23, 2020 4:59 pm  #2


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

The top three in Rochester are a mirror image of Buffalo. Country WBEE has ruled the market for years with N/T WHAM and R/B WDKX coming in 2nd and 3rd.

 

September 23, 2020 5:48 pm  #3


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

CFGM was never a huge ratings grabber, but it has a storied history. It hung on as Toronto’s only real country station for almost 30 years, from 1963 until the HOG came in 1990. That’s the longest anyone in the market stuck with the twang.
 
It also boasted some pretty amazing talent over those years. Check out this partial list.
 
Bob Laine
Don Daynard
Frank Proctor
Bill Anderson
Dave Johnson
Bob MacAdorey
Richard Scott
Leo Cahill
Big Jim Marshall
John Donabie
Jim Brady
Larry Solway
Dave Trafford
John Gallagher
 
While they didn’t all work there at the same time, I doubt you could afford even half of that line-up these days.

     Thread Starter
 

September 23, 2020 6:03 pm  #4


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Here's an old ad touting the change of CFOX in Montreal to country - citing CFGM's success as a shining example. It claims 'GM was #2 in the ratings, an assertion I find impossible to believe, unless they were really isolating and cherrypicking certain numbers. As for the copy that says "Toronto is a country town," perhaps they were talking about Toronto, Kansas.

https://i.ibb.co/H7qn23G/CFGM-CFOX-ad.jpg
 

     Thread Starter
 

September 23, 2020 6:09 pm  #5


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Bill Gable, quite a few years ago, said he thought Oldies was in tough in Toronto because of the multicultural population mix. How many people in the city today grew up listening to the songs you'd play on an Oldies format?
Made sense to me.

Now, Country could be another thing, altogether. There's some choice music, better than pop, I think. Tell your people you want the most personality with the least amount of talk, limit your spot load and play the music, along with great production values. No more five-minute-or-more stop sets. Nobody's going to knock you for playing a lot of music.

Which reminds me (quick rant here), we were in the car the other day, listening to a station that plays music that nobody else does, and the jock went ON AND ON with Jeff Somebody about one thing and another that only the two of them cared about. What a bunch of self-indulgent crap!

 

September 23, 2020 6:30 pm  #6


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Have you looked at the demographics of Toronto?  Fewer and fewer geriatrics who want 'oldies', and not enough
good old boys and girls who could care less about 'country'.  Diversity may be our 'strength', but not when it comes to those genres.

 

September 23, 2020 6:41 pm  #7


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Maybe the age demo could be a factor in oldies here (although a well done station could still attract an audience - look at what WECK did in Buffalo.) But the country failure is odd. There seems to be an audience for this format in nearly every other city - but it's just never caught on here. 

By the way, Mr. Marshall, Bill Gable stole my copy of "Keep On Dancin'" by The Gentrys! I loaned it to him for his daily oldie way back when he was on CFTR. Their library didn't have it and I was happy to hand it over. But although he promised to get me another one, he never did. He's sadly gone now, and I forgave him a long time ago. But oh Brother (Bill!)

     Thread Starter
 

September 23, 2020 6:59 pm  #8


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Country usually does poorly in major markets. New York and Chicago are prime examples in the US. I haven’t checked the numbers in, say Edmonton or Vancouver lately. Calgary probably does better.

I miss Bill Gable. What a talent!

 

September 23, 2020 7:01 pm  #9


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Radio111 wrote:

I miss Bill Gable. What a talent!

He was a class act.

     Thread Starter
 

September 23, 2020 8:04 pm  #10


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

"Oldies," by its traditional definition, doesn't really do well anywhere. Only 6% of the spins on WHTT are from the 60s. Peak year on that station is 1985. Like it or not, Boom is your Oldies station now.

Country - pure demographics. There is almost zero appeal to non-white populations.  Having said that -- it can work on a huge signal in a major metro -- JR in Vancouver does quite well. In Toronto, that would mean for the format to work it would need to be on one of the CN Tower signals. There's not one of those that I think would do better as Country.


