Monthly Archives: March 2012

“Thank you for supporting local music”

Me, with local music

I went to a concert recently. Not a big one at the Bell Centre, but a small one at a bar. Maybe 100 people in attendance. It’s not something I do often, but I went that night for two reasons: I knew people in the band (Montreal’s The Jimmyriggers) and it was a rare Saturday night off from work and I felt I should take advantage of it.

As it happens, I enjoyed myself. I sat down at a table with Gazette music critic Bernie Perusse, who happened to be there that night with a friend, and the three of us nodded at each other repeatedly through both the opening act, folk-country musician Sarah Jane Scouten, and the set from the Jimmyriggers. Perusse later gave the show a good review on the Words and Music blog.

I’m not a music critic, so I can’t tell you in great detail why I liked what I did (and didn’t like what I didn’t). But I liked what I heard enough that I bought the latest albums from both artists.

After the show, I approached Scouten at the bar to tell her how much I enjoyed the show. We struck up a conversation in which she thanked me for buying her album. With the sincerity and encouragement normally reserved for large cash donations to struggling third-world charities, she said:

“Thank you for supporting local music.”

I felt kind of guilty. The number of music CDs I have purchased in my lifetime could be carried in one hand. I’m hardly an aficionado of local music, and my purchases that night were the exception rather than the rule.

But what stunned me most about that conversation was that a pretty girl was talking to me at a bar how unsupported local artists feel, particularly by media. In an age where it’s easier than ever to communicate and produce, why are so many still struggling to get noticed?

One thing we’ve lost in the reduction of local programming in broadcast media is a place where art can be showcased. Sure, you can have a 30-second interview in a two-minute TV news piece promoting an upcoming show, but CTV News isn’t going to invite a musical guest to come in and play a few songs. Really the only place where I’ve seen live performances on local English-language television is Global Montreal’s weekend Focus Montreal show, and those involve musicians coming into a cramped, all-green studio that’s not at all designed to facilitate the broadcast of music.

On radio, local bands are invited to perform live, but even then the exposure is limited. Major commercial stations relegate these types of shows to hours when the number of listeners is low. With the exception of Mitch Melnick at CKGM, there aren’t many big-time announcers in commercial radio that go out of their way to promote local music. And campus and community radio stations just don’t have the audience to give enough of a push to local artists.

There are people out there who are trying to compensate for this problem. There’s Said the Gramophone. There’s Midnight Poutine with its weekly podcast featuring artists who have upcoming shows in the city. They’re also planning their first concert for next Friday.

But it would be nice to combine the desire to promote local music with the desire for mainstream media to connect with a younger audience. Surely there’s a win-win situation here. If I can enjoy this music, surely others will as well, so long as they get a chance to hear it.

The Jimmyriggers perform Monday, March 26 at 9:30pm at Chez Baptiste sur Masson (3014 Masson). Tickets are $6.

Sarah Jane Scouten performs Wednesday, April 18 at Bar L’Esco (4467 St. Denis).

Midnight Poutine’s inaugural local concert, featuring Reversing FallsHonheehonhee and CTZNSHP, is Friday, March 16 at 9pm at Jackie & Judy (6512 Ave. du Parc). Tickets are $10. See the Facebook event and join the Facebook group for info on future concerts.

Nuit Blanche: Montreal’s most-nighter

Art Souterrain was one of the few parts of Nuit Blanche that didn't shut down before 3am

When I think of the term “all-nighter”, I think of staying up until well past sunrise. I think of fighting off sleep and cheating it out of a day. I think of a desperate compromise with one’s own body in order to accomplish something important.

Two weekends ago, Montreal had its annual Nuit Blanche, with things that would normally only be open during the day staying open well into the night. A novelty, perhaps, but a way to drive people – particularly young people – to go to places they wouldn’t normally go.

I was working that night, but only until midnight. With hours to go between that point and sunrise (by definition, it was literally the middle of the night), I had no worries that I would find some fun stuff to do that would keep me entertained for hours.

But unfortunately, “all-nighter” has a peculiar definition a city so well known for its night life. Going through the guide (my first time using its smartphone app, which was pretty good), I found so many activities I would have liked to try closed their doors at 3am or earlier. Some didn’t even go past midnight.

Looking through the guide online, I did a count. Of all the activities mentioned:

  • 27 ended at or before midnight
  • 13 more ended at or before 1am
  • 39 more ended at or before 2am
  • 75 more ended at or before 3am
  • only 17 extended past 3am, plus two outdoor installations, plus the Art Souterrain underground installations

By my count (which might be off by one or two, and also includes some activities that were later cancelled), the 174 activities included 154 – 89% – that shut down by 3am.

