On Sept. 24, 2018, Corus radio station Q107, in Toronto, introduced a familiar name as its new voice. Said Program Director Tammy Cole: “Alan has been telling the story of rock music’s evolution for decades now, and he’s the perfect voice for Q107. We really wanted to bring rock back to ‘The Mighty Q,’ and who better to do it than Canada’s rock music expert?” It’s only slightly ironic that a man who’s become one of Canada’s most recognizable radio voices for introducing new music, will now be the voice of a station dedicated to a classic rock/greatest hits format
Alan Cross has been in the music business for the better part of four decades now, and to say he’s still keeping very busy would be an embarrassing understatement. Starting on radio in his native Manitoba, then arriving at Toronto’s CFNY in 1986, he’s pretty much stayed on the air for the next 32 years. He’s been a DJ, and an award-winning program director. He’s produced (to date) 833 hour-long episodes of The Ongoing History of New Music. He volunteers for several mentoring programs, writes books, artist bios, daily blogs, and weekly reports for his own website (A Journal of Musical Things) and for several Corus radio stations. He regularly posts on Facebook and Instagram, does voice work and audio books, and also gives speaking engagements, and consultations. On occasion, he even gets to watch some TV with his wife.
Cross wears many hats, so an average day is generally jam-packed with hourly, daily, and weekly obligations. Ask him what one looks like, then sit back and marvel:
“I’m in a constant search for something that makes me say, ‘Holy cow, what’s that?’”
“The day begins at 7:30, so I’m in my office or my studio by 7:30,” he says. “I work out of the house almost exclusively. For the first hour-and-a-half, two hours, I go through all my newsletters, and everything that gives me music news and information for the day. Out of those, I create between seven and 10 blog posts, so that’ll take me to about 9:00, 9:30 a.m. Then I write a one-hour daily radio show that I do for The Edge (102.1 in Toronto), that runs from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Then I [record and edit] the voice track, and send that up the line to be produced. After that, I have some blog posts that I have to do for either Corus Radio or Global News. And then, once I have all that out of the way, I can start on the day’s work.
“So, it’s about 10:30a.m., and now I’ve got all my daily stuff sorted away, and I can get started on the week’s work. I’ll research and write Ongoing History material. I’ll do any voice work that comes into my home studio. I’ll take any phone calls regarding any projects that I’m dealing with. And, on occasion, I’ll have to leave the house to have meetings, or be someplace. For example, today I was out of the house for about six hours helping Lowest of the Low prepare an ‘unboxing’ video for their upcoming box set. (They have a box set coming out in November, so what we did was create a promotional video where we open the box and show everybody what’s inside.) Then I’ll have whatever calls I have to make. Then, occasionally, I have a couple of mentor groups that I have to leave the house for. I have cut-ins that I do with other radio stations across the country.
“Sometimes I have to go places, whether it’s a music festival, or a speaking engagement, or something along those lines. So that takes me out of the house, in which case I bring all my broadcasting stuff with me, and I do the radio show in whatever hotel I happen to be in.
“But if I’m doing stuff around home I always go out for lunch because I’ve got to get out of the house. Then I’ll come back and finish whatever work is required for that day and start setting up for the following day. I try to finish between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m..
“After that my wife comes home and we have dinner, then I take the dog out. What I may do while we’re watching TV is pull out the laptop and see if there’s anything that I can use for the following day. That’s pretty much it.
“It’s extremely full. I have this weird sort of Calvinist attitude that if I’m not completely mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the day, well then, I must have been slacking off. There is a certain dopamine rush you get from driving yourself to the breaking point.”
Cross still gets to introduce listeners to new music, both online and on the air. “I get between 50 and 500 unsolicited pitches from publicists and record labels every week,” says Cross. He listens to as much as he can, but also relies on the advice of several volunteers, to whom he sends 50 to 60 of the pitches each week, hoping to get five or six recommendations from each. “I’m in a constant search for something that makes me say, ‘Holy cow, what’s that?’ Every once in a while, something comes along that makes me think this is something I have to investigate, but those moments of discovery and joy are few and far between. And it’s not because I’m not trying, it’s not because I’m a snob. It’s because after 37 years in the business, and another 13, 14 years as a music fan before that, it takes a lot to surprise someone who’s been around for a long time.”