 
 

September 23, 2020 8:18 pm  #11


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Strictly a guess: Bell media already studied the Toronto market and decided that Country music is not a wise choice for a format...I'm guessing this decision was made around the time when Ottawa's 93.9 went Country. 
Bell most likely saw that it's better to stop competing with Boom FM Ottawa, but Toronto has no Bell Media station they'd like to change.



 


RadioWiz & RadioQuiz are NOT the same person. 
RadioWiz & THE Wiz are NOT the same person.
 
 

September 23, 2020 8:20 pm  #12


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

RadioActive wrote:

CFGM was never a huge ratings grabber, but it has a storied history. It hung on as Toronto’s only real country station for almost 30 years, from 1963 until the HOG came in 1990. That’s the longest anyone in the market stuck with the twang.
 
It also boasted some pretty amazing talent over those years. Check out this partial list.
 
Bob Laine
Don Daynard
Frank Proctor
Bill Anderson
Dave Johnson
Bob MacAdorey
Richard Scott
Leo Cahill
Big Jim Marshall
John Donabie
Jim Brady
Larry Solway
Dave Trafford
John Gallagher
 
While they didn’t all work there at the same time, I doubt you could afford even half of that line-up these days.

I never knew that David Pritchard worked all night at CFGM as well. Only found out when I was trying to look up information about his pirate radio station in Willowdale. Anyway on page 8 ( I think)  of the link below you can read about his time at CFGM and the pirate and of course CHUM FM and also found  quite coincidently on page 5 of the same issue of RPM there is a short letter by David Marsden.

RPM-1977-04
 

Last edited by Fitz (September 23, 2020 8:26 pm)


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September 23, 2020 8:23 pm  #13


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

RadioAaron wrote:

"Oldies," by its traditional definition, doesn't really do well anywhere.

We're all still waiting for 1220 to sign on and hopefully show up in a book, if possible.
It's too bad TSN 1150 is kicking Oldies ass with such great ratings. I miss CKOC.
 


RadioWiz & RadioQuiz are NOT the same person. 
RadioWiz & THE Wiz are NOT the same person.
 
 

September 23, 2020 8:25 pm  #14


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Radiowiz wrote:

Strictly a guess: Bell media already studied the Toronto market and decided that Country music is not a wise choice for a format...I'm guessing this decision was made around the time when Ottawa's 93.9 went Country. 
Bell most likely saw that it's better to stop competing with Boom FM Ottawa, but Toronto has no Bell Media station they'd like to change.

 

At the time Bell changed 93.9 in Ottawa to Country, in Toronto they had CHUM-FM and had just taken over Virgin. There's no way that Bell even considered even thinking about maybe wondering about looking at Country for either.  

Last edited by RadioAaron (September 23, 2020 8:27 pm)


 
 

September 23, 2020 8:31 pm  #15


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Radiowiz wrote:

RadioAaron wrote:

"Oldies," by its traditional definition, doesn't really do well anywhere.

We're all still waiting for 1220 to sign on and hopefully show up in a book, if possible.
It's too bad TSN 1150 is kicking Oldies ass with such great ratings. I miss CKOC.
 

Speaking of country and 1220. Last week in the car I heard Taylor Swift on 1220 ( but from her pop content) and also I believe Shania Twain.,
 


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September 23, 2020 8:31 pm  #16


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

RadioActive wrote:

Radio111 wrote:

I miss Bill Gable. What a talent!

He was a class act.

He sure was. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the CNE and had a very enjoyable conversation with him ... he was just as nice in person as he was on air. 

 

September 23, 2020 8:33 pm  #17


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

I would still like to hear an Americana radio station in Toronto.  I've been told it wouldn't work by someone  I really respect.  However; I still think it would.  It's why I love many U.S. markets when I travel.  It's the diversity they have.  Us?  Not so much.

