Tag Archives: CHOM

Tootall retiring from CHOM

Tootall in 2012.

Tootall is a rare animal in the radio business. One of the few living legends still on the air, a leftover from the days when DJs picked their own music, and a modest, unassuming guy who knows his music and is generally liked by everyone.

But what might make him the rarest of radio personalities is this: He’s one of the few on-air people who gets to decide when he leaves. (Well, almost. His bosses convinced him to stay a bit longer.)

And so on Wednesday morning, during what was teased as a “big announcement” on the morning show, CHOM announced Tootall’s retirement.

His last day is Sept. 29.

Continue reading

Bell Media radio rehires The Beat’s program director

Since 92.5 FM in Montreal became The Beat in 2011, the station has made much of its staff lineup by poaching personalities from direct competitor Virgin Radio. Cat Spencer, Vinny Barrucco and Nat Lauzon were hired directly from Virgin, and Nikki Balch and Rob Kemp also previously worked at 1717 René-Lévesque Blvd. (for Virgin and CHOM, respectively).

With The Beat’s ratings being solidly ahead of Virgin for what seems to be a sustainable period, it seemed it was only a matter of time before Bell Media hit back.

Martin Tremblay (via Facebook)

This week we learned that it has poached from the top, hiring Martin Tremblay to lead the Énergie, Rouge FM and Virgin Radio Montreal stations. Tremblay was hired as interim program director at The Beat a year ago. Before that, he spent six years in what is basically the same job he’s now going back to, leading the Montreal French music stations and Virgin at Astral and then Bell Media.

His CV also includes plenty of work for radio stations as part of his consulting company Oumf! Communications. They include:

  • Helping RNC Media create a Rythme FM affiliate in Gatineau, which lasted two and a half years until RNC decided to rebrand it as WOW FM.
  • Helping Attraction Radio turn CKRS-FM in Saguenay into another Rythme FM affiliate.
  • Helping RNC Media turn CHOA-FM in Abitibi into yet another Rythme FM affiliate.
  • Helping RNC transforming its struggling CKLX-FM into 91.9 Sports in Montreal, and later turning Capitale Rock 96.5 in Gatineau into a partial affiliate of it. While 91.9 Sports is going strong and RNC finally seems happy with that format, the Gatineau station has dropped sports programming and is now Pop 96.5.
  • Launching Groupe Puissance Média, an ad sales group that works with both RNC Media and Cogeco Media TV and radio outlets in the Outaouais region.
  • Work for Rogers’s Kiss 105.3 in Ottawa.

Tremblay starts his new job Aug. 7. Like the on-air personalities who made the jump, he’s bound by the terms of a non-compete clause in his contract that prevents him from working for Bell Media right away. “So enjoying my free time,” he tells me.

I asked Bell Media how this affects existing management at these stations. Mark Bergman is the current program director at VIrgin Radio. Will his role change?

“We have no comments to make at this time,” was the response from Bell Media communications director Simon Céré. I also asked Bergman and Martin Spalding, who heads local TV and radio in Quebec, for comment, and will update this if I hear back.

Chris Bury takes over PD role at CHOM

Chris Bury, program director of CJAD, TSN 690 and now CHOM 97.7

Meanwhile, the other three radio stations at Bell Media in Montreal will all come under the control of Chris Bury, currently the PD for CJAD and TSN 690.

“As CHOM’s Assistant Program Director and Music Director, Picard will work directly with Chris,” notes a memo to staff.

Bury’s expanded duties means that more will be delegated to CJAD/TSN 690 Assistant Program Director Mathew Wood, who takes on a larger role at TSN.

“Mathew will now handle day-to-day responsibilities at TSN 690 and Picard will continue to do that for CHOM,” Bury explains to me by email. “I’ll be involved in brainstorming, strategy, long-term planning, major decisions etc.”

I asked Bury if we should expect any changes at CHOM with this announcement. “It’s too early to get specific but, for me, the general goal is always the same: produce the most compelling content possible — as consistently as you can,” he responded. “That can mean introducing new segments or features or executing the ones we have a little more effectively.”

