Sunday, 17 April 2016

iHeartRadio, iHateBellMedia

I'm having mixed feelings about Bell Media's decision to (once again) rename the Much Music Video Awards to the iHeartRadio MMVAs. First of all, what is iHeartRadio, other than a bunch of TV specials I've seen on broadcast networks? In short, it's an app that let's you listen to radio stations, owned by parent company Clear Channel. It has gained more traction than Spotify and Pandora ever did in their early years. Most importantly, it's doing exactly to the MMVAs what Kanye West did to the Pan AM games last year: stealing the spotlight away from Canada, its artists, and their venues.

In reality, Bell Media is bringing iHeartRadio to Canada and shilling it out like a kid who got his first rare trading card. At launch, iHR Canada will allow users to steam all of Bell Media's radio stations. It will also allow Bell Media to slap the iHeartRadio name onto any music-related event to build brand awareness and generally make it sound more special to them. Case in point: the CHUM FM Fanfest is now the iHeartRadio Fest. Though, in fairness, the iHeartRadio FanFest would be an even more appealing name.

But slapping the name onto the Much Music Video Awards will most certainly not "elevate the MMVAs internationally". Instead, it cheapens an iconic Toronto event by making it play second fiddle to an American product no one has heard of, nor cared about, until now. It also shows the further lack in confidence Bell Media has in MuchMusic as a music brand, as opposed to a network for Comedy Central originals and late-night talk shows. With the likes of Revolt and Fuse/FM signaling the proper return of music television to American airwaves, its very jarring that the only thing Canada's largest music-based network has going for it, aside from Much Digital Studios, is an award show named after an American website.

On the other hand, its nice to see an American brand brought north and not turned into a cheap cash grab, just like so many Canadian specialty channels (*cough*FXX*cough*). Being Canada's largest (and most corrupt) radio broadcaster, and with Virgin Radio and CHUM already on-air in the states, it makes sense for Bell to be iHeartRadio's Canadian ambassador. Finally, am I really going to shed a tear for an event that's clearly become skewed towards pop music fangirls? Seriously, how do you have a "Fave Artist" category when, for the last six years, the same artists were nominated and the winner is always Justin Bieber? That is bullshit to the ninth degree!

So what's next for Bell Media and iHeartRadio? Will Virgin Radio and M3 change their names too? Does anyone even care about iHeartRadio now that we have Spotify? One thing's for sure: the MMVAs aren't dead, but they might as well be.

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