 

September 23, 2020 8:36 pm  #18


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

RadioAaron wrote:

Radiowiz wrote:

Strictly a guess: Bell media already studied the Toronto market and decided that Country music is not a wise choice for a format...I'm guessing this decision was made around the time when Ottawa's 93.9 went Country. 
Bell most likely saw that it's better to stop competing with Boom FM Ottawa, but Toronto has no Bell Media station they'd like to change.

 

At the time Bell changed 93.9 in Ottawa to Country, in Toronto they had CHUM-FM and had just taken over Virgin. There's no way that Bell even considered even thinking about maybe wondering about looking at Country for either.  

They were most likely doing an "across Ontario/Country" scan to see how many stations they can fit in for their National Country content, knowing that Toronto doesn't have a good enough fit & AM radio doesn't have logic.


RadioWiz & RadioQuiz are NOT the same person. 
RadioWiz & THE Wiz are NOT the same person.
 
 

September 23, 2020 8:42 pm  #19


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

John D wrote:

I would still like to hear an Americana radio station in Toronto.  I've been told it wouldn't work by someone  I really respect.  However; I still think it would.  It's why I love many U.S. markets when I travel.  It's the diversity they have.  Us?  Not so much.

I mean, I guess it depends on what you mean by "work." Under a ratings = revenues commercial model - absolutely not. 

There are a couple factors that lead to more diversity in American radio. For one, way more licenses per market, which allows big groups to experiment, and tiny groups to land what amounts to hobby stations.

The other is their public radio, which operates in clusters of smaller ownership groups, funded more directly by listeners than by government.

Any Americana station is operated either by a commercial radio hobbyist, or as part of a local public radio, NPR affiliated entity. We have neither here.
 


 
 

September 23, 2020 8:43 pm  #20


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

John D wrote:

I would still like to hear an Americana radio station in Toronto.  I've been told it wouldn't work by someone  I really respect.  However; I still think it would.  It's why I love many U.S. markets when I travel.  It's the diversity they have.  Us?  Not so much.

if Triple A won't work and has not been tried in Toronto I doubt that Americana would John. Although perhaps their biggest cancon artist might be the Band. Even triple A is dwindling in major markets and there are even less with a diverse playlist. WXRT in Chicago still is thankfully and is kind of a link to the old days of free form rock. I think Americana in major markets may be relegated to HD sub channels but KPIG near San Fran is kind of a triple A/ Americana hybrid that I wish Toronto had.
 

Last edited by Fitz (September 23, 2020 8:44 pm)


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September 23, 2020 8:46 pm  #21


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Radiowiz wrote:

RadioAaron wrote:

Radiowiz wrote:

Strictly a guess: Bell media already studied the Toronto market and decided that Country music is not a wise choice for a format...I'm guessing this decision was made around the time when Ottawa's 93.9 went Country. 
Bell most likely saw that it's better to stop competing with Boom FM Ottawa, but Toronto has no Bell Media station they'd like to change.

 

At the time Bell changed 93.9 in Ottawa to Country, in Toronto they had CHUM-FM and had just taken over Virgin. There's no way that Bell even considered even thinking about maybe wondering about looking at Country for either.  

They were most likely doing an "across Ontario/Country" scan to see how many stations they can fit in for their National Country content, knowing that Toronto doesn't have a good enough fit & AM radio doesn't have logic.

No. They had no national Country strategy at the time.


 
 

September 23, 2020 8:48 pm  #22


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

RadioAaron wrote:

John D wrote:

I would still like to hear an Americana radio station in Toronto.  I've been told it wouldn't work by someone  I really respect.  However; I still think it would.  It's why I love many U.S. markets when I travel.  It's the diversity they have.  Us?  Not so much.

I mean, I guess it depends on what you mean by "work." Under a ratings = revenues commercial model - absolutely not. 

There are a couple factors that lead to more diversity in American radio. For one, way more licenses per market, which allows big groups to experiment, and tiny groups to land what amounts to hobby stations.

The other is their public radio, which operates in clusters of smaller ownership groups, funded more directly by listeners than by government.

Any Americana station is operated either by a commercial radio hobbyist, or as part of a local public radio, NPR affiliated entity. We have neither here.
 

