Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Winnipeg radio: FM station correlation


Have you ever experienced one of those times when it seemed like every radio station was playing Aerosmith?

Winnipeg FM radio is very predictable and lacking in diversity. If it seems like you're hearing the same stuff over and over again, it's because you are. I would estimate that we get exposed to 5-10% of the popular music spectrum, but there is a whole world of awesome music out there that we're missing. When was the last time you heard The Cribs on Winnipeg radio? Of Montreal? (seriously, have you heard a better bass line than that?) Gigi d'Agostino? Black Flag? Neko Case? The Rakes? Texas? Winnipeg's own Grand Analog?

Curve 94 showed some promise when it first came online, playing some things that you didn't heard elsewhere like Metric and MGMT. However Curve is now gone, opting instead for a sorry mix of classic light rock retreads. I don't for a second believe that 94's ratings went up after this change. The rating system is seriously flawed. Every comment I've heard about 94 echos my own sentiment: 94 is dead to me now.

But alas, there was hope on the FM horizon! A new station was coming! Evanov Radio Group bought that last remaining FM slot in town -- 106.1 FM. It was one last chance for something new. Something different. Would the heavy metal/hardcore hole be filled? Maybe it will be worldbeat? Would we finally get some interesting alternative radio here?

Nope ... the new format was released this month, and instead of breaking new ground and drawing in a new audience, the risk-adverse cowards at Evanov decided to fight over the exact same radio real estate that Hot 103 occupies with Energy 106. It's a lower risk approach, I suppose, but it's a loss for the Winnipeg radio audience because it brings no new choice in music.

(click to enlarge..)

The graphic above is based on a sample of the playlists only. In reality, there is probably much more overlap than I show here.

Now, to make matters worse, 99.1 Groove FM has decided that it can't make a go of it as a Jazz station and wants to change it's format to (buckle your seat belts...) "a variety of today’s pop and rock hits, mixed with songs from the 80’s and 90’s". (a tip of the hat to Kevin McDougald for noticing that.) If that goes through there will be still less choice on the radio dial, and one more station fighting for the exact same radio turf as all the others.

.. and one more station playing Aerosmith.

32 comments:

Sean Carney said...

What I fail to understand is how the Winnipeg market can support so many stations playing the same music.

You would think that at some point the tight competition would reduce advertising revenues and a couple of the stations would fold, but they just keep adding more stations.

If I ever needed a potential thesis in economics/business, I think I've found it.

Shaun M. Wheeler said...

What can I tell you, Cheren? Winnipeggers seem to be stuck in a musical rut. Anything beyond top 40, country, and "classic rock" seems to be destined to fail.

This is what drove me to internet radio a decade ago, and keeps me there. The only radio station I can stomach these days is CHVN.

Anonymous said...

Winnipeg radio is horrible. Every year when the Sirius bill comes I gladly pay it, too bad we can't get internet radio the same way.

Shaun M. Wheeler said...

If you don't mind constant pauses for buffering, you can stream internet radio on most (if not all) smartphones.

cherenkov said...

@Sean: that might make a good thesis subject. Why not? I know a guy who did his economics thesis on soccer.

@SMW: I need to keep exploring internet radio. I know there's lots of good ones out there. I've been listing to Pig Radio lately, but it's hit and miss. At least it's different tho.

@Anon: Alt Nation was one that I liked when I had my trial version of Sirius.

The View from Seven said...

Good post!

Initially, 106.1 was supposed to offer something different. Their format was to be "Adult contemporary (35%) and New easy listening (65%)" under the terms of their broadcasting licence.

Disclosure: I was loosely associated (in a secondary role) with one of the rival applications for that licence. An interesting experience...

Riverman said...

Just spent a week in Toronto, radio is no better there.

Graham said...

Holy $*%&(% this is brilliant.

Is there a venn diagram school you graduated from that I don't know about?!

cherenkov said...

@7: New easy listening is what, Norah Jones and Michael Bublé? Still better than complete overlap with 103. Can I ask: what format was the rival bid planning on having?

@river: could very well be, but might be hard to get a gauge on that in 1 week.

cherenkov said...

@graham: haha. No ... just like playing around with shapes and colours. I'm a visual person.

Anonymous said...

What about the campus/community stations like 95.9 and 101.5? Lots of independent and local music.

cherenkov said...

@anon: 92.9 plays some good stuff too, but the problem with university stations is that the programming is not consistent. They have different segments with different purposes throughout the day.

Reed Solomon said...

Don't even get me started on the incompetence of the CRTC.

Anonymous said...

C-kov, that bass line is a cheap disco lick and the singer sounds like his balls got caught in a lawnmower.
How about Ron Carter or Charles Mingus ?
Each to his own, I guess.

The View from Seven said...

@ Cherenkov: There were four applications for two slots.

