Indie 88 radio station marches to an independent drummer

[Article by: Toronto Star - Friday July 26th. 2013]

There were 22 applicants for the licence. But nobody else pitched an indie station, one that promised to help Canadian artists who might otherwise be deprived of commercial airplay in the country’s largest market.

“New and emerging Canadian talent is the hot button issue in front of the CRTC,” says industry analyst David Bray, president of Bray and Partners Communications and a participant in the hearings last spring. “That is critically important to them.”

With the notable exception of 102.1 The Edge, which currently plays alternative music, the city’s indie void might also be explained by economics.

“It will be a tough row to hoe initially,” predicts Bray. “They are going after a format that will not deliver huge boxcar numbers for obvious reasons. This is not an all things to all people station. It’s very much an alternative station.”

According to the latest ratings data from BBM, the FM stations with the largest audiences in Toronto are CHFI, CHUM-FM, CBC Radio One, Q107 and Virgin Radio 99.9. There is no programming overlap between those stations and Indie88, a fact that likely influenced the CRTC’s decision.

“Certainly, this will help Canadian talent,” says Bray. “But from a ratings or revenue standpoint, it won’t dramatically affect current licence holders.”

Will it all work?

“It generally takes three to four years to go into a profit picture,” says Bray. “But radio is still very profitable. Year over year, radio continues to thrive. Most stations are still looking at a 20 to 30 per cent profit margin.”

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