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Alan Cross launches online show about music

Where many observers look at the music industry and see a crisis, Alan Cross sees an opportunity.

Where many observers look at the music industry and see a crisis, Alan Cross sees an opportunity.

The nationally syndicated radio host is launching a new cross-platform music talk show next week, and he says there has never been a better time for such a project.

"Everybody loves music - interest in music has never been greater than it is now," Cross said recently from his Toronto office. "What's different is that people are consuming music differently. They're not buying it the way they used to, or certainly not in the forms they used to."

And so Cross is experimenting with a form he's not quite used to - the Internet. After nearly three decades on Canadian radio, Cross's fluid voice and encyclopedic knowledge of rock music has made him a mainstay on dials from coast to coast with his show "The Ongoing History of New Music."

Now, Cross is debuting "ExploreMusic With Alan Cross," which will be televised on cable channel BiteTV on Monday and then available online at Toronto-based Aux.tv beginning Feb. 3.

He describes the show as a roundtable discussion program about the issues of the day in music. His co-host will be Jeff Woods, the former program director of Toronto classic rock station Q107, and the show will feature two rotating panellists, who could be artists, musical entrepreneurs, industry executives or journalists.

"What we want to do is replicate the kind of conversation that everybody has at least a couple times a week," Cross said. "You get a bunch of friends together over beers and pizza or whatever, and you sit around and you talk and argue about music."

This is an idea that Cross has been incubating for years. He observed the proliferation of sports and news talk shows on radio and television and wanted to create something similar for music fans to discuss the industry.

He says he's thrilled at the possibilities.

"To my knowledge, at this level, it's never been done before," he said. "The problem is that there's so much we can do with the show, and we will eventually evolve this into something much grander than what we begin with. Once we realize what we can do and once we realize what the audience wants us to do, then we can start tailoring things.

"And that's why I'm so excited about it. Because the concept is so simple, but where we can take this concept is unlimited."

Cross talks about possibly making the show available in some form on cellphones and other handheld devices, citing the public's demand for immediate information.

"It's the Star Trek Triquarter: I want to get whatever I want, whenever I want it, wherever I happen to be, and we want to be part of that mix," he said.

Most of all, Cross says he's enthusiastic about the prospect of establishing a running discourse with his audience.

"Most of the dialogue with critical discussion about music is one-way," he said. "You read about it but you never get to rebut. You hear it maybe from a guy on the radio, or you see it on TV, but you never get a chance to rebut.

"It comes from Pitchfork Media, Rolling Stone, Spin, Blender, Alternative Press."

And, of course, it comes from Cross himself. Originally from Stonewall, Man., he has written four books on rock and remains one of the pillars of music criticism in the country.

"He's like the Canadian John Peel," said Alexisonfire singer George Pettit, referring to the legendary BBC DJ. "You can tell he's someone who knows a lot about music, and he's kind of a kindred spirit."

Pettit has already launched a show on Aux called "Strange Notes," in which he profiles other artists, including the Cancer Bats and Rise Against.

He has his own Cross memories. Pettit recalls listening to him on the radio during a flight and hearing a familiar tune.

"He played an Alexisonfire track and I just thought that was really cool," Pettit said. "He's got a really nice radio voice too, and when you hear a nice DJ say your band name, it makes you feel a little funny in your tummy."

Cross, meanwhile, says he remains deeply passionate about his work. His long, light brown hair and youthful face belie the 29 years he's worked in radio.

"Once you get into this (business), it's like an addiction, and you always have to feed it - and I don't see it stopping," he said, eagerly tossing off recommendations for young bands he likes - an Irish group called Fight Like Apes and a British art-pop outfit named Florence and the Machine.

"But it's my job. How bad is that? My job is to keep on top of all the cool new music that's coming out in the world of rock. People send me CDs and files, and I get to go shopping.

"I get to deduct CDs as a business expense - I mean, c'mon!"

 
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