“I’ll add that… It’s an honour to be working on CHOM, in any way. The station carries a powerful legacy in Montreal. And the team at CHOM are as passionate about their station as anyone else. I’m excited to get going and to help however I can. And, although I do have some music programming experience, there will certainly be a learning curve. It’ll be a fun challenge.”

These management changes took effect immediately when they were announced to staff earlier this week. CHOM has been without a program director since the death of André Lallier in 2015.

Meanwhile, at The Beat, there are decisions to make. The station is led by general manager Luc Tremblay, who was also hired as head of digital strategy at Cogeco Media last June.

 

Tributes flood in to former CHOM/CKOI announcer Denis Grondin

Denis Grondin, a former announcer at CHOM, CKOI and 98,5fm (or, as some media described him, he’s the father of actor Marc-André Grondin), died suddenly of an apparent heart attack the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. He was 66.

So sudden was his death that it came mere hours after he recorded his weekly show Samedi soir sur la terre for Radio Ville-Marie. The show aired Saturday night as planned, complete with the promise to return next week. You can listen to the final show here: Hour 1, Hour 2.

There weren’t much in the way of formal obituaries in the media, but the French-language news outlets generally offered briefs with tributes that were made on social media:

I’ll do the same below. I’ll also link to this interview in Urbania from last year, where Grondin looks with a critical eye at the state of the industry today.

On Friday, Grondin’s family responded with this:

Continue reading

Heather Backman, Paul Beauregard laid off at CHOM

Heather Backman

Heather Backman, who was Terry DiMonte’s co-host on CHOM’s morning show since he returned to Montreal in 2012, is no longer in that role. Backman updated her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles to remove references to the station, and CHOM’s website no longer lists her as co-host for the morning show.

Paul Beauregard, who returned to CHOM recently to fill in on various shifts, is also out.

I wrote about their layoffs in a story for the Montreal Gazette, which also includes some analysis of the financial situation of Bell Media’s radio stations and the market (albeit with figures from 2014-15).

Matthew Garrow, Director of News, Local Stations, Sports, Discovery Networks & Community Investment for Bell Media, confirmed that there are layoffs happening at CHOM, without mentioning any names:

I can confirm that we are reducing several positions at CHOM. These changes are the result of the challenges Bell Media and other Canadian media companies are facing due to increasing international competition, the evolution of broadcast technologies, and advertising and regulatory pressure.

We have no further comment on the matter at this time.

Backman herself had no immediate comment, but posted a message to Facebook on Tuesday morning thanking DiMonte, producer Esteban Vargas and former bosses Martin Spalding and the late André Lallier.

Beauregard also declined to comment.

The cuts at CHOM are part of wider cuts at Bell Media nationwide. They include:

Bell hasn’t said how many people it’s letting go across the country, where they are, or if there are other cuts to come.

UPDATE (Jan. 31): DiMonte addressed Backman’s departure at the beginning of Tuesday’s morning show, saying the decision was “not mine to make”, and citing the disruptive nature of employment in the industry. He said the position of morning show co-host has been eliminated and the show would “take a new direction, and we’re moving forward without Heather.” He said Monday was “tough” and she will be missed but the station wishes her the best. (He posted a nearly identical message on his Facebook page.)

This was DiMonte’s only unprompted statement about Backman during Tuesday’s show, so most listeners didn’t hear it. But it was brought up during the 7am hour when contributor Pierre Houde brought it up to pay tribute. Here’s what he said:

The Beat’s Nat Lauzon was among those local personalities to (at least publicly) show support to her dismissed friend:

Kim Sullivan, who worked at both Virgin Radio and The Beat, also paid tribute:

UPDATE (May 24): Backman has gotten some work at The Beat.

Montreal’s radio industry mourns Merv Williams

Merv Williams, the former producer and announcer at Standard and Astral Radio in Montreal who contributed to CHOM’s morning show and CJAD’s Trivia Show until he was axed five years ago, has died.