1. Newcap Radio (Alternative Rock)
2. YO Radio Management (Pop Alternative)
3. Evanov Communications (Contemporary Easy Listening)
4. NCI Radio (music "geared to a young urban aboriginal audience")

Links to the full applications are available here:
http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2008/n2008-3.htm

Evanov (the new 106.1) and NCI (Streetz FM) won the licences.

Riverman said...

Cherenkov my opinion was also based on several (musical) friends I was visiting.

cherenkov said...

@river: fair enough ..

@7: thanks. Dang .. missed out on some Alt rock (though who knows if they would have kept the format.)

broose said...

92.9 KICK FM is where you will hear all of that, except Black Flag, mercifully. The Cribs have have top the KICK chart twice and Grand Analog is still is medium rotation, for example. Winnipeg's indie station also plays more local music any others. No overlap just great tunes.

One Man Committee said...

It seems that even when a license is approved for "something different", it eventually gravitates to pop music for young people (e.g. Hot 103), pop music for old people (e.g. Clear FM, Fab 94) or classic rock. I guess the massive numbers who listen to those genres make it worth being the third or fourth station chasing those audiences instead of being the only one catering to a much smaller niche.

Is it really much different anyplace else, though? It seems that no matter where I go in North America it's more or less the same stuff on the radio (with only the odd exception). I used to live in Edmonton and it was even worse... it seemed like half the dial was taken up by classic rock.

spiritedmom said...

how do you have this much time on your hands???

spiritedmom said...

ok, now try this:
radioparadise.com
...and let us know what you think!

cherenkov said...

@OMC: probably true, except if you drive south you might replace pop with country. Even in MN I noticed lots of country.

@SM: I'll try that station thanks. Re. time on my hands ... with my employment winding down at my current job, my responsibilities here consist mainly of fucking a dog.

bwalzer said...

The CRTC seems to suffer from a very particular sort of the incompetence commented on by Reed Solomon. The commission blows into an area, hears about all the exciting new "sounds" proposed by the various entities that want to get into radio, approves some of them, and then leaves. At that point they have entirely finished with the gruelling job of listening to musical medleys so when the station switches to a light rock format a year later, well, what can they do? They can't pull a licence just because of a format change, can they?

This is of course what causes the endless bait and switch commented on by One Man Committee. This even seems to work to some extent for TV. MTN-TV was originally supposed to be some sort of rural public broadcaster serving Southern Manitoba. Nowadays after several changes of ownership they are just another Canadian TV station making a living off of simsubbing US prime time programs like everyone else. They are not even keeping up the original pretence, the only part of their operation currently not in Winnipeg is their transmitter (which was carefully placed to ensure carriage on Winnipeg cable/satellite/iptv).

At this point I think the solution is less regulation, not more. We need to encourage smaller entities taking smaller risks. The CRTC spends way too much time determining the long term financial viability of the applicants that show up at these hearings. Advertiser supported broadcasting is inherently a marginal and risky business. It should be treated as such.

Colin Corneau said...

Only problem with streaming radio thru your smartphones is the wireless biz in Canada has even less competition than the radio biz -- you can't find a data plan that won't rape you in no time flat.

That said, I really recommend KEXP -- can get it as an app, or find it on the net.
Terrific independant radio station from Seattle...listen to it and realize how good radio can be.

The View from Seven said...

@ bwalzer: Officially, PlaP is still Citytv's city of licence. But you're right, there's little left of the original pretense that MTN would be a rural station and alternative to the Perimeteris-inflicted Winnipeg stations.

I think Canwest played a role in MTN's adopting the Portage pretense. Canwest was also playing the saint in 1986, backing the non-commercial Manitoba Public Television application supposedly out of a spirit of good corporate citizenship rather than to maintain the lucrative CBC-CKY-CKND triopoly.

Gabriel Hurley said...

Could you please label the parts that don't overlap?

cherenkov said...

@Gabriel: You want me to list the songs that only 1 station plays? I don't really know what those are because I was only using samples of the playlists. For example, the samples I used showed Dire Straits only under Bob FM when I know that other stations play them as well.

Gabriel Hurley said...

Oh, okay, so I shouldn't conclude from the graphic that 50% of BOB FM's playlist is not shared by other stations.

cherenkov said...

No, not necessarily. I was trying to guess based on the songs I pulled off the web, but I really can't say.

Gabriel Hurley said...

Once CBC TV switches to Digital broadcasting, 87.7 will be freed up. It will be interesting to see if CBC gets to keep the frequency or if it is licensed to someone else. Perhaps we will get some variety after all.

Darrell O said...

Great article. Two years later and still nothing has changed when it comes to the alt-rock genre in Winnipeg.

If you're into online streaming, i created a new alt-rock station that does include some local artists.

www.ctrlaltradio.com

cherenkov said...

Thanks. I'll bookmark that.

 
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