It's not often that you think of radio as bold.
Adam Thompson is a man who's trying to change that. He's the program director at Indie88, Toronto's newest radio station. If you tune in the 88.1 FM, you'll find something quite unique. Indie88 launched in August and plays indie music. They're also the only station to play music from emerging bands from Toronto. I sat down with Adam to talk about his vision for Indie88 and the Toronto music scene:
Why did you push for a new radio station in Toronto?
It's nice to offer up something that's not really being done in the market, or even in Canada. There was a licensing call by the CRTC in September of last year, and a number of broadcasting companies put forth pitches. We were the only group to offer up an indie music pitch, and the CRTC granted us the license. We wanted to give Toronto musicians a home on the radio, and we wanted to be a relevant voice who accurately represents who's making noise in this country.
Do you think the local angle of your pitch won you the bid?
I think it definitely helps. We're the only station in the world who, by condition of license, is required to play music from emerging artists as sixty percent of our Canadian content. That's not something anyone else has ever done before, and I think the CRTC really enjoyed that mission
The CRTC recently approved a signal boost for your station). How big of a help is this?
It's huge. We previously had a low power signal, so you could here us across the city. This boost will allow us to transmit across the GTA and into Halton region. Because we knew we'd have a lower signal at the beginning, we put a big focus on our digital stream and our website, so listeners can hear us there. Streaming allows us to reach a wider audience and get them involved.
It's hard to ignore how active your listeners are, and how involved they are in the station. What about Indie88 do you think encourages that?
From the outset, one of our main philosophies was that we wanted to talk with the audience, as opposed to talking to them. I think it's also obvious that we're doing this because we love the music too. I think that's important for any company. If people come to us and ask questions and make suggestions, we like to sit and talk with them and have a conversation. A lot of companies will just take feedback and make statements while not really getting back to people- that's a pretty common complaint in radio. We try to acknowledge our listeners and what direction they want for the station.
You guys are one of the few stations that let listeners help choose the music. How important is that to the vision?
The music surveys and user involvement is big for us. It allows us to do things democratically. If listeners are asking for a specific artist or song, we can use that feedback to improve our playlists. Another common complaint people have with radio in general is that they hear the same songs all of the time. With the surveys, it allows us to see how our listeners enjoy how often certain songs are played. That's radio's challenge. It all comes back to habitual tuning, and how often each listener tunes in. Some people may only listen for twenty minutes a day, and they'd like to hear their favorite song. Other people might listen at work, and they're tired of hearing the same stuff repeated all day. Our surveys help us try to please as many people as we can.
What changes do you see in the station's future?
More of the same. Realistically, not everybody knows we're here. With the signal boost, we can market ourselves to a wider area. We're thankful for our audience and word of mouth. As we get more people listening to the station, engagement goes up, community involvement goes up, and we can provide a stronger voice for local talent. As we get more fans we can do more things.
What local talent are you most excited about?
The Darcys, July Talk, Fast Romantics. These are Toronto-specific bands that, for the most part, we're exclusively playing, Whitehorse is another one. We're always looking for the next group that's on the rise in this city. IN this day and age, it's easy to see when artists are connecting, because of social media and record sales. You can tell what shows are sold out, things like that. Today, the audience speaks for you, and if you're not listening, you're immediately irrelevant.
One thing that's appealing about the station is that it's tied to the success of these artists. If they do well, then you have a market.
Thanks for noticing. That's really our main goal, to help these groups. We believe Toronto has a world class music scene, and the best scene in Canada. We want to help these groups get bigger. We want to shine a spotlight on them so that maybe they'll get some national attention.
Indie88's signal boost became effective today. It's a big vote of confidence that they're bold vision of local music is working. You can check out they're website at www.indie88.com. You'll find an online stream, information about concerts and local events. And as always, you can find them at 88.1 FM on the radio dial.
Be sure to check back for more interviews in the Spotlight series.