The news was shared on social media by his former colleagues, but the official obituary notice was published Saturday in the Ottawa Citizen.

He died Sunday, July 10 at the Ottawa Heart Institute. He was only 39.

A memorial service for Williams will be held at the Yves Légaré Funeral home at 7200 Newman Blvd. in LaSalle on Saturday, July 30 at 11 am.

I never met Williams, but he appeared to be universally liked by his colleagues. I’ll let them offer tribute through their posts here:

Continue reading

CHOM/Énergie program director André Lallier dies of cancer

Andre Lallier

André Lallier, a fixture at Montreal radio for 30 years, died Sunday of cancer, Bell Media announced. He was 52.

Lallier was program director for CHOM for a little under five years, and has been with CKMF 94.3 since he was 20 years old.

In Bell’s press release, Martin Spalding, the general manager of local radio in Quebec, made it clear he lost a friend:

Our entire team today lost an irreplaceable professional and a valued friend. Thanks to his love for radio and music and his total dedication to the success of the stations where he worked over the years, André has left an indelible mark on our entire industry. On behalf of everyone at Bell Media, I wish to salute the memory of André and offer my sincere condolences to his spouse Annie, son Alex, and his family and many friends.

Visitation is at the Sainte-Thérèse Complex of Les Résidences Funéraires Goyer (105 Desjardins Blvd. E. in Ste-Thérèse) on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 1-4pm, followed by “a celebration in his honour” from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

News of Lallier’s death has resulted in a flood of messages to his Facebook page from colleagues and friends.

Particularly touching is this image of the door to his office, via Pierre Landry:

lallier-door

Continue reading

Radio ratings: The Beat back above Virgin (but…)

Radio ratings March 2014

Total audience share for major ownership groups, winter 2013-14 (ages 2+). Cogeco Diffusion: 98.5 + Rythme FM + CKOI + The Beat + Radio Circulation; Bell Media: NRJ + Rouge FM + CJAD + CHOM + Virgin + TSN 690; CBC/Radio-Canada: CBC Radio One + CBC Radio Two + ICI Première + Espace musique; Other: CJPX Radio Classique + Radio X + non-reporting stations

One year after The Beat took a surprising lead over Virgin among all anglophone listeners, it has done so again. The latest BBM quarterly ratings report, released last week, shows The Beat with an 18.4% share among anglophones, slightly less than its record 18.6% in March 2013. That’s ahead of Virgin Radio at 15.1%.

When you factor in the francophone audience, where Virgin has a slight lead (4.1% vs. 3.9%), The Beat is still ahead overall, though just by a bit. This differs from last year, where Virgin had the lead among all listeners because it was stronger among francophones. The Beat last year had a 2.1% share among francophones, so there’s some significant improvement there.

What’s interesting about this jump back to number one (well, actually number two, behind CJAD) for The Beat is that it happened during the same time of the year last year, suggesting that there may be some seasonal aspect to it. Maybe The Beat has better Christmas music?

Continue reading

CHOM founder Geoff Stirling dies

Geoff Stirling, who founded CHOM in Montreal but is better known nationally as the eccentric owner of Newfoundland’s television superstation NTV, died on Sunday at the age of 92.

The Gazette has an obituary with Canadian Press that talks about Stirling and his Montreal connection (Presse Canadienne has another that does the same). There’s also an obit from St. John’s radio station VOCM and, of course, from NTV itself.

CHOM noted the passing on its Facebook page. Stirling started the station as CKGM-FM in 1963, back when FM radio was a novelty and few people were taking advantage of it.

I never met Stirling, so I don’t have much to add, but his reputation is larger than life. NTV was notorious for its bizarre late-night programming, and there are plenty of legends about Stirling himself making programming decisions or putting things on the air that no sane corporate owner would do today. But it wasn’t just that he was a crazy old man with lots of money. I mean, how many TV station owners have created comic book characters?

