Think Tank: The American Active Rock Influence, or Lack Of…

Traditionally speaking, the US Active Rock radio chart had a huge influence on what was played on Canada’s Active Rockers. But in the 4th quarter of 2014, there is as big a disparity as we’ve seen in recent memory. As of this week’s chart (Nov 3rd) only 30% of the records on the USA Top 30 even appear on the Canadian Top 30. That’s 10 songs total that are crossing the border, and not surprisingly, they are songs that belong to some household names like Foo Fighters, AC/DC, Nickelback, Three Days Grace, Seether, Black Keys, Slash, Bush and Weezer. Really, the only outlier is UK newcomer Royal Blood with their breakout single “Figure It Out.”

At a glance, it might seem preposterous for that to be the case, but upon further review the pieces fit together pretty well. For starters there are some songs that are simply transitioning their way to the Canadian chart. Godsmack, Vance Joy and Volbeat are all sitting in the #30-#35 range and should make chart debuts shortly. Then you have a few songs that are lingering on the Canadian chart longer than they did in America. Tracks from Rise Against and Kings of Leon, for example.

Of course Can-Con is a big factor. On the Canadian Top 30 chart there are 13 Canadian acts (43%) which makes some sense given that most radio stations are held to the 35% Can-Con standard. Nice to see them inching a little higher than what’s required however. This also makes sense when you consider how many “heritage” Canadian acts have releases out right now. Nickelback, Billy Talent, Tragically Hip, Gob, Tea Party, Moist, Headstones and Three Days Grace for starters. Combine that with some core artists (who might not be “heritage,” yet) like Trews, Death From Above and that leaves you with the notable “newcomers.” The Glorious Sons, One Bad Son, Current Swell.

I’m pleased to say that there is a healthy dose of our present roster listed above (and a few artists we had a hand in developing). And I’m pleased to see that Active Rock in Canada seems to be finding it’s own identity once again.

One final note about the chart however is how “top heavy” it remains. Almost 40% of the total available spins on the chart come from the Top 5 singles on the chart (only one of which is Canadian, The Glorious Sons). This is due to how ‘safe’ stations play it with their heavy rotations. Generally ganging up on the records that are big in the USA, in the case of this week: AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Black Keys, and Weezer.

So while there is room for Canadians to break at the format, a glass ceiling still exists.