Radio & Records War Against Change

Lance's Line RadioInsight Blog

Quickhitz Quick Hits Newcap 90.3 Amp CKMP Calgary Sparknet Paragon Media NewcapIt took all of nineteen days for the relaunch of CKMP Calgary utilizing the Quickhitz brand of shortened pop hits to come to an end.

The backlash against the revamped format started when singer/songwriter Jann Arden went on a Twitter tirade about the station editing songs. That began a war of words as Newcap VP/Programming Steve Jones accused her of cyberbullying, while Paragon Media’s Mike Henry (co-developer of the concept) took potshots at those who critiqued those who criticized the concept.

The quick turnaround came after what Jones claimed was “numerous legal threats from a variety of different directions.” What were these supposed legal threats?

The music industry and the radio industry are reliant on each other to make money. Record labels promote songs to radio, which rarely goes out of their way to seek out songs from smaller labels or independent artists. Many of these labels and larger radio groups are signing deals to “align their business interests“. Just look at the recent launch of Cumulus and Big Machine Label Group’s “Nash Icon“.

What QuickHitz did was break the status quo. CKMP was nolonger beholden to the record label approved “radio edit” and version of the song sold on ITunes, Google Play, etc… This broke the status quo between the two businesses so beholden upon one another. If radio stations began choosing songs simply based on their length or even worse their merits as opposed to which ones are being serviced by the recording industry, it would ruin the primary marketing and promotional tool the big labels have.

Newcap is one of the largest radio operators in Canada, equivalent in scope to Cumulus in the USA. The tiff with Jann Arden led to her songs being dropped from all of their stations. How many other artists and record labels were preparing to do the same if Newcap and Sparknet/Paragon didn’t retreat on their plans for Quickhitz?

If I had to guess, Quickhitz will undergo retooling in which the brand begins to partner with record labels to create “Quickhitz Exclusive” edits to songs as they’re released giving those songs priority airplay on the stations that will pickup the format in the future. Otherwise as Paragon’s Mike Henry stated in his critique of the criticisms, “QuickHitz come and go as rapidly as 24 songs an hour.”

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  1. Chris Lash says

    Never in a million years would I ever let any artist dictate to me what I could do with his or her songs, when it comes to editing. Especially when its a format like Quickhitz.

    I would have told those artists to fly a kite, and kept the format in place.

    1. Lance Venta says

      And then what do you do when the artist’s record label refuses to service your station with any future releases?

      1. Bongwater says

        Exactly. Without artists, you have no music station. If they are against you, their FANS are going to be against you. And the competition will get the star promos and in studio appearances. It also doesn’t look good to advertisers if word gets out this is what’s going on at your station. That potential threat, more than any other probably made CKMP reverse course on the Quickhitz idea.

        Jann Arden hasn’t had a US radio hit in 20 years, but her word still carries a lot of weight in the Canadian music circles. And she’s not to be messed with. If a US broadcaster should attempt this, you can expect a similar backlash. It’s just not cool to mess with other people’s material unless you need to clean it up for airplay or the artist’s label releases an edited version.

      2. Mr Jones says

        Why do you need to be serviced with singles when music is so accessible digitally. Just get it yourself.

        CD giveaways are almost outdated. Don’t need the label for that.

        You can create compelling promotions on your own…

        Program in a way you need to to be on the cutting edge and compete. Break the mold.

  2. Steve Varholy says

    Lost in all this is that the songwriter and performer retain the copyrights in their material. Subject to certain limited exceptions, they can always dictate conditions for the use of their material.

    1. Jack Bayes says

      actually, they can’t.

      in the early days of radio, performers saw the future coming: that station orchestras would be replaced with record shows, and they started stamping “not licensed for radio airplay” on their albums. when challenged in court, it was ruled that once an album was sold, they had no more control over its’ usage.

      jann arden can sue all she wants, she won’t win. (at least not in the us.)

      1. Steve Varholy says

        As to actually withholding airplay, but altering its content and presentation, you are absolutely wrong.

        Numerous cases, particularly regarding visual art, have upheld the creators rights to control how that work is performed or displayed.

      2. Steve Varholy says

        And I guess you can speak to Canadian copyright law? Canadan and other British Commonwealths are in a very different scheme than we are here in the United States.

        1. Jack Bayes says

          no, i do not know of canadian law. i clearly said “at least not in the us.” read for content, sir.