This story in The Scope gives a good rundown of some of all the things that made Stirling special.

His passing opens up a lot of questions about NTV. Will it be sold? It holds the unique distinction of being a de facto affiliate of both CTV and Global (it carries national newscasts from both networks). Either might be interested in buying it to have a Newfoundland station that carries 100% of their schedule.

Independent super stations in Canada are much less common than they used to be. Most are either owned by the networks themselves or are private stations that are affiliated with one of the major networks. Aside from the community stations, the religious stations and other special cases, there are only three independent commercial super stations, the others being CHEK in Victoria (a former E! network station that was sold to its employees and other local investors by Canwest) and CHCH in Hamilton, owned by Channel Zero. And those stations don’t have owners like Stirling.

Maybe this is truly the end of an era, when television stations were owned by one guy instead of a company with multiple shareholders, and when that one guy could just call up the station and say he wanted video of a fish tank to be played on air overnight.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. That NTV programming wasn’t exactly award-winning stuff. But it still feels as though a piece of the past has slipped away.

Continue reading

CHOM changes its logo, launches new ad campaign focused on music

Comparison of CHOM logos. On the left, the one in use since 2010. On the right, the new one just unveiled.

Comparison of CHOM logos. On the left, the one in use since 2010. On the right, the new one just unveiled.

CHOM is undergoing a moderate transformation, which includes an updated logo, replacing the one it’s used since 2010, and a new website.

The new logo keeps the badge outline, but replaces the grey and orange design that went overkill on the gradients with a simpler black-and-white one that’s literally rougher around the edges.

But the formula isn’t being toyed with. CHOM remains “the spirit of rock” and the music will sound the same.

“We thought the logo was a bit dated even though it’s not that old,” program director André Lallier told me on Friday. “The timing was good also, because over the past two years, the music has evolved. We’re playing a lot of newer stuff.”

The new logo, and the ad campaign that goes with it, are the work of ad agency Bleublancrouge, whose clients include The Gazette. (It did their Words Matter campaign in 2006.)

Lallier said it was the agency that approached them about three months ago asking if they could pitch an idea. “They said we’ll work on something and present something to you in three to six weeks.” After giving the agency a full briefing on how CHOM sees itself and what it’s looking for, Bleublancrouge returned with this campaign, which is focused on CHOM’s music: a mix of classic rock and new rock.

Continue reading

Fall radio ratings: Any way you slice it, Virgin beats The Beat

Virgin Radio ad on its website thanking listeners

Virgin Radio ad on its website thanking listeners

Fall ratings for markets including Montreal came out on Thursday, and like they usually do, they showed nothing earth-shattering. Everything is pretty well where you expect them to be.

For the past few quarters, after the ratings report comes out, both Virgin Radio and The Beat make a big deal about how they did better than the other. This time, it was just Virgin crowing. And with good reason: by almost every metric, they have more listeners than their competitor.

Of course, with only five commercial stations, the English-language market in Montreal has plenty to go around. In any other large market, a 15% share would be enough to send champagne corks popping. But here, that’s fourth place out of five.

The numbers

Ratings period is always a penis-measuring contest, so let’s go ahead and whip ’em out.

Continue reading

The third option for TSN Radio 690

If you don’t want to read this really long post, you can get the short version in this story and this followup in The Gazette, and this story at Cartt.ca.

CRTC Quebec regional commissioner Suzanne Lamarre grills Bell on its plans for Montreal radio on Monday.

CRTC Quebec regional commissioner Suzanne Lamarre grills Bell on its plans for Montreal radio on Monday.

I’d thought about it. Some people had asked me about it. Others suggested it to the CRTC in their written submissions. And the CRTC asked Bell about it in a letter after it filed its application. But until Monday afternoon I didn’t think it was seriously an option that the commission might consider imposing.

Could the CRTC force Bell to keep CKGM (TSN Radio 690) and sell one of the other English-language Astral radio stations in Montreal, as a condition of approving the larger Bell-Astral deal?

