Music Fans on Toronto's New Indie Rock Radio Station
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Music Fans on Toronto’s New Indie Rock Radio Station

After a long application process, the CRTC has awarded a broadcast licence to an indie music station that aims to promote local and emerging artists on CKLN's old frequency.

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On Tuesday, the CRTC awarded a broadcast licence for 88.1 FM to an indie rock/pop format station, Indie 88. The Canadian Radio-televison Telecommunications Commission received 22 applications for the frequency, which was vacated by CKLN after that station failed to comply with licence conditions. So what’s so special about this one?

After an unsuccessful attempt at a similar licence in Vancouver four years ago, operations manager for Indie 88’s parent company, Dave Carr, tells us that he hopes their new station will “change the entire landscape” of Canadian music.

Nothing is definite yet, says Carr. They don’t know who will be hired as on-air personalities, or who will be hired for any of the other staff positions (though he said resumes have been “flooding in” since the application was announced), or even where the studios will be. But one thing Indie 88 hopes to foster, says Carr, is a space for emerging artists.

By “indie,” Indie 88 means mostly indie rock and pop, with space for both artists from independent labels and even unsigned artists. “That’s what was missing,” said Carr. “Those artists who do not have a chance to get on the radio.”

Carr said they’ve already received “thousands of demos” from artists and labels, and that the station is committed to getting that music on the air when possible. They also hope to include a lot of audience feedback through their website, as well as through more traditional call-in and request shows.

For a sample of bands and artists Indie 88 will feature, Carr points to their website, which has a live stream of songs.

And for reaction to the news, we headed to Sonic Boom’s Annex location last night to ask shoppers and employees if they’ll be tuning in.

Employee Rob Butcher doesn’t listen to much radio, apart from what he described as “the Sirius stuff” like Howard Stern, but he told us he’s curious to hear what this station is all about.

“Metric is technically indie, but I hope [the station] would go deeper than bands that are technically on indie labels,” said Butcher. He’d like to hear artists from local label Dine Alone—especially the lesser known artists—or from bands like The Balconies. “If it’s something that’s already on The Edge, they’re wasting their time,” he added.

Judging from the sample playlist Indie Toronto included in their CRTC application [ZIP], the station will play stuff somewhere between what you can hear on other radio stations (including The Edge), and the dream playlists of record store clerks. Bigger acts like REM, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, and the Ramones will play alongside Dan Mangan, Toro y Moi, and Paper Lions.

Butcher also had some tips for finding on-air talent. “They should hire Alan Cross. That guy certainly needs a job in radio and I don’t know why he doesn’t have one right now. It’s ridiculous,” he said. He would also like to hear from what he called “totally bizarre people who don’t regularly get on radio,” like Branko from Dinosaur Bones.

Indie 88’s application included the resume of a currently employed radio personality, saying this person was a “proposed employee,” but the resume was confidential and Indie 88’s Dave Carr refused to reveal anything on that front.

Alan Cross has already come out mildly in favour of Indie Toronto, despite his association with one of the competing applicants. In a blog post, the former Ongoing History of New Music host called the station an “interesting venture,” and even likened it to the old CFNY (now called The Edge), Cross’s former employer. In a comment on the potential cool factor, Cross writes (in a Cross-ly erudite manner) that “Indie Toronto might have a chance to be to the city what the old CFNY was back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Its transmitter signal was hideous, but that didn’t stop people from discovering the station and evangelizing about it. (See Rush’s ‘The Spirit of Radio,’ which was written about the old CFNY.)”

Sonic Boom shopper Denna Berg hasn’t listened to the radio “since those AUX cables were invented for cars,” she told us. And although she used to listen to CKLN, she didn’t know it had gone off the air. Now she only listens to the radio if her boyfriend, an Edge 102 listener, is around. Though Berg says would gladly turn off The Edge, which she describes as “godawful,” in favour of hearing some of her favourite indie bands.

“Who wouldn’t want to hear Born Ruffians on the radio?” she said.

CORRECTION: September 13, 2012, 8:00 AM This post originally had an error due to an unclear homonym. It has now been corrected.

CORRECTION: September 13, 2012, 8:05 AM This post originally misspelled “Branko.” It has now been corrected.