I love the PowerGlove. It's so bad.

So instead of wandering around downtown enjoying hours of fun activities, I spent about an hour and a half having fun and then the rest of the time looking for whatever scraps were left.

Eventually I gave up and went through the Art Souterrain, a collection of art installations accompanied by artists’ statements that are in some cases unintentionally hilarious or too optimistic about the effect they will have on the viewer.

But even then, I was stopped going from Place Bonaventure into Central Station when an iron gate met me at the top of the staircase. I had to abandon my underground city trip halfway through because one of its parts didn’t want to stay up late.

I’m not expecting that every Nuit Blanche activity must keep going until 6am. And if the choice is between presenting something that ends early and not presenting it at all, then by all means put it on the program. But it wasn’t so long ago that this night ended with a free breakfast at Complexe Desjardins at 5am, something that thousands of people gathered for.

Now it seems to end with people giving up on finding interesting things to do and going home on that all-night metro.

Hopefully something can be done to make Montreal’s all-nighter last through the night.

Art Souterrain continues until Sunday through Montreal’s underground city from McGill metro through Place Bonaventure and the Palais des Congrès to Place des Arts.

Astral stations nominated for industry awards

The Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards nominations were announced last week.

With more than a dozen categories and 7-9 nominees per category, the bar isn’t very high. But nevertheless, congratulations to the nominees from Montreal (all anglophone stations, since I guess French-language ones are excluded):

  • Program director of the year (major market): Mark Bergman, CJFM
  • Station of the year (hot adult contemporary): Virgin Radio 96 (CJFM)
  • Station of the year (classic gold): CHOM
  • Station of the year (multicultural): Radio Centre-Ville (CINQ)
  • Station of the year (news/talk): CJAD

Among categories with no Montreal nominees are music director of the year and on-air talent. I’m sure critics of commercial radio here will be liberal in their interpretation of that.

The awards, along with others for the recording and touring industry, are handed out March 22 during Canadian Music Week in Toronto.

Faster than the speed of consent

A few weeks ago, CBC Montreal came out with a story about a local telemarketing company that was being accused of defrauding small businesses by selling them things they didn’t want by phone. In fact, criminal charges were laid last year against the company and others, accusing them of telemarketing fraud.

The CBC story was that despite these charges, the company, called Express Transaction Services Inc., continues to operate (though it told CBC that it would soon shut down for financial reasons). It included some testimonials from people who said the company sent them dramatically overpriced office supplies they never ordered. None of this has yet been proven in court.

What’s interesting here is what happened next. ETS responded by setting up a blog and posting recordings and transcripts of the phone calls between ETS and these supposed clients.

From the perspective of ETS, these recordings prove that the items were indeed ordered by these businesses. But of course they show nothing of the sort. Instead, they read like a textbook for deceptive telemarketing. The calls originate from ETS and ask about shipping addresses, referring to previous conversations in which the goods were supposedly ordered. The operator then tells the client the goods will be shipped, and if the response isn’t angry outrage, they consider the deal closed.

I posted a comment on the first post asking about these conversations the calls refer to at the beginning, in which the clients supposedly talked to someone else at ETS (different people, all with no last name) and made orders for these overpriced goods. Weeks later, no response.

This method of pushy telemarketing – calling up businesses and asking some secretary boring questions about shipping addresses and pretending “okay” means they’ve ordered a good they never asked for – has been around for years. What’s astonishing is that ETS seems to actually think that these recordings will convince the public that they’re the victims here, that the clients actually requested the goods they were delivered, and that their telemarketing practices aren’t deceptive or fraudulent.

If you believe that, I have some way overpriced cash register printer paper to sell you.

Colba.Net applies to expand IPTV to major cities in Quebec and Ontario

Colba.Net's proposed IPTV service area in greater Montreal - the green zone has already been approved by the CRTC

Colba.Net, the Montreal-based independent telecom provider, has applied to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for permission to expand its new IPTV service to greater Montreal, including the south shore, St. Jean sur Richelieu, Châteauguay, Île Perrot, Vaudreuil, Valleyfield, Laval, the north shore and St. Jérôme.

It’s also looking to setup service in Granby, Sherbrooke/Magog, Sorel/Tracy, Joliette, Trois-Rivières, and the greater Quebec City/Lévis area. You can see maps of those proposed service areas on its website.

In a separate application, Colba.Net is also looking to introduce IPTV to the National Capital Region (Ottawa/Gatineau) and cities in Ontario, including:

  • Barrie
  • Orilla
  • Peterborough
  • Benneville Belleville
  • Kingston
  • The Greater Toronto Area from Oshawa to Newmarket to Hamilton
  • London
  • Stratford
  • Brantford
  • Kitchener
  • Niagara Falls

Again, Colba.Net helpfully provides maps on its website.