Learning from the very negative public reaction from its initial proposal last year to turn CKGM into a French-language radio station, this time Bell is asking for an exception to the CRTC’s radio common ownership policy so it can keep it in English while still owning three other stations in the (currently) five-station market. This puts the commission in an awkward position if it accepts the purchase deal. Does it give the exception, giving one company control of four of five commercial stations and 75% of the commercial audience share? Or does it deny the exception, forcing Bell to sell the money-losing station to someone else who would most likely change its format? Bell convinced thousands of listeners that the former is better, putting together a Save TSN 690 petition and getting the same fans who were cursing its name months earlier to be suddenly singing its praises.

A background in common ownership

The CRTC’s common ownership policy, often incorrectly or incompletely explained, has two rules for radio:

  1. One company can’t own more than two AM stations and two FM stations in a single market
  2. One company can’t own more than three stations total in a market with fewer than eight commercial stations

French and English stations are considered in separate markets even if they share the same geographical area. Montreal’s English market, with only five commercial stations (though soon to be six) meets that second criteria, while the French market, with 11 commercial stations (soon to be 13 or even 14), doesn’t.

The policy is just that, a policy, and exceptions have been granted before. The most on-point one is one that was granted to Cogeco in 2010 that allowed it to keep three French FM stations in Montreal after it acquired most of the Corus Quebec network. This was allowed in exchange for Cogeco setting up the Cogeco Nouvelles radio news service, with CHMP 98.5 FM in Montreal as its flagship station. That station is now the highest-rated in Quebec. The second-highest-rated, CFGL (Rythme FM) 105.7, is also owned by Cogeco.

The irony here is that this request was strongly opposed by Astral Media (it even threatened legal action to stop it), it was supported by third parties because it would put Cogeco in a position to better compete with Astral, and Cogeco is a fierce opponent of the Bell/Astral deal because of increased concentration of ownership. (Cogeco hasn’t said much about the request for an exception, perhaps seeing how hypocritical it would look.)

Now Bell/Astral is using the Cogeco decision as a precedent to get the same treatment in English. Astral argues this should be an easier decision because unlike CHMP, CKGM is a money-losing station, its audience is tiny, and it’s on AM.

And Cogeco, the one company that you’d think would be most against allowing Bell to own four of the five stations in this market, is silent on the matter. Cogeco CEO Louis Audet told me on Wednesday after the company’s appearance before the CRTC that “we’ve kept away from that” and “it’s up to the commission to decide.”

Continue reading

Montreal radio ratings: “a solid book” for The Beat, but …

Station Winter 2011 Winter 2012 Fall 2012 Winter 2013
CJAD 25.9 24.8 25.2 25.0
CJFM (Virgin) 18.2 17.3 18.6 15.9
CKBE (Beat) 17.2 14.9 16.6 18.6
CHOM 10.3 11.9 13.7 13.5
CKGM (TSN) 2.6 4.4 2.3 2.6
CBME (CBC1) 7.5 8.2 7.2 7.0
CBM (CBC2) 2.9 2.7 2.4 2.5

BBM ratings, anglo 2+ audience

I don’t normally pay that much attention to the quarterly BBM ratings of Montreal radio stations. Not because I don’t care, but just because there’s rarely anything in them that’s newsworthy. A share point up here, a share point down there. Some stations do better in some time periods, others do better in others. There isn’t usually much movement.

Lately, CJAD has been first overall among all audiences, while the three music stations have been fighting for audience in key demographics: men for CHOM, young women for Virgin and somewhat older women for The Beat. CBC falls significantly behind, and TSN Radio even further. Other stations don’t even register. Things have been a bit more interesting on the French side with the rise of CHMP 98.5, which is now Quebec’s most-listened-to radio station.

But today’s numbers (PDF) showed a significant change for once: In overall audience (ages 2+), The Beat has leaped ahead of Virgin Radio for the first time, getting an 18.6% share versus 15.9%. That prompted The Beat to send out a press release calling itself “Montreal’s #1 Music Station”.

