All posts by Robert Ouimet

Estimates Vary

Depending on who you believe, somewhere between 100 and 200 people gathered in Vancouver today to protest the axing of the CBC Radio Orchestra.

According to Colin Miles who posted a comment here

On very short notice about 200 people showed up. They included about 40 people who were either players in the orchestra, soloists who have recorded CDs with the orchestra or composers who have been broadcast and/or recorded bu the CBCR

Tod Maffin from InsidetheCBC blog posted some photos (copyright protected so I can’t post them here) on Flickr, including one of former CBC Vancouver regional manager and one time head of Radio Music Robert Sunter being interveiwed by Paul Grant.

Tod’s article at InsidetheCBC says 100 people were there when he was there about 15 minutes into the demo.

Meanwhile, CBC.CA says 150 people.

Proving once again that there is a reason people go into journalism:  accountancy is out.

(photos are copyright Tod Maffin and used with permission)

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.


February in Vancouver

When I was living in Winnipeg or Toronto I used to absolutely detest it when friends from Vancouver would tell me on the phone about a) crocus and b) sailing in February.

Now that I’ve lived in Vancouver for 20 years I feel completely comfortable presenting these two pictures taken while walking the seawall in West Vancouver today…



Matt Mullenweg Keynote at Northern Voice

I’ve just posted the full audio presentation of Matt Mullenweg’s keynote address at Northern Voice in Vancouver this morning.

Matt’s the founder of WordPress, the blogging software that runs this web site and millions of others.

I’ll have a feature interview with Matt in podcast coming in the next few days, but in the meantime, wanted to give everyone a chance to hear his presentation in full.

It’s on my blog at At Large Media.

UPDATE: We’ve been getting a lot of traffic on our Vancouver server for the audio file (yippee) thanks to stumbleupon and Mr. Robert Scoble (thanks RS).

So, if you have any problems with the link above, you can try this version which is on a server in Toronto.


Matt Mullenweg photo by kk+ , Vancouver fashion photographer, used under CC license

Links You Can Use


Instapaper is rapidly turning into one of my favourite new web apps. It’s ridiculously simple – it’s a way of creating bookmarks to articles you’d like to read later.

It works from a simple button in by browser bar. When I’m on a web page I want to look at later, I just click the button to save it.

instapaper read later button

Instead of putting a bookmark in your browser, it creates an entry on a web page for you, and keeps a list in chronological order of the articles you’ve marked to ‘read later’.

instapaper screen grab

But the best thing about it is the list has an RSS feed. I’m using it to share with my colleagues things I’ve been reading and think are worth reading. They simply subscribe to the feed and see new additions I’ve made. Nifty, handy and most important, fast.

If you’re interested in keeping tabs on what I’m reading later, just subscribe to my Instapaper RSS feed:

Horray For Bloggywood

It will be interesting to see how quickly the Hollywood writers abandon their heavy web presence now that the WGA strike is over.

The writers created a lot of online content during the strike, meant to get their message across regarding the strike.

united hollywood screen grab

Now that they’re going back to work, and back to big paychecks, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly they drop their love of no pay blogging and quirky videos.

My favourite is still the Woody Allen’s ‘speechless’ video complete with roaring fire.

Can I Really Be Sued for My Opinion?Many bloggers seem either confused or ignorant of libel laws. Not surprising, since the medium has allowed millions of people to become publishers, many of whom have no idea about what is, and what isn’t, ok to publish.

The Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society provides a lot of useful information – US based of course, but still worth a look for anyone who’s building their online publishing empire without the benefit of lawyer on staff to vet their pieces.

“The guide is intended for use by citizen media creators with or without formal legal training, as well as others with an interest in these issues, and focuses on the wide range of legal issues online publishers are likely to face”

World Record Bloggers

The International Olympic Committee has finally decided to allow athletes to blog during the the Beijing Olympics.

Athletes have long demanded they be allowed to write their blogs….during the Games but the IOC was concerned these could potentially infringe on copyright agreements and private information. In a series of guidelines, the IOC said blogging would be allowed during the Beijing 2008 Olympics as long as individuals writing the journals keep within the IOC format. “The IOC considers blogging… as a legitimate form of personal expression and not a form of journalism,” the IOC said.

More in this story from Reuters, including IOC guidelines like “Blogs should also adhere to the Olympic spirit and be dignified and in good taste.”

I think that probably includes random poking of competitors on Facebook just before a big event.

Lunchtime is Primetime

More and more people are watching American network TV through video streams on their computer. And that’s leading to new primtime viewing in the middle of the day…

The most popular hours for watching network TV video online falls between noon and 2 p.m., and women are nearly twice as likely as men to be watching the video streams, according to a new type of study released Thursday by Nielsen Online.