Colba.Net launched its IPTV service in Montreal in December, after having received CRTC approval for a network covering the island in October 2010. But it’s still in its infancy. It’s only available downtown, on the Plateau and in Westmount, and it offers only 28 channels, four of which are in HD. Even popular cable channels like CBC News Network, LCN, Discovery Channel and Space are listed as “available soon”.

But the proposed programming grid for Quebec lists just about every cable channel any Canadian could have access to. It’s essentially the same as Bell’s Fibe TV service, including Bell’s community channel, Bell video on demand and Bell pay-per-view. The grid for Ontario is similar. Both would notably take their U.S. network stations from Detroit (and Rochester, N.Y., for Fox) instead of Montreal’s usual Burlington/Plattsburgh.

The technology used is similar to Bell’s Fibe service, and will use ADSL2+ and VDSL2 to squeeze voice, Internet and television data through twisted-pair phone line.

According to the CRTC application, the IPTV service would cost $24.95 per month for base service (which would include mandatory channels, U.S. networks and a few non-mandatory channels like MuchMusic, CMT, YTV and CTV News Channel), plus a $75 installation fee. The service currently costs $34.95 a month, but when bundled with voice and Internet that comes down to $19.95 a month. Service also requires a special router at $109.95 and a set-top box for $149.95.

The application doesn’t specify how many channels would be available in high definition.

Plenty of Montrealers like to use third-party resellers for Internet and phone service, but the lack of alternatives to Bell, Videotron and Shaw when it comes to TV service is a major deterrent to switching. If Colba.Net can offer a competitive television service with as many channels available (including high-definition channels) for a reasonable price, that might be enough to get many people upset with the big players’ prices or poor customer service to switch over.

UPDATE (April 15): Colba.Net has applied yet again to expand its IPTV service, to major cities in every province but Prince Edward Island. Applications can be consulted here:

CJAD to broadcast Impact home games

There were rumours for a while that Astral’s CJAD would take over broadcast rights for Montreal Impact games – as kind of a consolation prize for losing rights to the Canadiens. A few journalists came out with the news before it was announced, although nobody got it exactly right.

The announcement came Monday morning on Andrew Carter’s show: CJAD will be carrying all Impact home games this season, as well as the season opener this coming Saturday in Vancouver. They even got some players to pretend they care about a radio broadcasting agreement say hi to their fans listening on CJAD.

The broadcast team will consist of CJAD Sports Director Rick Moffat doing play by play, and former Impact player Grant Needham doing analysis. The station will also cover the team outside of games, notably with interviews during Abe Hefter’s Locker Room show.

The press release is here, but it’s a bit short on details. So here’s what I got out of CJAD brand director Chris Bury:

  • CJAD will broadcast all home games during the season, plus the season opener. (You can see which games on the Impact’s website)
  • CJAD will broadcast all home playoff games (if the Impact reaches the playoffs), but road playoff games are still to be determined. “We’ll take a look at the possibility of broadcasting road playoff games when the opportunity presents itself,” Bury says.
  • There are no direct conflicts between home Impact games and Alouettes games, which CJAD still holds the radio rights to. (There are two Impact away games that conflict with Als games, on July 21 and Oct. 20.) But in the event that there might be conflicts during playoffs (which is during November for both leagues), “we will deal with that if it happens,” Bury says. Among the options Astral would have would be moving one of the games to CHOM (a workaround they have used in the past when Alouettes and Canadiens games conflicted).
  • Abe Hefter will act as a backup for Rick Moffat if he’s unavailable. (Since Moffat also does Alouettes play-by-play, this might happen a few times.)
  • The broadcasting agreement is for two years (the 2012 and 2013 seasons).

Other Impact broadcasters

All of the Impact’s 36 regular-season games will be televised this season, which is a big plus for fans. A third of them, including the season opener, the home opener, the first game at Saputo Stadium and all games involving Canadian opponents (Vancouver and Toronto) will be carried in French on RDS. The other two thirds will be on the new TVA Sports network.

In English, all games that RDS has rights to will be carried on TSN or TSN2.

You can see which games are on which networks on the schedule on the Impact’s website.

The big remaining question mark is French radio. The transformation of CKAC into Radio Circulation complicates matters immensely, because it leaves Cogeco with one talk station, and that station carries Alouettes and Canadiens games, making scheduling difficult. The station’s sports programming director told Métro that they’re working on something, but because of the conflicts it would cause (less than if the Canadiens would make the playoffs this season), it’s unlikely CHMP will air a full season of Impact games.

