I was a former CanCon hater. I’ve since seen the error of my ways.

[I was asked to write something for the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Juno Awards. Here’s what I came up with. – AC]

First, a confession: I am a former CanCon hater. Not of the music or the acts but of the CRTC rules forced on us radio types. The idea of quotas taking precedence over quality art — that’s how many of us viewed CanCon — was anathema to broadcasting sensibilities. “You’re forcing us to play music our audience doesn’t want to hear!” we cried. “This is a recipe for ratings disasters!”

And since I’m coming clean, I’ll admit to giving presentations during which I compared CanCon to having to devote a big portion of every dinner plate to broccoli. “But I don’t like broccoli!” “Quiet. It’s good for you. If you have enough, you might even learn to like it. Besides, we need to help broccoli farmers. It’s your patriotic duty to eat it.”

Now, though, I fully and completely acknowledge my errors and lack of faith.

When the CanCon rules for radio came into effect on January 18, 1971, they not only constituted a cultural strategy but also laid out a long-term vision for the future. Back then, Canada barely had a functioning music industry: too few recording studios; a lack of promoters, managers and producers; a tiny collection of domestic record labels; a steady brain drain of talent to the United States; and a general (if unfair) sense that Canadian music was inferior to that from other countries.

Canadian musicians had a hard time making it onto radio because they lacked the tools and resources to hone their craft. And because radio balked at playing Canadian material, there was no opportunity to compete with the best in the world. All the attention given to American and British music was smothering Canadian music in the crib.

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.

2 thoughts on “I was a former CanCon hater. I’ve since seen the error of my ways.

  • February 10, 2021 at 8:19 am
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    Alan, you were right then and you are right now. Anytime we would talk about CanCon at CMW or some likely gathering place for us music types, I would ask ” how likely is it that 35% of the Best Music in the World is made here in Canada” The answer to that has not changed. But the Cancon rules have indeed helped us culturally punch above our weight worldwide. However music testing and other more anecdotal methods will reveal that Canadian music that “we love” is burned to a crisp…Overplayed beyond it’s value. Cancon did achieve it’s goal of giving Canadian music a chance to be heard and has grown access and opportunity over the years. Now let’s get schools making music part of the curriculum coast to coast once again. THAT is when Canada will take over the world.

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