That was enough for a Gazette story on the matter.

But as the story shows, The Beat’s claim to be ahead of Virgin comes with a caveat: Virgin still outperforms in key demographics (among them, adults 25-54, adults 18-34 and women 25-54) and in key time periods.

In Astral’s press release, in which Virgin also calls itself “Montreal’s number one music station”, it focuses on the key advertising demographic of adults 25-54, in which Virgin still leads.

We could play with demographics all day, but if we stick to adults 25-54, the results show a three-way tie among the music stations: Virgin 21.9%, The Beat 20.1% and CHOM 20.0%, with CJAD behind at 13.1%. This represents an upward trend for The Beat and CHOM, but is down from last year for Virgin.

See some analysis here from Astral, and here from La Presse.

Needless to say everyone’s happy and everyone is number one. Here’s how the numbers break down for each station:

Continue reading

Inside Astral radio’s new Montreal studios

This fall, Astral Media’s three English stations in Montreal — CHOM, CJAD and CJFM (Virgin Radio) — moved from Fort St. to Papineau Ave. The goal was to consolidate Astral’s five radio stations, allowing them to share resources, including a newsroom.

I got a couple of chances to visit the new offices, once for interviews with a couple of personalities and again when they held an event for clients. Here are some photos to give you a sense of what it’s like inside.

Astral’s building at Papineau Ave. and René-Lévesque Blvd.

I just realized when producing this post that I don’t have a recent picture of the exterior of the Astral Media building at Papineau and René-Lévesque. The one above was taken in August 2009. On the front are logos of the two French stations, both of which have rebranded. Rock Détente (CITE-FM) is now Rouge FM, and Énergie (CKMF-FM) is now NRJ (with the same pronunciation).

Anyway, the outside hasn’t changed much, except for the logos. It’s inside where everything’s different. The offices have been renovated. There’s glass everywhere. Even the office of Astral vice-president Martin Spalding is surrounded by glass, so anyone in the nearby CHOM studio can see what’s going on in there.

The studios of all five stations are on the second floor. Using the Montreal bastardization of cardinal directions, the southwestern corner is CHOM, the southeastern corner (at Papineau and René-Lévesque) is Virgin (facing René-Lévesque) and NRJ (facing Papineau). Rouge FM is on the eastern side, and CJAD’s studios are on the northeastern corner. CJAD’s newsroom covers the north side.

Continue reading

The young faces of Montreal’s drive-time radio

 

Gazette Culture section, Jan. 5

On the list of jobs everyone wants but nobody can get, radio DJ ranks pretty high. Right there with TV anchor and newspaper staff columnist. Those privileged enough to get these coveted positions seem like the luckiest people in the world, especially because the job sounds like it’s so simple.

In Montreal, the three big music stations all have announcers or hosts (what they call the DJs now) in the afternoon drive periods under the age of 35. Why is that? Shouldn’t such a prestigious position (second only to the morning drive slot) go to people who worked in the medium for decades, toiling at some obscure community station in a tiny town working as the overnight traffic announcer? What do these people have that’s so special?

For profiles that appear in Saturday’s Gazette, I met with these three announcers, all of whom got their current jobs in 2012, and asked them about their career paths. As you’ll learn, it’s a combination of good timing, talent, a lot of determination, and a bit of luck.

(These stories took a surprisingly long time to do. Astral was a bit nervous in light of the whole Bell thing, and even after I managed to do all the interviews, the story stayed in the bank for a month so it could work as a feature story in the first week of January when the local arts scene is pretty uneventful. To give you an idea, the photos of Bilal Butt and Andrea Collins, which I took during their interviews, were taken while CHOM and Virgin were still at their old studios on Fort St.)

The Beat’s Vinny Barrucco

“Cousin” Vinny Barrucco, 28, started at The Beat in May, after being poached from the same job at Virgin Radio. The Beat’s management apparently found him good enough to fire their existing drive guy and convince Vinny to stay off the radio for three months to comply with a non-compete clause in his Virgin contract.

