An American looks at nearly 50 years of Cancon rules

Before January 1971, there was no requirement for Canadian radio stations to play any Canadian music. That changed when the Cancon rules came into effect. When a 30% non-negotiable quota was instituted, it gave birth to the modern Canadian music industry.

We’re not the only nation in the world have such measures in place in order to promote domestic content. France, Nigeria, and a host of others do the same. They understand exactly what needs to be done to protect themselves against massive cultural exporters like the US and the UK.

Americans–at least those who are aware that a domestic Canadian music industry exists–find the whole notion of Cancon amusing. But then there are American radio consultants like Sean Ross who appreciate what we’ve done and managed to accomplish. He takes a look at what nearly 50 years of Cancon has wrought.

“About Canadian Content and radio, on the fiftieth anniversary of its mandate and next year’s fiftieth birthday of its implementation: as broadcasters and regulators alike consider a pending review of the rules governing radio, likely to take place this fall, some thoughts, offered as a fan.

Canadian music and radio have been an influence on me at every stage of my nearly 40 years in the business. Searching out that music has taken different forms over the years.

“In the early ‘70s, it was hearing CKLW at night in Central New Jersey, then seeking out CHUM, CKOC, and whoever else I could hear in the Northeast.

“In the early ‘80s, when I was in college in Michigan, it was badgering the PD of CJOM Windsor for access to his discard singles.

“In the mid-‘80s, when I was working for Radio & Records in Los Angeles, and no longer in earshot of Canadian radio, it was asking the trade publication’s Canadian reporters to send me care packages of the songs I otherwise knew only as titles on a playlist.

“In the late ‘80s, when I was back in the Northeast, I made a driving trip over a holiday weekend. I spent 40 minutes at the Fort Erie border crossing trying to explain to customs why I was driving to Hamilton to buy records. It was because I’d have more time in the stores before they closed than going to Toronto.

“In the late ‘90s, streaming made it possible for me to keep up with Canadian radio and music all the time. CKZZ (Z95.3) Vancouver, B.C., was one of the first available CHRs, and in 1997-98, I spent as much time with them as I did with WHTZ (Z100) New York or my local stations.

“Within a few years, any Canadian song was a click away.”

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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