By "hobby" stations do you mean those really low power ones that are legal but I would presume have a very limited range ?

Edit: I just re-read your post and you are not referring to the very low power stations that do exist in the US.

Last edited by Fitz (September 23, 2020 8:52 pm)


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September 23, 2020 8:52 pm  #23


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Fitz wrote:

RadioAaron wrote:

John D wrote:

I would still like to hear an Americana radio station in Toronto.  I've been told it wouldn't work by someone  I really respect.  However; I still think it would.  It's why I love many U.S. markets when I travel.  It's the diversity they have.  Us?  Not so much.

I mean, I guess it depends on what you mean by "work." Under a ratings = revenues commercial model - absolutely not. 

There are a couple factors that lead to more diversity in American radio. For one, way more licenses per market, which allows big groups to experiment, and tiny groups to land what amounts to hobby stations.

The other is their public radio, which operates in clusters of smaller ownership groups, funded more directly by listeners than by government.

Any Americana station is operated either by a commercial radio hobbyist, or as part of a local public radio, NPR affiliated entity. We have neither here.
 

By "hobby" stations do you mean those really low power ones that are legal but I would presume have a very limited range ?
 

For the most part, yes. But in recent years, I'd also count better signals that hobbyists can suddenly afford. WEBR Buffalo for example. 
 


 
 

September 23, 2020 8:54 pm  #24


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

The term "oldies" seems to be coming back a little in radio now, however it doesn't mean 50's and very little 60's music anymore.  I agree Boom and to a certain extent 740 would be Toronto's oldies stations.  Mike Cooper's "Coop's Classics" is excellent on CHFI on Saturday evenings, from 6 to midnight and he plays no where near 35% cancon.

As was pointed out in an earlier thread, CISS FM (KISS) actually did quite well in the ratings in Toronto when they first signed on as a country outlet. The format changed after Rogers purchased the station did it not?  Rogers has a few country stations but not that many.  

Call me crazy, but what Corus should do is dump CFNY's format which hasn't been going anywhere for years and flip to a modern country format.  They have the resources to promote the hell out of it and ratings will absolutely go up. It would give Toronto a badly needed shake up in radio.  And it could give Q a bit of a shot as well, and help keep them with their great ratings. It would also give Q a chance to play a little current rock if they so desired!

Another option would be to sell 102.1 to the Pattison Group from the west and possibly they would flip the station to country.  This format will never be number one in Toronto but the GTA certainly can support a country outlet .And like CISS I think the ratings would surprise a lot of people with a fairly young demo. 

Calgary has two country outlets with CKRY #3 with a 8.6 share, 8.7 a year ago and Wild 95.3 #11 in the market with 4.5 share most recent and 4.1 last summer.  Calgary also has an "oldies" station with XL 103 but alas they seem to be more Boom type of format at #4 right behind CKRY.

Edmonton has two country stations at #6 and #7 with CISN and CFCW-AM.  Interesting that  in Calgary and Edmonton CBC Radio One comes in with the highest ratings.

 

September 23, 2020 9:13 pm  #25


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

This is what came up when I googled oldies 96.7 Peterborough playlist ( and I think their playlist is duplicated on Oldies 100.9 in Brighton). Certainly not comparable to anything on WCBS FM in the 1980's:


  • My Song (Single Version) Glass Tiger 1600792854.
  • Don't Get Me Wrong. Pretenders 1600792633.
  • Bright Bright Sunshine. Joel Hunger 1600792583.
  • Summer Of '69. Bryan Adams 1600792283.
  • You've Got It (The Right Stuff) New Kids On the Block 1600792043.
  • Shout. Tears for Fears 1600791813.
  • The Power of Love. ...
  • Heartbreaker.


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September 23, 2020 9:13 pm  #26


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

John D wrote:

I would still like to hear an Americana radio station in Toronto.  I've been told it wouldn't work by someone  I really respect.  However; I still think it would.  It's why I love many U.S. markets when I travel.  It's the diversity they have.  Us?  Not so much.