A guy this young getting poached like this (Cat Spencer and Nat Lauzon were also lured to The Beat from Virgin, though they have much more experience) has got to get to a guy’s ego.

Vinny might seem like a goofball, and to a certain extent he is, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t work hard. He started by doing those right-of-passage jobs, interning for Mitch Melnick on Team 990 and then working at Kahnawake’s K103. He had his eyes set on Virgin, and as he tells it pestered management there for months to get noticed. Finally he was offered an overnight shift in 2009, but quickly moved up to afternoon drive, replacing Mark Bergman who became the station’s brand director.

Vinny’s story includes other tidbits, like his rejections from Concordia’s communications studies program, or the untimely death of his father that set his career back a year but also helped to get it started.

It’s the story of a man who is living his dream because he followed his passion and never gave it up. Yeah, it sounds like a cliché, but there were a few Oprah-like moments when I interviewed him at The Beat, so it seems a propos.

CHOM’s Bilal Butt

Bilal Butt, 33, is a more familiar name among Montreal radio listeners. He’s been at CHOM since 2005, and worked at CHOM and Mix 96 before that. He was mainly doing evenings until the unceremonious departure of Pete Marier led him to be upgraded to the afternoon drive slot.

When I talked to him last summer and again in the fall, he apologized for leading such a boring life. He’s just a guy with a job on the radio and a musician in his spare time.

To Butt’s boss, André Lallier, that’s what makes him so relatable to listeners: he’s just a regular guy.

Not that his life has been entirely vanilla. His home didn’t have music in it when he was growing up, and his parents didn’t approve of his career goals at first. But he loved radio too much. After interning for Cat and Nat at Mix 96, he began working for CHOM, then took a job in Fort McMurray, Alta., before coming back to CHOM in 2005. And though maybe someday when he’s older he might make the jump to mornings, he’s more than happy where he is right now, with a schedule that lets him both sleep in and go out at night, and a job that lets him play rock music and sit behind a microphone.

Virgin’s Andrea Collins

Andrea Collins, 28, is the newbie to Montreal radio. She started here in 2011, taking over Virgin’s daytime shift after Nat Lauzon left to focus more on her other projects and do weekends at what would become The Beat. In April, after Barrucco also left for The Beat, Collins was bumped up to afternoon drive.

So I guess Collins owes a lot of her career here to The Beat, even though she’s never worked there.

Collins came to Montreal after a career that led to her working at stations in Winnipeg and Victoria at stations called Kool, Curve, Bob and Q. It involved a lot of moving, but that helped her get so far in such a short time.

As I spoke to her, it had become clear that she’s embracing this city. She’s fallen in love with the Plateau (yeah, she’s become one of those people), and is working on improving her French.

One thing noteworthy about Collins is that she’s the first female solo drive-time announcer at a major commercial English station in Montreal, at least as far as anyone knows (correct me if I’m wrong here). Not that there haven’t been other women in strong positions in Montreal radio, with Sue Smith, Nancy Wood, Nat Lauzon and Donna Saker among them. But the afternoon drive post has been a pretty male-oriented slot, or with a male-female team (conversely, the workday has been mainly female-oriented for music stations like this).

What’s perhaps most remarkable is that this isn’t a big deal, either for Collins or Virgin. It may be a historical footnote, but gender wasn’t really a consideration in choosing Collins for this job, and there hasn’t been some huge feminist revolution that has opened the door to this. It just happened.

There are still some aspects of radio that are sexist in nature. Morning shows, like TV newscasts, are paired male-female, even when some of the most popular teams have been of the same gender (see: Aaron and Tasso, Terry and Ted). But it’s nice to see that another glass ceiling has disappeared, even if Collins didn’t feel it smash as she passed through.

