“For us, it was part of a band, as we weren’t really writing for someone else. There have been some very nice cheques coming in [from SOCAN], that are very helpful, and we look forward to getting them, but it’s not really anything we can rest on at this point.”
Like Wood, and surely many of his other domestic peers and contemporaries, Corcoran calls CBC Radio airplay essential for survival.
“If you write songs and you’re in Canada, the CBC keeps people going,” says Corcoran, who plans to continue to perform and record as Express with his cousin Kinley Dowling.
“If you play a show that they record, you get paid very well. Everything you do, you get compensated very well. A few of us had side projects, and with even just a few spins, you see it show up on the printout and it’s a surprise – you don’t expect it. They pay for everything they broadcast so Thank God for them – it would have been very hard to keep things moving without the CBC.”
Kai Black, CBC Radio 2’s Executive Producer, says his organization’s playlists rely heavily on independent artists.
“There are tons of music genres on our network, so with 50 percent Canadian content, you can bet that independent music is going to be important,” says Black. “Because, at the end of the day, once you look at what the major labels might release that we might play, there’s still lots of opportunity.”
“It would have been very hard to keep things moving without the CBC.” — Liam Corcoran
A glance at a CBC Radio 2 playlist at press time, in October 2013, revealed a number of independent artists – Arcade Fire, Matt Epp (with Serena Ryder), City and Colour and Joel Plaskett – receiving repeat airplay two or three times a day. And Black says CBC Radio 2’s playlist was recently reduced to 21 songs, 10 international, 11 Canadian.
“We shortened the number because we wanted to get songs in front of people more often,” he explains. “Recently, research has shown that you need to play a song five or six times before audience members decide if they like it. The songs in our current rotation will probably stay two or three months.”
How does one get on that playlist? Black says after they’ve scoured the DMDS (a music industry digital delivery system for new songs), iTunes and any relevant blogs, his music programming team of Julian Tuck and Jeannette Cabral join him for bi-weekly music meetings to determine what will be added or dropped from the playlist.
“We listen to songs in their entirety and have a criteria sheet that evaluates each of the songs, so we’re not just subjective,” says Black. “Technically, does it sound good? Does the performer have an interesting voice? Will it polarize some people because it’s so unique? Is there a good, discernible hook? Does it have the classic verse-chorus construction? And, most importantly, is this a song that Canadians, once they hear it, are going to want to hear again?’”
Independent music is also “crazy, crazy important” to campus and community radio, declares Shelley Robinson, executive director of the Ottawa-based National Campus and Community Radio Association, which counts 42 English-language licensed and online campus radio stations among its members.
Although the SOCAN survey rate was $4.60 per spin for the August 2013 distribution , Robinson says the music itself is integral. “It’s local culture, local voices, stuff you’re not going to hear anywhere else,” she says. “It’s the backbone of our sector.”