Doug Elliott and Brett Emmons of the Glorious Sons
When CKGE-FM radio’s program director Doug Elliott checks out his station’s play list, he notes the usual suspects you’d expect to find being programmed on the Oshawa Ontario-based rock station, known regionally as 94.9 The Rock. But as equally prominent as the Foo Fighters, AC/DC, Pink Floyd and yes, Led Zeppelin are a crop of established Canadian rockers; Sam Roberts, The Headstones, Tea Party, The Trews, The Tragically Hip, Big Wreck etc.
Yet even more impressive is the station’s support of new talent with the likes of The Arkells, Glorious Sons, The Gloryhound, One Bad Son, July Talk and even hot new blues merchant, Philip Sayce earning valued exposure on the 50,000 watt station which covers the entire Greater Toronto Area. Add to all this The Rock’s Generation Next program, a daily spotlight slot for new, unsigned talent which has now been spun off into a monthly live showcase at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre.
“Gen Next is a program we originally launched in May 2012 to give a time slot to a new, unsigned band,” explained Elliott as his station prepared to present their fourth showcase lineup at the Phoenix. “Originally it was programmed for Weeknights at 8 pm. and now we’ve expanded to a daily slot at 8 as well as weekends at noon and 8 which means we spotlight 104 new bands in the course of one year.”
The process to get added to The Rock’s Gen Next program is relatively simple for any aspiring band, just send a tape or CD with four or five original songs to the station and if Elliott and his crew are impressed, you might just get valuable exposure on their station.
“We’ve had a number of bands that have benefited from this program already,” acknowledged Elliott. “Breached was featured on Gen Next and they dropped their first single last week. Last Bullet has a great live following and The Mohrs just work, work, and work, they have a debut record coming out and they’re opening for some big bands. The first time I heard The Honeyrunners on air, I virtually had to stop the car and call Lee Eckley( who was broadcasting at the time) to find out who they were.”
The Phoenix Theatre, through their in-house booking agency, also scouts for talent for the program, and with the club co-sponsoring each Gen Next show, (which allows up to eight acts to perform before a capacity crowd of 1,300 spectators on the city’s second largest club concert stage), the bands get to prove their chops in a live environment.
“We’ve been working with Doug for awhile and we’ve wanted to execute this program for the past two years. Now we have a home for the showcase at the Phoenix, we can complement the radio show by having their bands perform live,” noted Redd, who operates the venue’s in-house booking agency and has booked all previous four showcases.
“With 94.9 The Rock being involved, we have to look for bands that are rock based to fit the station’s format because they do get a week’s rotation on air. We listen for radio singles ,, we look at their social media links, their draw, like what they can actually bring in to the Phoenix, how hard are they going to work, how hard are they going to promote it. If we know they are a hard working band and that they are great live , we are going to put them on.” informed Redd. “ If we see some potential, we do what ever we can to get them to the next step, we have partners involved like Coalition Entertainment, who will provide them with artist management skills and development programs, for them to understand the business side of being in a band. We also invite out the major booking agencies, so the band’s do have someone there to see them- if they like them the next step is already there.”
“Bands can do things in the studio that you couldn’t possibly do years ago but they still have to be able to back it up live,” analyzed Elliott. “Playing at the Phoenix provides a true test of how a new band reacts when they perform live before a large crowd on a big stage. It really shows us who has potential.”
Elliott is aware concerns exist about whether rock radio in particular is a format which encourages new talent or whether new music is being formatted out of existence by a reliance on classic rock tunes.
“One of the big issue rock radio has experienced is that over the past 15 years, they have been so completely reliant on classic rock,” noted Elliott. “Many of these stations think that 1988 was the pinnacle of recording and that after 1988, everything else has been secondary. They believe there’s never anything as good as that old Steve Miller Band record or their reaction is, “Let’s listen to AC/DC’s `Back In Black album one more time”“The problem is that you’re not nurturing the next crop of talent that needs an opportunity to get heard,” Elliott continued. “Contemporary hit radio does nurture new music but not in the way a rock station does. Next thing you know, we will live in world where nobody will identify great guitar-oriented rock from musicians who actually play their own instruments Music instead will become a talent competition highlight reel, which is what a lot of current pop music actually is.”
Elliott is distressed that many classic rock stations have gotten so formatted that they’ve actually withdrawn human involvement (in the form of deejays) from their programming, turning their stations into virtual music jukeboxes. “When they eliminate the human factor, they just become a machine. There has to be an emotional element involved.”
“We’ve gone the other way,” informed Elliott . “We understand what the public wants. They hit the bullshit buzzer really quick if they think you are not communicating with them. The Rock audience is probably one of the highest educated income groups out there and you have to speak to them at a consistent level. Our audience has an appetite for what they want, and if they don’t find it, they’ll move on until they find another station. But I do feel our station represents what they are after. Instead of living in 1988 we are living In 2015.”
Part of that mandate is to discover new talent and Elliott takes pride in the station’s recent successes in exposing new artists. “We have played The Glorious Sons probably more than any other station, same also with bands like The Arkells and The Gloryhound, the Lazy’s and One Bad Son,” he noted. “There is one band we are playing now called The Wild from Kelowna B.C. and independent band, but we love their new single “Slow Burn” so we’re playing it.”
“Our goal is to give these guys the start that they need,” Elliott concludes. “You can give a band money to buy new gear but what they really need is proper exposure so that people can hear their music. These people create art and we have to have people that appreciate their art form. Fortunately for us, we have that instrument in the form of a 50,000 watt radio station which covers the entire GTA and says to people; `We have some great new music for you to hear, go ahead, and listen.”
Bands/artists wishing to apply for 94.9 The Rock’s Generation Next program can do so by contacting Redd at
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org