R.I.P. Mix 96

Virgin 96

In case you haven’t heard, Mix 96 ends today. In what is no doubt a bid to save some money, CJFM 95.9 is rebranding itself a Virgin Radio station (on orders from owner Astral Media). The change will take place at a time that for some stupid reason has been kept secret until later this morning, but will definitely be “during the day” today. (UPDATE: 4pm, you can watch the countdown in case you’ve forgotten how to count to 4pm)

Because the entire identity of the station is changing, anything with the word “mix” in it has to be replaced. They’ll have a new logo, new station IDs, new vans, a new website and even a new call-in number.

The format is saying the same (“Today’s best music”, or top 40 lowest-common-denominator pop songs), but there are programming changes that see some good local talent go out the window.

In case you haven’t heard the endless plugging on the air, the station is being hyped everywhere (and that will only increase now that it’s actually been launched). Program Director Bob Harris has started a blog to get everyone hyped up.

One of the first obvious questions is: Why change a brand everyone knows and replace it with the equivalent of a giant McDonald’s sign?

Harris explains on his blog:

Astral Media (our parent company) has the rights to use the Virgin Radio name in Canada.

The Virgin Brand brings some amazing power. It represents an edge of cool, it’s irreverent, it’s sexy, its fun, it’s world class and constantly surprising.

Are you sold yet? They bought a brand and it has a good marketing team behind it. How could they not abandon their brand for this?

MIX 96 is one of Astral’s Montreal English radio stations (CHOM and CJAD the other two) and as we roll the Virgin radio name out across the country to other stations, we need to be part of it here too. Just because head office made the decision don’t think for a second that we had to do it.

Translation: If I pretend to like this horrendous gutting of a local station’s identity, I might get a promotion some day from a corporate executive who wants yes men working for him. Or at least I won’t be fired.

Bob shot the Sherriff

Murray Sherriffs: Gone.

Murray Sherriffs: Gone.

The main face that has left the station is Murray Sherriffs, of Cat, Lisa and the Sherriff. He left last month in what is being described as “a programming decision.” Now it’s Cat, Lisa and classified third morning person to be announced in February.

Harris describes Sherriffs as a stand-up fellow despite the station’s apparent falling out with him, which also involved scrubbing any reference to him from their site and deleting all his past blog entries (you can get a taste in Google’s cache).

Sherriffs also took the high road when asked by Fagstein about his departure:

As you’ve heard, the radio station is being rebranded and sometimes hard business decisions have to be made.

But with the closing of this door comes other opportunities and I’ll be meeting this challenge as I have met others.

As I said on my MIX blog, the sentiments of one of my favorite songs by ”Chumbawamba”, ring especially true these days;

”I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never going to keep me down
We’ll be singing
When we’re winning”.

No word on Sherriffs’s next move, but we’ll let you know when it happens.

Seacrest in

Ryan Seacrest: Cheap filler

Ryan Seacrest: Cheap filler

The new faces coming? The biggest one appears to be Ryan Seacrest. Yes, that Ryan Seacrest. He does this radio show which will air during weekday evenings at 7 p.m. It replaces the RJ Daniels show, though Daniels will stay on to cut in with local information (like the Habs score and weather) and follow with his own show until midnight.

Harris for some reason needs to confess that Seacrest won’t do his show from Montreal (no, really?), and instead does it from L.A. where it’s beamed to hundreds of stations. Now 95.9FM in Montreal will be one of those faceless stations rebroadcasting Ryan Seacrest. Doesn’t that sound awesome?

Feel for the Rhythm

The other programming change is the disappearance of Rhythms International. The Sunday night program, which had been on the station for more than 20 years, aired its final show Dec. 21, and is being replaced by UK Hit 40, another syndicated show replacing a local production. Like the ousting of Sherriffs, this is described as a “tough programming decision,” but essentially comes down to ratings.

Other programming, such as Nat Lauzon and the 80s/90s Nooner, will stay (though the latter will undergo a name change).

A sad day for local DJs

What particularly sucks about all this is that, unlike local television production, local radio production doesn’t require all that much work. A host and a producer. That’s pretty much it. When all you’re doing is playing music singles and doing small-talk between them, it should make sense to just have someone do it in-house.

But instead Astral is spending money to act as a rebroadcaster of foreign content. And not even good stuff. We’re talking about Ryan Seacrest here. The fact that Astral thinks Montrealers would prefer that (with the occasional local guy giving a 30-second weather report and local sports score) to spending an evening with a local DJ is sad.

Sadder still is that Astral might be right. Despite a few comments on my blog and a few emails to CJFM management, there isn’t much outrage over this. A Facebook group started up to fight it has less than 50 members. There’s been nothing in the other media about it.

It seems either Montrealers don’t know about what’s going on, or they don’t care.

