A&E G6 CMT CANADA CANS MUSIC VIDEOS
TORONTO — CMT Canada’s decision to stop playing music videos will hobble a homegrown country scene already struggling to compete against slicker, better promoted U.S. rivals, say Canadian musicians.
The Corus-owned specialty channel stopped airing videos Sunday, as it officially shifted programming entirely toward sitcoms, reality shows, movies and special events.
The move isn’t sitting well with musicians including Dean Brody and Tim Hicks, who say they’ve lost a powerful platform to get their music out.
“To see that dissolve and evolve is going to be hard because it was a big part of me becoming successful in this country,” says Brody. “It’ll leave a big hole.”
Hicks called CMT “integral” to his career, noting that a fund associated with the channel helped pay for 10 of his music videos, which gave him national exposure.
“You’re talking about mechanisms that break artists, getting videos and images and talking about the music in front of people. It’s a serious drag but by the same token I understand too that we’re at a point of time where people don’t want to wait for their favourite video to come on,” says Hicks, who expects he and his team will have to “get choosier and more calculated” in making videos.
Back when the Canadian arm of Country Music Television debuted in 1994, it was meant to showcase country music videos and homegrown artists — in fact, its licence required at least 90 per cent of its programming be country music videos.
That changed in 2001, when the obligation dropped to 70 per cent, and again in 2006, when it dropped to 50 per cent. The condition remained that CMT Canada invest in creating original homegrown TV content.
Last year, Corus Media won a bid to eliminate its obligation entirely as it sought greater flexibility to create and acquire programs.
The media giant also tried to spike terms that at least 11 per cent of its previous year’s gross revenue pay for Canadian country music videos. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled it should continue funding the music industry but removed the condition that it exclusively support country artists.
A Corus spokeswoman said late last week that CMT’s lineup was “being refreshed.”
Indeed, the new schedule is filled with back-to-back episodes of shows like “Reba,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Last Man Standing” and “Black-ish.”
Ted Ellis, chairman of the Canadian Country Music Association, suspects Corus has grander plans for CMT.
He notes the company likely won’t have trouble filling hours once dominated by music videos — Corus has plenty of content thanks to the recent purchase of Shaw and its suite of specialty channels, which included HGTV, Food Network Canada and History.
“CMT is a very well-distributed service in Canada, it has almost all English-speaking viewers, so it’s a great asset for Corus. I imagine they could think there’s a better use for that channel,” says Ellis, a former exec at the channel.
Ellis himself wrestled with CMT’s changing identity when he was head of programming at CMT for 12 years, until 2015. During his tenure, the airing of music videos dropped to 50 per cent from 70 per cent.
Still, his association was among several groups that objected to the recent changes, along with the Canadian Independent Music Association and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.
Corus has insisted the changes would not lessen Canadian content or spending on homegrown programs. But it would give the company more flexibility in a changing media landscape, such as the ability to fund more long-form music programming instead.
Dean Brody says CMT Canada’s decision has erased a powerful platform to get Canadian country music out.