Is There (still) No Such Thing as Bad Publicity ?

CBC Radio 2 is swarming in publicity, or so it would seem.

Newspapers are writing stories, bloggers are blogging, readers are commenting, and even the VP of CBC English Media is using the internet to give his side of the story.

If you don’t work at CBC or listen to Radio 2, you probably have NO IDEA what’s going on.

Here’s the skinny.

People are pissed about what’s happening to classical music on the network (that’s Radio 2) and more recently, the axing of the CBC Radio Orchestra.

Apparently there are thousands and thousands of Facebook members who’ve joined groups to show how pissed they are at the changes.

This blog fight over classical music is also getting ugly.

InsidetheCBC, the official blog of the corporation, has pointed out that some of those Facebook members may not be real. The CBC is an organization that prides itself on its journalistic standards, yet in this case, it conveniently leaves the investigative reporting of “phantom posters” up to another blogger…

Justin Beach from the great web site has done a bit of detective work and discovered that some of the most prolific protesters inside CBC groups may not, in fact, exist

OMG – people pretending to be someone they aren’t on the internet ! How can this be ? ( I wonder if he checked out all 10,000 plus members – some of them look pretty hot )

Meanwhile, the arrows are flying back at InsidetheCBC over the corp’s comment policy. Now that CBC is instituting a 7 day window for comments, that shouldn’t continue to be a problem.

All this fuss over classical music ?

I should tell you that I created and produced my share of shows on Radio 2. And you know, all of them were the dreaded pop music shows.

There was a music magazine show called The Beat that we created and produced here in Vancouver that aired on what was then called CBC Stereo.

That was followed by RealTime, another pop music show, live to all time zones, that aired on Saturday nights. We played tons of indy music and recorded all sorts of bands across Canada. Actually, to be accurate, if there was an indy band in Canada that so much as had a recording, we played it.

When we first started Radio 3 in early 2000, we also produced over 30 hours a week of pop music shows on Radio 2. So, this idea that pop music has never been represented on Radio 2 is a bit of revisionist history.

In fact, the people who are making the changes now to Radio 2 are the same people who pulled Radio 3’s pop music shows off the network in the first place. But I digress.

Back in the RealTime days (mid 90’s) and during the advent of Radio 3 (early 2000’s) we would have done anything for this kind of publicity. Goodness knows we tried.

We recorded scores of bands at festivals across the country every year, we said bad words on the air (just ask the bad boy from West Van Grant Lawrence, who used to love to drop the F bomb whenever we would interview him on the road).

We won tons of international awards for our web sites – even CBC’s own PR department refused to tell anyone about them – apparently winning too many awards is not good form (or maybe there’s such a thing as too much good publicity).

We even got our shows canceled. More than once I might point out.

And still, bubkis.

Ok, that’s not true, I think once the Toronto Sun mocked us for thinking we could make CBC ‘cool’. But compared to what’s going on this week, bubkis, bubkis, bubkis.

So, I have to admire the notion that a media storm has developed over the changes to Radio 2, and over the indelicate evisceration of the venerable CBC Radio Orchestra.

It’s a publicity bonanza.

Radio ratings should go through the roof.

But when I look a little deeper, I’m not entirely sure this is exactly the Perfect Storm of a publicist’s wet dreams.

cbc adThe mainstream papers seem to have picked up the orchestra cancellation story, but they aren’t going much deeper than that.

A quick search at the Globe and Mail turns up only a couple of stories (behind a pay wall).

The National Post, a paper that loves to mock the CBC, seems totally disinterested.

And citizen journalism sites like Orato and NowPublic, both based in Vancouver, have no coverage to speak of. So it would appear that citizen journalists could care less.

Maybe the Perfect Publicity Storm is just a little squall.

Maybe the CBC didn’t need to drop a bundle on full page ads in the Globe. It would have saved them the embarrassment of putting non-classical musicians in the unenviable position of trash talking their classical counterparts. Like that’s a good idea. (click the image for a larger version courtesy

More likely, it’s only a Perfect Storm inside the CBC itself. As my former CBC boss and mentor used to say “they do love to drink their own bathwater”. Swell image that.