Well, I do. Long live Mix 96.

UPDATE (Jan. 13): In case you missed the moment of launch, the station has posted a video of it on Facebook, which is apparently serving as their primary communications tool as their website is beyond simplistic.

Media coverage of the launch is light, but there are brief articles about it at Voir, Radio-Canada and the Journal de Montréal. Julien Brault also mentions it.

Infopresse has the two 15-second TV spots that are running on CTV.

UPDATE (Jan. 17): Clear Channel is planning massive job cuts in the U.S. in a move to nationalize radio production and gut local programming, according to the New York Post.

74 thoughts on “R.I.P. Mix 96

  1. Stephanie

    I am in Europe right now and was hoping to check in with what was happening in my home city, and I could not find Mix 96 anywhere on google. I cannot believe that Virgin is the name now. It has become a sad day…

  2. alibaba

    If you actually listen really carefully, it’s all self-glorification from virgin enterprises.
    What they’re doing is cutting back on the playtimes of non-virgin-label artists, and increasing their own.
    So expect less r&b, runaway singles, and everything else good.

    Smart, but not too smart. 94.7 will slowly increase it’s listener territory.

    What boggles the mind is WHY they would change the name to something so different….

    I’m boycotting it by listening to 94.7, and when feeling down and low, good ol’ 99.5!!! YEAH

  3. georgia

    at least they got rid of kelly alexander and shoved her in some useless slot. she was soooooooo annoying i would turn off my radio whenever she got on.

    also murray sherrifs, for the most part was totally douchey.

    i find they have moved away from cheezy whicch is good.

  4. Nathalie

    Well, i am sad Murray is gone… i loved to hear his ranting news… it was a touch of personal that is missing now…

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  6. bruce

    I find there is absolutely no difference between the Mix and Virgin except that the best thing they had is gone…aka “Murray”.

    Q92 and Murray would be wise to make up and get back together again…Murray was brilliant with Aaron!

    be a shame to lose a great talent to another city.

  7. murray sherriffs

    Hi Bruce;

    Thanks for the comment you put on Fagstein. …very cool!! Aaron, Tasso, Suzanne and I had a lot of fun producing our pieces. And having Ted Silver as our Program Manager sure helped the creative process.


  8. Steven

    Both the old Mix96 and the new Virgin plays crap!
    Unless of course you like to listen to mindless garbage played over and over and over again.
    You see people, the music played on this radio station is NOT music, it’s business.
    No talent morons like AKON and Beyonce and Rhianna and all these other wannabe hip hop “stars” don’t write their songs out of passion and love of music, they write their songs to sell records, to be in the top 10, to generate profits for radio stations and music moguls. It’s business, not music.
    In the 70’s however, when rock groups like YES wrote 32 minute songs and produced double albums with 4 songs on them, it wasn’t to be in the top 10. It was to WRITE music, for themselves and for their fans.
    I wonder where Beyonce and AKON and brit brit and all these other no-talent idiots will be in 30 years from now.
    Is Pink Floyd still being played? Yes. Zeppelin? Yes. Will they still be played 30 years from today? Yes! Why? Cause that was music, written by the soul, for the fans and especially, for creativity and music’s sake. Not for T-Shirts and Gossip newspaper spreads. Wake up people!

  9. Ve

    The Lounge King on sunday night was the best show on the radio in this city and so unique to montreal and its culture WHY THE HELL would they cancel that show :( summer nights wont be the same anymore BRING BACK THE LOUNGE KING!!

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  12. Lissa----

    Virgin radio always plays the same old music and mix 96 had a bit more variety with shows liek rythms international. However the DJ’s are not to blame for what gets played. They play what media conglomerates pay them to play.

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  15. Wendy

    WHAT THE FUCK? Most of you who comment on this are idiots cause I don’t know about you guys, but when Murray got off 95.9, it was darn cool? Man? I danced around when he moved back to the stupid Q92. Honestly, I loved when it was called Mix 96 back in those days. My mornings would be cool with Andre and Lisa, Nat Lauzon doing her show from 10 to 1..yeah yeah, except for the eighties nineties nooner I get it. Cat Spencer doing the afternoon drive home show yah man? That was really cool. When Andre left the Mix, I was pretty sad, but I liked the fact that they put Cat Spencer in the morning show. Too bad Virgin Radio, you’re ratings will drop. Im not gonna listen to Virgin Radio in the mornings and afternoons anymore. Yeah and what the fuck? This nerdy dudette Nikki Balch in the afternoons, screw her! Andrea Colins from 10 to 1, screw her too! And when it will be Freeway and Natasha in the mornings starting on January 3rd, 2012, screw them both! Fuck off! Mark Bergman doing the drive home show was totally awesome and why planned to put Cousin Vinny? Screw Virgin! Only Tony Stark is the best!

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