Do We Still Need CanCon Rules?


At least that’s the premise of a story on Pierre Juno in today’s Globe and Mail.  I tend to agree with much of what was written; in fact, I’ll go as far as to say that the natural level of CanCon for Canadian radio should be 25%.  You may beg to differ, but that’s a long conversation for another time.

Here’s John Allemang’s story from the Globe:

Nothing dates likes nationalism.

When Pierre Juneau set up the Cancon music quotas in 1971, and gave his name to the Juno Awards, the patriotic posture of the moment was defensive and insecure.

Anne Murray was a big Juno winner that year and could arguably hold her own against the threats of the outside world. But the average not-yet-superstar Canuck was seen to require the protection of a paternalistic government and its coerced private-sector partners.

So the argument went in an age of bureaucratic determinism, when regulatory frameworks fenced off the sheltered garden where Canadian culture could flourish.

Pierre Juneau died last month, and here is his true legacy: The 2012 Juno Awards are overturning the orthodoxies of cultural nationalism. Instead of nervous defensiveness, there’s the swagger that comes from seeing Arcade Fire, Drake, City and Colour, Deadmau5 and Feist rock the world without having to fit the bland Cancon format of yesteryear.

Something happened. Maybe it’s the technology that allowed Drake to share his breakthrough mix tape outside the usual distribution channels; or maybe it’s the attitude shift that brought Arcade Fire to the world’s notice only after years of indie self-reliance, the very alternative to the cosseted Cancon model.

Read the rest here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

3 thoughts on “Do We Still Need CanCon Rules?

  • April 1, 2012 at 1:54 am

    The rule when I used to work in radio: If we're at the top of the hour, just slap on more Tragically Hip to meet the quota. If you listen to Canadian radio, you'll see that's still the status quo. If it's close to the top of the hour (or the half-hour), you're probably listening to something Canadian. Are there *really* that many Colin James fans out there…? No.

  • April 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Are the Cancon rules hurting us? Either the musicians or the listeners? I'd submit, no. Given the state of the biz, I wouldn't change a thing. I could see the crappy A&R depts from the majors retreating to Toronto, NY and LA, just on a cost basis, if they weren't forced to have a percentage of Cdn acts available for airplay.
    It ain't broke, don't try to fix it.

    And what's the matter with Colin James? As legitmate as anyone else. Certainly better than the 5 millionth rendition of Patio Lanterns, isn't it?

  • April 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    The thing I like about the CanCon rules is that a lot of stations get creative with them and play local talent that might not otherwise get the air play. From that perspective, CanCon is still effective for Canadian talent.


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