We’ll see how a planned ‘protest that isn’t a protest‘ goes on Tuesday outside CBC Vancouver.

My guess is that this will all blow over pretty quickly.

By the time Radio 2’s new schedule launches in the fall, the whole thing will have been forgotten. The blogosphere will have discovered something new to be upset about, and he Facebook phantoms will have tired of poking one another (even though some of them are pretty hot).

Jennifer McGuire, the woman who runs radio now, will be well out of the picture, and in her new job running news, so there won’t even be anyone left to blame.

And sleepy old Radio 2 will go back to obscurity.

Bridging Media podcasts of all panels

Just finished uploading the 4 podcasts of the 4 panel discussions at the first ever Bridging Media conference here in Vancouver.

It was nice to catch up with some old friends and be the 2nd oldest guy in the room (Schechter has me beat by a couple of years).

The podcasts are here on the At Large Media site – here’s the link to the 1st of the 4 and the others are linked out from there.

CBC's Lesson in Spin – How to Kill 70 Years of Tradition – Just Keep Smiling

spin.jpg If you missed the interview on CBC Radio this afternoon about the axing of the CBC Radio Orchestra, you missed a classic example of spin on steroids. 70 years of history is being disbanded, yet hearing the two managers tell it, it’s a good thing, and will mean 3 times more recordings.

How killing an award winning orchestra can be spun as good for the music community in Vancouver could only come from the lips of two CBC executives who live in Toronto.

At one point, apparently forgetting this wasn’t a training exercise, exec Jennifer McGuire fell into spin-training-speak and said “the Radio two story is a good story“. (This from the same people who recently suggested that canceling shows produced in Vancouver was somehow a net gain for British Columbia. Clearly they’re working with different math than rest of us). I’m sure Jennifer’s laughter and in-joke about people not liking change made the musicians feel wonderful.

And Mark Steinmetz pulled the classic “I love classical music” in response to clearly pre-arranged, soft-ball questions about the impact of axing the orchestra and killing various popular CBC Radio 2 shows. It was one of those horribly embarrassing “Gee, some of my best friends are ______” comments.

The reality of this move is that it will cause irrevocable harm to the classical music community in Vancouver.

Here’s why: less money being spent hiring musicians means fewer musicians will be around to play. Here’s the bullet point missing from the CBC powerpoint – professional musicians have to earn a living. When you’re a classical musician, the opportunities for employment are exceedingly limited – last I looked the local pub up the road didn’t have a string section, and there’s no new game coming out for the Wii called CELLO HERO II.

Steinmetz must have missed some of the spin training sessions because at one point he said “ask any orchestra manager in the country how expensive it is” to keep an orchestra going. Hmmm, and how will pulling the money spent on the orchestra help that situation ? In the next breath he went on to say how CBC didn’t need to keep funding the orchestra since the scene is healthy and thriving with over 30 orchestras across the country. Huh ?

If you want to see what people think of some of the recent changes, check out the almost 100 people (96 as of 5:30 pm on 25th March) who’ve commented at on the demise of Sound Advice. All but one express their disappointment as CBC’s latest moves with the radio service.

We’ll see what happens when InsidetheCBC gets around to “breaking” the news of the orchestra’s demise with comments now that has posted the story.

It’s no wonder Moses Znaimer is mowing CBC’s grass in the Toronto radio market – he actually pays attention to his audience.

—- Here’s the CBC coverage on CBC.CA

—— Here’s a guy oozing with charm. CBC PR person in an article in the Globe and Mail:

Basically the orchestra was currently doing like eight concerts a year and for the money that we’re spending, we can’t afford to do that to get just eight concerts a year.

New Winches for Madsu

As I blogged about last year, I picked up 2 new Andersen winches for Madsu, and they’ve been in their nice boxes since I bought them at Steveston Marine.

I spent most of this afternoon removing the old Lewmar winches and jam cleats from Madsu’s cockpit coaming. The Lewmars were attached with 4 bolts, and I was by myself so it was a bit of challenge.