Five things you didn’t know about professional music radio announcers

1. They listen to themselves. You might think these people just show up to work, talk about random stuff they have in their head and then go home. But they actually review a lot of what they say, and so do their bosses. It’s the best way to improve how they sound, and constant improvement is necessary in a world where success is measured by ratings. So these announcers will listen back to recordings of their breaks (in music radio, a “break” is the part where the announcer talks live into the microphone, which sounds like the exact opposite of what a break should be).

2. They’re not rich or famous. Collins and Butt drive old beat-up cars. Barrucco takes the commuter train. Though they can’t claim to be poor, radio announcers in their kinds of jobs have pretty middle-class salaries. Add to that the complete lack of job security and it’s less glamorous than you might think. As for fame, these characters walk the streets undisturbed pretty often. Butt recounts the one time someone recognized him at a Subway. Being recognized in public is the exception rather than the rule.

3. They spend a lot of time at fundraisers. It’s even written into contracts now that radio personalities have to participate in certain events to help promote the station. Add to that events that they’re asked to participate in outside of work. Part of it is because they’re perceived to be locally well-known, and part of it is that radio announcers like these tend to make good emcees.

4. Many of them work alone. Morning shows still have a concept of team, with multiple hosts, a news announcer, a traffic announcer and a technician. But most other shifts at these music stations consist of a single person, who hosts and operates the boards, cueing songs and taking calls. There’s enough time to do it with all the music that plays, but it’s quite a bit of multitasking, and it takes a while to get it all down without screwing things up. Adding social media communication to the mix only adds to that workload.

5. They plan what they say. A good deal of research goes into these shifts. Music announcers have to keep up on the latest news and get everything from celebrity gossip to concert announcements to relay that information to listeners. Even finding little bits of trivial information to send out between two songs requires going out and finding it. It’s not exactly like putting together a Master’s thesis every day, but it’s still a lot of work.

Radio personality Greg Hébert dies

It’s been almost a decade since he left Montreal for a job at CFRA in Ottawa, but Montreal radio personalities who were around back then are remembering Greg Hébert, who used to work at CHOM and CKGM.

Hébert died Thursday night after a long and heavily-mediatized battle with cancer.

He started his radio career in Montreal as a producer for the CHOM morning show of Pete Marier and Andrew Carter in 1999. After two years, he went to what was then sister station CKGM (Team 990) and produced for the afternoon show of Joey Elias and Tony Marinaro, also working as a sports reporter and weekly show host.

But he’s better known in Ottawa, where he was the host and producer of a nightly business show on CFRA radio, and a business reporter for A Channel (now CTV Two). He left for medical reasons after getting a diagnosis of synovial sarcoma in 2009.

His former colleagues in Montreal posted remembrances on social media.

From Pete Marier:

Sad News today, Greg Hebert passed away last night. He worked as a producer for “Pete and Andrew” on CHOM back in 2001. To his wife Lauren: Greg had outstanding qualities. Chief among them were his honesty, courage, determination and quit wit. These equipped him to rise quickly as a broadcaster and to become one of the bravest persons I’ve ever met.

Know that he touched a lot of people this way, and I’ll always be proud to call him my Friend. Pete Marier.

From Nat Lauzon:

Rest in peace, Greg Hébert, the bravest soul I ever encountered. A husband, son, friend, fighter. And to many like me – a teacher. Join Team Greggybear and read his incredible legacy. A gift to everyone fighting for their very lives against a horrible disease. Thank you Greg. xx

From Tony Marinaro:

There were far more from his colleagues in Ottawa.

Obituaries have been published in the Ottawa Citizen, the Ottawa Sun, CTV News Ottawa and CFRA. They’re well done and I encourage you to read them.

After getting his cancer diagnosis, Hébert decided to go public about his cancer fight. He started up a charitable foundation and wrote a blog. The last post written by him is dated a month ago.

Hébert leaves behind his wife Lauren, who announced after he died that she is pregnant.

A funeral for Hébert will be held on Dec. 28 at 3 p.m. at Hulse, Playfair & McGarry Central Chapel, 315 McLeod St. in Ottawa.