Canadian radio veteran Alan Cross says he can’t wait to return to the Toronto station where he first established his reputation as a self-described “professional music geek.”
Corus Radio announced last week that Cross is returning to 102.1 The Edge, where he spent 25 years between 1986 and 2011, after three years away. His official return date is Aug. 1.
“It was a big part of my life for a very long time, and working with Corus and everything that came before led to who I am and what I’m doing now,” said Cross. “It’s nice to be able to go back and pick up after three years of acquiring some perspective on the industry.”
Dave Farough, general manager of Corus Radio Toronto, said that while Cross’s exact title and role are still being determined, the radio veteran will be responsible for the “overall sound and feel” of the station, tasked with strengthening and growing the brand in a highly competitive environment.
Cross’s return will also bring a revival of his signature show The Ongoing History of New Music, which has been dormant since he departed Corus on June 30, 2011 following a restructuring.
It has been an eventful year for The Edge, which in January cancelled the Dean Blundell Show and fired its namesake host for controversial on-air remarks. It subsequently named longtime on-air personality Josie Dye, along with U.K. import Dominik Diamond and Greg Beharrell, as its new morning team, with Diamond & Dye debuting in March.
Two weeks ago, the station also promoted Tara Di Giuseppe – who started with The Edge’s “Intern Army” about 10 years ago – to music director. “She’s so open-minded about music – she doesn’t think in formats or silos, alternative rock or pop-rock,” said Farough. “In her head there are two kinds music: Good music and bad music. She’s going to be a fantastic music director.”
The Edge had a 2.8% share of the Toronto market with 341,000 daily listeners 2+ in the most recent quarterly ratings from Numeris, putting it 13th among the market’s 24 stations. In the year-earlier ratings period, The Edge had a 4.1% market share with 421,500 daily listeners.
Farough said the radio landscape is changing with the emergence of streaming services such as Rdio and Spotify, while The Edge has also been challenged by the launch of competitive stations such as Indie 88, which Cross helped launch.
“Radio used to be a lot easier 20 years ago,” said Farough. “What happens when you give consumers more choice is that they tend to take it. I need to figure out how do we continue to be relevant with all of these other options.”
Farough said the plan for next iteration of The Edge is still evolving, but listeners can expect a subtle move away from darker, harder music represented by artists like Rage Against the Machine and Tool and to a “poppier” sound characterized by artists such as Chvrches and Lorde.
“Lorde is an artist The Edge probably wouldn’t have played had she come around five years ago, but now the appetite for that pop-alternative style seems to be there,” said Farough. “It would have been considered far too pop-leaning in the past, but it’s kind of the landscape we’re living in.”
Combined with the March introduction of its new Sunday night show “The Spirit of Radio,” – a slogan synonymous with The Edge’s previous incarnation as CFNY – Cross’s return seems intended to evoke the station’s heyday at the crux of the Canadian alternative music scene.
Farough said that the goal with The Edge’s evolution is twofold: Increase listenership among 18-34s, and repatriate older audiences in their late 30s or early 40s who have drifted away from the station because of its harder-edged approach. “A guy like Alan (who Farough describes as “the Wayne Gretzky of alternative music”) who they’ve listened to for so long, is somebody that can draw people back,” he said.
Farough also expects the tweaks to The Edge’s playlist to bring aboard more female listeners. “We became a very male-oriented radio station for a long time, and I hope we can bring some more women to the party with this approach,” he said.