Getting the bolts out meant having to crawl into the cockpit lockers to clamp a pair of locking pliers to the nut, jam it up against the hull, then back up into the cockpit to unscrew the bolt until the nut dropped off.

Its not exactly roomy in there so each trip was a bit of a contortionist act. By the time I got the starboard winch off I came up with a better plan for port side; 4 pairs of locking pliers, one for each bolt, reducing the number of tight squeeze tricks to one.

I’ll fill the old holes, clean up the coaming, and site the new winches over the next couple of days.

The old Lewmars still have some life in them, so I’m going to service them and see if anyone wants to buy them. I don’t know how old they are, but they’ve been around a while. For their size their really well made and that English steel must be a fairly high grade as they still look pretty good. You can see from the picture of the coaming that the old winch and cleat have been on for a good long time.

The Andersen winches really are gorgeous. Sitting on the kitchen counter next to the Lewmar you can see the added heft of the Andersen winch, the larger drum will make a big difference when hauling in the 150 – I can’t wait to get them on the boat. Having the self-tailers is going to make a huge difference for me since I’m solo sailing a lot of the time. And the cockpit will be a little neater too, I never did like the placement of the cleat.



I have no idea where EB got the expression, but she’s been using it for years.

Pig-on-Pork is worse than excess – its excessive excess.

Example: putting whipped cream on ice-cream would be Pig-on-Pork.

This article in Broadcaster Magazine about the recent CRTC hearings in Vancouver has a fine example…

One area that did seem to win consensus from many of the private broadcasters was the controversial nature of the CBC’s presentation. They were seeking the 104.1 FM frequency for use in Nanaimo and wanted the commission to reject all of the other applicants on the grounds that Vancouver didn’t need another music format. They also repeatedly discussed the urgent need for CBU-AM690 to flip to FM despite being the current #2 station in terms A 12+ hours tuned. Moreover some of the evidence presented was highly suspect. In all, the CBC wants to use 3 of the last frequencies in BC, despite the fact that it already has more than 20 transmitters on the air in the region.

The New Rock Stars and the Demise of Civil Society

The lights went on for me while standing in a long line with my two sons a few weeks ago.

Video games are the new rock stars.

We were standing outside a tiny game store in North Vancouver, hours before the mall opened, to pick up the newest Super Smash Bros game for Wii.

The lineup wasn’t for the chance to buy the game – my oldest son had pre-ordered and paid for the game months earlier. The lineup was simply to pick up the game, as early as possible, on March 9th, the day it was released.


For pretty much the same reasons people my age, who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, lined up outside the record store to get the latest LP by a cool band. I could, and did, spend hours in the local record store, flipping through album after album.

How much things have changed in one generation is striking.

Today, even finding a record store is difficult. In the US alone, 2,700 record stores closed between 2003-2006. Some people are starting to speculate that video games could save the music industry.

US video games sales have jumped 34 percent in February to 1.33 billion dollars. In their heyday, US-wide record sales were roughly 14 billion annually, according to RIAA figures.

In less than three months, Harmonix’s video game Rock Band notched 2.5 million song downloads at around two bucks per — twice as much as a regular iTunes song retail. (Yahoo news)

My kids have never been to a record store. They’ve never used a turntable. They have no idea what a double album is. They don’t even have audio CD’s. Their music is on their iPod – music is just files. But they have a lot more music at hand than I did at their age, and they’re aware of far more bands that I ever was.

What I realized standing in line on March 9th is this: my kids’ relationship to video game is almost identical to my relationship to music growing up in the 60’s ad 70’s.

Recent surveys show that two-thirds of parents are worred about their kids use of video games. One of the big fears parents identify with video games is how long their kids spend playing.

But is this any different than it was in my day ?

When Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More first came out in 1970, I was 13. It was a three record set, and I could listen to it from start to finish, two or three times at a sitting. Years later, I recall my cousin Roland travelling from St. Boniface to visit me in Calgary. For the entire two weeks he stayed with me, he never once left my apartment. He never got to the rockies, never witnessed big sky country, or flirted with any big boned gals. Instead, he sat with headphone on, listening to my advance release copy of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, over and over and over.

