The Changing Landscape Of Rock Radio In Toronto

By Amber Bell, Dale Speaking:

On Monday, Q107 Toronto made an announcement that they were making changes to their playlist effective immediately. In short, they are essentially redefining classic rock in Canada.

On a typical day on Q107 you would hear Black Sabbath, The Beatles, U2, Led Zeppelin, Max Webster and Genesis, to name a few. You never really heard anything newer than the mid-90’s. Now you will hear bands like The Sheepdogs, The Black Keys, Nirvana, Headstones, The Trews and Arkells.
This forced me to ask the question: “What IS classic rock?”.
Times are changing and as they do, music gets left in the past. Bands from the 90’s were being ignored by classic rock radio, and now that is changing.
So what does this mean for rock radio in Toronto?
Rock radio in Toronto right now is in a very interesting place.
At any given time in Toronto, you will have access to a list of rock stations. They include:
Q107 was the one station where you knew you would be able to hear nothing but the classics. Now the music you hear on this station is not a far stretch from what you hear on 94.9 The Rock, Y108 or 97.7 HTZ FM. The difference being that The Rock, Y108 and HTZ FM play songs from the current rock charts from both established and new artists. The Edge and Indie88 tap more into the modern rock world and stay away from core classic rock bands.
So the question now is how will these stations ensure their individuality now that their playlists are getting more and more alike. The one thing for sure will be engaging programming: interesting shows, hosts and content.
What is it you are looking for in a radio station?
I, for example, am a fan of hosts with a bit of off humour. That includes hosts like Greg Beharrell on 102.1 The Edge. He is now on their new morning show, but he is still the same. He uses his dry/off-beat personality to use the listeners as the humour and entertainment. I love it. It’s entertainment.
I am also a fan of speciality programming like Q107’s Psychedelic Psunday and The Edge’s Spirit of Radio Sunday. I like when there is time focused on a certain decade or genre. There are only so many songs and so many artists out there, having this type of programming splits up the airplay of those songs. Y108 and The Rock also carry cool programming like the Needle Exchange and the Indie Hour.
Right now as I am writing this blog, it is Wednesday April 9th @ 6:18 PM. Here are the last 10 songs each station listed above have played as of right now:
102.1 The Edge
  • Florence and the Machine – Dog Days Are Over
  • Arcade Fire – Afterlife
  • Offspring – The Kids Aren’t Alright
  • The Black Keys – Fever
  • Imagine Dragons – Radioactive
  • Pearl Jam – Last Kiss
  • Foo Fighters – All My Life
  • MS MR – Hurricane
  • Jimmy Eat World – The Middle
  • Queens of the Stone Age – My God Is The Sun
94.9 The Rock in Oshawa
  • Headstones – Smile and Wave
  • Against Me! – Black Me Out
  • Incubus – Drive
  • Led Zeppelin – Rock and Roll
  • The Tragically Hip – Twist My Arm
  • Cage The Elephant – Come a Little Closer
  • Clash – Rock The Casbah
  • Big Wreck – Ghosts
  • RHCP – Californication
  • Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker – Yin Yang
Y108 in Hamilton
  • Pink Floyd – Hey You
  • RHCP – Dani California
  • Pearl Jam – Wish List
  • Linkin Park – Guilty All The Same
  • The Trews – What’s Fair is Fair
  • The Guess Who – No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
  • The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
  • The Sam Roberts Band – Human Heat
  • The Tragically Hip – Little Bones
  • Alice In Chains – Would?
97.7 HTZ FM in St. Catharines
  • Stone Temple Pilots – Interstate Love Sons
  • Muse – Uprising
  • AC/DC – It’s A Long Way To The Top
  • The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979
  • Our Lady Peace – Naveed
  • Rob Zombie – Dragula
  • Foo Fighters – No Way Back
  • Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watchtower
  • Flash Lightnin’ – One Pill
  • Alice In Chains – I Stay Away
Q107 in Toronto
  • U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • Nickelback – Someday
  • Foreigner – Double Vision
  • The Cult – Edie (Ciao Baby)
  • Boston – More Than a Feeling
  • Def Leppard – Foolin’
  • The Sheepdogs – Feeling Good
  • Aerosmith – Sweet Emotion
  • Rush – Tom Sawyer
  • AC/DC – Highway To Hell
Indie88 in Toronto
  • Modest Mouse – Float On
  • Half Moon Run – Full Circle
  • Bloc Party – Helicopter
  • The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
  • The National – Don’t Swallow The Cap
  • Passion Pit – Take a Walk
  • Sam Roberts Band – Human Heat
  • Bedouin Soundclash – Walls Fall Down
  • The Lumineers – Submarines
  • Vance Joy – From Afar
As you can see the are some obvious similarities as well as some  differences between each station. This blog aims to do nothing more than show how competitive the Toronto market is right now for rock stations.
Like I mentioned above, it will come down to the station that engages you the most, and with Y108 and HTZ FM being quite far out of the city, signal strength comes into play too.
It’s also about the local angle. Does it matter to you if you are in Toronto but listening to a station from another city?
Either way these are all great stations playing great rock music. It’s now going to be interesting to see how this all plays out with Q107 updating their playlist a bit.