Fill your boots John. The stations streaming on the page below do not appear to be geoblocked in Canada. Enjoy!

Americana formatted stations

     Thread Starter
 

September 23, 2020 9:45 pm  #27


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Don’t forget Oldies “92-9 The Grand” in Caledonia. A sort of reincarnation of CKOC complete with Rockin Ray Michaels. Comes into Hamilton really well and usually as far as Oakville.

 

September 23, 2020 9:51 pm  #28


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

Fitz wrote:

This is what came up when I googled oldies 96.7 Peterborough playlist ( and I think their playlist is duplicated on Oldies 100.9 in Brighton). Certainly not comparable to anything on WCBS FM in the 1980's:


  • My Song (Single Version) Glass Tiger 1600792854.
  • Don't Get Me Wrong. Pretenders 1600792633.
  • Bright Bright Sunshine. Joel Hunger 1600792583.
  • Summer Of '69. Bryan Adams 1600792283.
  • You've Got It (The Right Stuff) New Kids On the Block 1600792043.
  • Shout. Tears for Fears 1600791813.
  • The Power of Love. ...
  • Heartbreaker.

That's the google main "lock in" (never changes) top screen.

Your point seems to remain solid and strong though.
Here's a random visit to the actual site less than ten minutes ago:
 https://is2-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/Music1/v4/36/84/02/368402f3-7b14-71e0-abf4-eb285f8eed55/dj.ojoqoibo.jpg/100x100bb.jpg
In the Air TonightPhil Collins13 min agohttps://is1-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/Music123/v4/00/df/dd/00dfddaf-5af1-8254-7445-1d60ab07c55d/8134131050503.jpg/100x100bb.jpg
Bright Bright SunshineJoel Hunger15 min agohttps://is2-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/Music128/v4/a3/cb/59/a3cb59e2-d269-bebb-7db0-5367d4a0b0ad/00602557435467.rgb.jpg/100x100bb.jpg
Cracklin' RosieNeil Diamond18 min agohttps://is2-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/Music/55/58/6b/mzi.tzttfkyn.jpg/100x100bb.jpg
InnocenceHarlequin23 min agohttps://is2-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/Music113/v4/ce/d6/0f/ced60fe2-6ddb-2ba3-e09d-de0699049076/13UABIM48991.rgb.jpg/100x100bb.jpg
It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)R.E.M.27 min agohttps://is3-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/Music4/v4/b7/f2/3f/b7f23f1c-db92-8693-ae9a-702ec0d031bb/00077772657053.tif/100x100bb.jpg
Good TimesTom Cochrane & Red Rider34 min agohttps://is2-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/Music/ac/63/2b/mzi.bbruterd.jpg/100x100bb.jpg
Take On Mea-ha37 min agohttps://is2-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/Features/6a/d8/8f/dj.esxslbhu.jpg/100x100bb.jpg
Brown Eyed GirlVan Morrison40 min agohttps://is2-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/Music4/v4/47/79/e4/4779e494-8296-6b52-6624-0c204e5f3e24/00094632172952.jpg/100x100bb.jpg
Dancing With MyselfBilly Idol44 min agohttps://is5-ssl.mzstatic.com/image/thumb/Music/ad/c6/fc/mzi.uhlqabcm.jpg/169x170bb.jpg
Doesn't Really MatterPlatinum Blonde


RadioWiz & RadioQuiz are NOT the same person. 
RadioWiz & THE Wiz are NOT the same person.
 
 

September 23, 2020 9:58 pm  #29


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

K106.5 Owen Sound had an Americana format in the 90's.  It was a mix of acoustic rock, folk and country.  They had this unique sound for about 5 or 6 years and it was fairly popular.  Bayshore applied for a country station and when this signed on K106 moved to an A/C format.  Some of the folk and roots music moved to oldies 560.

 

September 23, 2020 9:59 pm  #30


Re: Why Don't Country & Oldies Formats Really Work In Toronto?

I believe Sarnia/Port Huron has a station on AM with an FM translator that has an Americana format. No clue if it makes any money.