My parents were convinced that the music I listened to as a teenager was ushering in the demise of society as we know it.

This wasn’t even a radical position.

Rock music was responsible for teen pregnancy, vandalism, the F word, the decline of morals in general, and mine in particular. For a while, I stored a couple of crates of records that one of my friends wasn’t allowed to have in his house. His parents banned them from sight, fearing his imminent moral decay at the site of a big breasted woman on the cover of a Santana album.

Instead of realizing that artists were reflecting the world the saw around them, many parents were convinced that lyrics, album art and ‘subliminal messages’ were leading us all into chaos.

But how about a quick reality check.

What was the lasting impact of all those artists who were intent on leading us on an irrevocable march into depravity ?

This is a list of the top 10 selling artists the year I graduated high-school, 1974.

  1. Barbara Streisand
  2. Terry Jacks
  3. Ray Stevens
  4. Paul Anka
  5. Grand Funk Railroad
  6. Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods
  7. Carl Douglas
  8. MFSB
  9. Billy Swan
  10. John Denver

(source: Joel’s Whitburn’s Pop Annual – data from Billboard magazine)

These are the people my parents and all their friends feared would ruin my generation ?

I suspect that in 35 years, when we look back at the rock stars of the day – the video games – we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

(cross posted to my blog at At Large Media)

Chef Chris Whittaker podcast


I’ve just uploaded a podcast with Chris Whittaker, recorded at the Capers Whole Foods Market ‘Living Naturally Fair‘ last fall.

Chris is the Executive Chef at O’Doul’s Restaurant at The Listel Hotel in Vancouver’s west end.

This was part of a series of chef demonstrations at the outdoor festival – here Chris takes simple fresh ingredients and makes magic: Organic Beet Confit Salad with local Farmhouse Cheddar.

Get the podcast here.


Searching for Moorage for Madsu

I’m on the hunt for moorage for Madsu, my 22 ft. Catalina swing keel sailboat.

I’m trying to find moorage on Vancouver’s north shore – either in West Vancouver or North Vancouver.

Last year I was in Thunderbird Marina and loved it there, but they’re doing a big reno to the docks there and aren’t optimistic they’ll have space – apparently they’re going to be short berths for some of their long term costumers. I’m on waiting list there and at Sewell’s in Horseshoe Bay, as well as at Burrard Civic in Vancouver.

If you have private moorage or access to moorage, let me know. I’m willing to pay market rates. We don’t need any fancy amenities.

Madsu is 22 feet, just a bit under 8 feet in the beam, and draws only 2 feet with the keel up so can tuck in to shallow moorage.

We’re quiet and neat. Email me if you know of anything. Thanks.



Madsu at anchor in the Secretary Islands

Speaking at Bridging Media

Monique Trottier has kindly invited me to be on a panel at  Bridging Media, a one day conference March 29th in Vancouver.

The idea is to try to bring ‘traditional’ media and ‘new’ media a little closer to one-another:

Bridging media is an event designed to open the channels of communication between the broadcast and digital media communities. We aim to increase an understanding of our respective industries and strengthen our approach to building multi-platform projects.

So far, the attendance list seems to be weighted pretty heavily on the digital media side – so if you’re in the broadcast sector, you might want to check out the list of sessions.

The goals of the conference are:

  • Help to open the communication between the broadcast and digital communities.
  • Find solutions to the misunderstanding between our communities and processes.
  • Work together and strengthen our future projects.

One of the gaps between the two you don’t need to spend a day at a conference to figure out is this one. Weekends.

The conference is on a Saturday, and it’s no surprise there aren’t any broadcasters on the organizing committee.

The digital sector may relish working 24.7 but broadcast’s A-team is strictly a Monday through Friday crowd. Weekends are for Whistler or the Gulf Islands. Chances of them giving up their Saturday for something work-related are super slim.