With the Impact’s season opener just days away, a deal on French radio rights should come soon.

Gazette kills soccer column over plagiarism charge

Monday’s Gazette includes a note to readers saying that it will no longer be carrying a weekly soccer column written by Paul Carbray.

The reason? Repeated instances of plagiarism, the paper concluded:

It was recently brought to our attention that a column which was submitted for publication used material from another source without attribution. A check of columns we published over the previous two months turned up two other cases where, again, extended passages were taken from articles and blogs that had been published online by other media outlets. The passages were repeated in the Gazette columns with very minor changes and no attribution.

Carbray, a former copy editor on the sports desk (one I worked with for a couple of years while he was there), wrote the weekly column and an accompanying notes package on the subject of European soccer for the past 15 years.

He told OpenFile Montreal that he had no excuse:

“I am well aware that plagiarism is a journalistic mortal sin,” Carbray said via email. “In 15 years of doing a column, my standards slipped on these occasions and I regret that extremely. Ultimately, there is no excuse. The fault was of method mostly, not intention. This is not how I envisioned ending 40 years in journalism.”

Local corrections specialist Craig Silverman writes about this case for Poynter, and suggests a more thorough investigation is needed.

The last time something like this happened was in 2006, when The Gazette found that language columnist Howard Richler had lifted material from reference sources without attributing it. His column was terminated and he hasn’t written for the paper since, though he has written for other publications including the National Post.

I haven’t conducted my own investigation into the accusation against Carbray, and due to the inherent conflict I won’t analyze this specific case significantly.

But this kind of thing is a constant worry at the back of any journalist’s mind, and if it isn’t it should be. The mistake can seem so minor at times – just forgetting to attribute a quote or a turn of phrase or a piece of information. The intentions can be honourable – not all cases are like a high school kid taking a paper written by someone else and putting his name on it. It could just be a question of rushing through a story on deadline and being lazy about a minor but still fundamental point.

But the consequences can be devastating. Being branded a plagiarist can end a journalist’s career.

A memo was sent to The Gazette’s newsroom staff reminding them of the seriousness of plagiarism and the need to attribute. Hopefully we can prevent such a thing happening again.

Dave Bronstetter’s goodbye message

(The above video has nothing to do with this post. It’s a year old, but it’s Dave Bronstetter being Dave Bronstetter)

If you missed it when it aired, Dave Bronstetter’s goodbye from CBC radio has been (mostly) posted online on the All in a Weekend website. It’s broken up into half-hour blocks (though most of the audio segments are less than 20 minutes in length because news was cut out):

The show was appropriate for a goodbye to such an important part of CBC Montreal’s history. The three hours were completely devoted to Bronstetter, with guests that included also-retiring Katie Malloch, Melissa Kent, Nancy Wood, Brendan Kelly, Yvon Huneault, Maura Keeley, Shawn Lyons, Bernard St-Laurent, Jonathan Goldstein, Tom Harrington, Rick Cluff, Frank McCormick, Laurent Lavigne and Dave’s daughter Fiona.

But the show was plagued by technical problems so bad that the entire first half-hour block never made it to air. Instead, listeners who tuned in to hear the heavily-hyped show heard what can only be described as filler music from the time the national newscast ended at 6:10 until the problem was fixed at 6:31am. When the show did resume, there were further technical problems, and just about every recorded segment they wanted to play didn’t cue.

Still, for Bronstetter fans, it was a chance to say goodbye to a man who had disappeared from the air for reasons that weren’t made clear at first. The show included taped calls from listeners, plenty of trips down memory lane, and even a song by singer-songwriter Connie Kaldor (it’s near the end of the last half-hour).

The recording on CBC’s website cuts off the most important part: Bronstetter’s last words. The final goodbye was unfortunately brief because they were coming up to the top of the hour (host Sonali Karnick tried and failed to get in a brief end-of-show message before the network cut her off in the middle of a word).

Thankfully, my laptop was recording the show, so if you missed Dave’s final message, you can listen to it here.

The All in a Weekend website also has a few photos from Bronstetter’s final show.

There wasn’t much reaction to Bronstetter’s goodbye online, but there was a blog post from Brendan Kelly and another at The SWLing PostAs It Happens (starts at 21:21) gave him a quick nod, replaying Kaldor’s song.

Bronstetter also did interviews for CBC Montreal’s TV newscastDaybreak in Montreal and Quebec AM in Quebec City.

When asked during the final show what he planned to do during retirement, Bronstetter was noncommittal, suggesting maybe some voiceover work. But the usual retirement things like fishing have never been quite his thing.