          1. Steve Varholy says

            This is a Canadian case. You cannot extrapolate Canadian legal principals to the U.S. Our legal system diverged from the Commonwealth in 1792.

      3. Steve Varholy says

        That is the first-sale doctrine. It applies to transfer of an audio recording and it’s physical playback. Once you buy a CD or other copyrighted property, the owner of the rights cannot prevent or condition its further sale. It does not give you the right to perform it or alter it then display it publicly.

        Under the anti-monopoly settlement agreement both ASCAP and BMI agreed to a compulsory airplay license. The labels are trying to get out from under that agreement as we speak.

        1. Jack Bayes says


          the federal court ruling in 1940 clearly stated “once a record was sold, the buyer had the right to use it in any manner he liked, including broadcasting it on the radio.” there are no exceptions noted. by your logic, you couldn’t use segments of a song in a promo, for example.

          1. Steve Varholy says

            Sorry, you do not know copyright law. Copyright law is absolute unless excepted. That was a Doctrine of First Use ruling.

          2. Steve Varholy says

            *Doctrine of First Sale

          3. Steve Varholy says

            For those so inclined.


            Copyright is unlike much of our law in that where in ordinary circumstances you can do anything unless it is prohibited by law. In the case of Copyright, you are considered infringing unless licensed or qualify for a limited exception, such as Fair Use.

  3. Chris Lash says

    BS! Back he legendary days of Top 40, how many stations turned up the speed on their turntables, to make the songs go a tad bid faster.

    Give me a break. As posted, the labels are no longer needed.

    1. Lance Venta says

      Whether you like it or not the labels are needed when it comes to those revenue generating station concerts. This isn’t just affecting one station, but by upsetting the label you’re affecting relationships with every station your company’s holdings. With a format like CHR especially, you’re beholden to the label’s wishes.

      Is it right? That’s a much bigger debate. But you can’t just shut off a pipeline that’s been flowing for decades.

      1. Steve Varholy says

        Moreover, as we are seeing with SONY, the labels are seeking to remove themselves from the ASCAP/BMI performance rights societies and compulsory licenses.

        Once you are in the land of negotiated licenses, SONY can demand that unofficial edited versions of their copyrighted material would require payment of a higher royalty rate.

  4. Nathan Obral says

    It didn’t matter that Jann Arden wasn’t a featured artist on CKMP. It was the optics of an artist voluntarily telling an entire broadcast chain, “I want nothing to do with you.” And Canada is a country fiercely protective of their cultural identity (CANCOM, anyone?) that have a Canadian artist protest like that is a big, big problem.

    The grey area we could head towards is when listening to aural content continues to evolve into a non-liner platform. Terrestrial radio listening is imploding among those younger than 30. It’s easier than ever to digitally manipulate songs from a standard radio edit into mashups or in a QuickHitz style of edit that constrains a song to a fraction of the intended length for digital delivery. These are all developments that the RIAA has a difficult time trying to counter with, and that terrestrial radio simply is unable to comprehend.

    I compare QuickHitz to the proverbial canary in a coal mine, in more ways than one.

  5. Chris Lash says

    I think I might change all the stations I own to Quickhitz just to make a point. The labels have forever needed radio, much more than radio needs the labels.

    I would love just one artist or label to threaten to sue me. I’d laugh!

  6. Scott Fybush says

    Am I alone in thinking that Quickhitz was never intended to be anything more than a stunt? It certainly generated an insane amount of free publicity for a format tweak that would otherwise have gone mostly unnoticed.

    I still remember the brief 1990s fad for using music test tapes to stunt during format changes. Remember when WHEN-FM in Syracuse was “Quick 108” for a few days before going all-out CHR? Quickhitz felt to me from the start like a reincarnation of that.

    1. Lance Venta says

      It was always intended to be the long term format for Calgary and perhaps other Newcap CHRs. Sparknet and Paragon Media have put a lot of resources behind the format, including acquiring US patents for it to prevent others from duplicating it.

      Newcap was not expecting the backlash as you can see from how Steve Jones handled this in the press. They were forced to retreat with their tail between their legs.

    2. Steve Varholy says


      I agree. That was my first impression as well. It seemed to work, if it was a stunt.

      As a practical matter, I don’t see how “QuickHitz” or the like is sustainable in the long term, anyway.

      The problem with a failing radio station is not that it is not playing enough songs, it is because it is playing the — wrong — songs.

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