Think Tank: The Next #1

Here’s a fun fact. As of Monday August 18th, 2015. It’s been 78 weeks (19 months) since a Canadian Artist has been #1 at Active Rock in Canada. During the same time period, 5 different Canadian Artists have spent a combined 15 weeks at #1 in the USA.

— Theory of a Deadman “Angel” – 1 week – (peaked #11 Canada)
— Three Days Grace “I Am Machine” – 6 weeks – (peaked #5 Canada)
— Nickelback “Edge of a Revolution” – 2 weeks – (peaked #3 Canada)
— Three Days Grace “Painkiller” – 4 weeks – (peaked #3 Canada)
— Pop Evil “Torn to Pieces” – 2 weeks – (peaked #5 Canada)

(Full disclosure, Frontside works with both Theory Of A Deadman and Pop Evil)

Back in Canada we’ve come close a few times since Sam Roberts “We’re All In This Together” topped the charts. We’ve seen the following hit #2: The Glorious Sons “White Noise” (March 2014), The Trews “What’s Fair Is Fair” (May 2014), Theory Of A Deadman “Drown” (July 2014), The Glorious Sons “Lightning” (March 2015), and this week, The Glorious Sons “The Contender” hit #2 as well.

(Full disclosure, Frontside works with both Theory Of A Deadman and The Glorious Sons)

Why is this the case? Especially with so many bands doing so well south of the border. Shouldn’t we be seeing #1’s from Canadian acts all the time? Well, there are a number of reasons. First, as we’ve touched on in previous articles, the sound of Active Rock stations in the USA is simply different from the ones we have in Canada. That’s in part due to the genetic makeup which includes a number of CanCon tracks that combine for +30% of the playlist, most of which never see any airplay in the USA. Knowing that, it’s a pretty short path to draw the conclusion that the Canadian bands that do succeed in topping the USA chart have a sound more akin to what’s being aggressively played at stations there.

There’s also another factor to consider, and that’s rotations. While it’s not the case at every station, many stations have rotation categories that allow for more spins for international than domestic tracks. In some cases the difference is nominal, in others it’s substantial. The argument can be made however that massive international tracks not only deserve more spins per week, given that those bands are all over the media, global radio and fill stadiums when (and if) they come to Canada. But also, because those are the bands and songs that the audience is demanding to hear. Which if you think about it, is the entire reason that CanCon in it’s current form even exists at all. CanCon was introduced as a way to give domestic talent a shot at being on the playlist at all. And many would argue (myself included) that CanCon has done amazing things for Canadian talent both at home and abroad. Same goes for FACTOR, Starmaker and all of the rest of the tools we’ve provided young artists with. There’s no doubt that Canadian acts punch above their weight class on a global scale. For a country of 30 million to have developed so many global superstars is something we should all be very proud of.

Does that mean the system as it sits is perfect? Probably not. Sure it would be nice to see some more domestic acts make it to the pinnacle of radio success, but none of the solutions proposed to date seem to fully evolve the system to where it may further level the playing field. (Some suggestions include a tiered system where acts would “graduate” out of CanCon status after certain airplay and or sales markers). And maybe it’s not one in need of leveling. Maybe topping the charts is the one challenge that has to remain difficult to give acts something to shoot for. In a modern world where “everyone gets a ribbon” maybe a #1 single should remain a laborious task at which many more fail than succeed?