Women between 18-34 accounted for 22% of the time spent watching video streams available on network TV sites like and in December, according to VideoCensus, a new syndicated online measurement service from Nielsen that combines research from panels of users and server-based measurement. Men ages 18-34 accounted for 12% of the online TV traffic, the study found.

Full report here and more coverage in MarketingVox.

Who’s On First

It’s getting hard to tell the players without a program.

In the UK, the Gaurdian newspaper group has a Head of Audio.

Huh ?

Not only that, but he’s taking on the BBC in morning news.

The new daily morning news podcast service launched this week by the Guardian is the only commercial radio news alternative to the BBC, according to the paper’s head of audio.

Matt Wells said: “I thought it would be worth seeing if it would possible to do a good daily show to a good professional standards and put it out first thing in the morning.”

Wells said it was designed for “people who are otherwise dissatisfied with what they get in the morning.”

“There is no serious commercial news at that time in the morning – you’re stuck with the BBC…Since the demise of the Channel News morning report there is nothing at all. We thought it would be having a go ourselves.”

full story in the Press Gazette

Connecting Music Buyers with Music Creators


I’ve just finished a new podcast for the At Large Media site. It’s a piece with Michael Redman, the president of

What he and his partners have done is create a place where producers of films, tv shows, commercials and others who need to license music, can find songs they can license for their productions.

It’s a classic case of disintermediation and what’s really great about it is that everybody wins.

You can hear the podcast at the At Large Media web site.

When Copies Are Free


We’ve watched record labels struggle, and fail, in attempts at finding ways of stopping wide scale copying and distribution of music. For years they’ve tried everything from copy protection to lawsuits, as a means of keeping people from making digital copies.

Nothing they’ve done has worked.

Yet, in a relatively short period of time, Apple created an enormously successful online music distribution model. Think about it. Where every single record label failed, Apple succeeded.

One of reasons they did was because they understand the digital economy.

In a recent article, writer Kevin Kelly identifies one of the key challenges of the digital economy.

When copies are free,
you need to sell things which can not be copied

Kelly then goes on to suggest eight categories of value that you buy when you are paying for something that could be free…

Eight uncopyable values. I call them “generatives.” A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced. It is generated uniquely, in place, over time. In the digital arena, generative qualities add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold.

His article should be a must-read for every executive at every ‘traditional’ media organization in the world. Whether you agree on Kelly’s eight categories or not, you can’t argue with him when he says,

once anything that can be copied is brought into contact with internet, it will be copied, and those copies never leave. Even a dog knows you can’t erase something once it’s flowed on the internet.”

This week, we see two examples of traditional publishers struggling to find their route through the challenges of the digital economy.

Random House has decided to try to sell something that can be copied. They’ve announced that they will be experimenting with selling books chapter by chapter online.

Meanwhile, Harper Collins is taking a different approach. They’ll be posting books free on the web

The idea is to give readers the opportunity to sample the books online in the same way that prospective buyers can flip through books in a bookstore. “It’s like taking the shrink wrap off a book,” said Jane Friedman, chief executive of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide. “The best way to sell books is to have the consumer be able to read some of that content.”

Of the two approached, the Harper Collins strategy makes more sense. In their case, the ‘generatives’ at play include patronage, accessibility, authenticity and findability.

This last generative may be one of the most important for book and magazine publishers.

Take the case of writer Charles Sheehan-Miles.

He’s giving away electronic versions of his book Republic. In fact, he’s encouraging you to make a copy, send it to your friends, do anything you want with it, except sell it. Sure, but who’s Charles Sheehan-Miles anyway ? Which is his point exactly…

The biggest challenge most authors face isn’t online piracy. It’s not people out there diabolically copying their works and distributing them for free. In fact most authors (including yours truly) suffer from a different problem entirely — no one has ever heard of them. After all, literally hundreds of thousands of new titles come out every year, and only a few hundred writers in the entire United States (if that many) actually live off their books full time. So, by giving away the book, I hope more people actually read it.

The book, the one you can buy, is currently #2 on the Sci-Fi/Alt-History list.

And yet, for content distributors, the most frightening thing in the world is to adopt new channels, even as they watch the old ones erode. Many of the alternatives are unproven. Worse, some haven’t yet been invented.
Those who live and breathe the digital economy know that success lies in pushing through the uncertainty. After all, the risks of the unknown are overwhelmed by the certainty “when copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied”.

(cross posted at the At Large Media blog)