Heavy Metal: The Little Fish in a Big Pond

Originally written for eccentricobserver.com.

Metal has always been an outsider’s pleasure. Its abrasive tones and unconventional structure are more than often overwhelming for the passive listener.

One needs to look no further than to note the sheer volume of Toronto’s Top 40 “hit music” radio stations that accompany us on our morning commutes versus metal-oriented stations to understand the degree of separation from popular culture – there are none.  One might wonder why, in a city as diverse and electric as Toronto, has this time-tested genre yet to find a home in our airwaves?

Mike Simpson, host of CIUT 89.5’s “Super Heavy Sounds”, a weekly radio program that examines metal and other divergent genres said, “The easy answer would be that heavy music just doesn’t have as broad of an appeal as other formats.”

“Stations base their format on what the public will listen to, since that affects the station’s ratings and in turn, the revenue they generate through selling ad space,” he said. “It would appear that within that world, music formats like Top 40 and Rock/Indie attract the best audience, especially in the modern climate, where people split their attention between traditional radio, XM, online radio and podcasts, not to mention various forms of video that also act as sources for the music consumer.”

Mike enjoys some metal at home.

Simpson continued, “Within that very competitive climate, heavy music can play an influence in the programming of a station, but it’s doubtful it would be the dominant sound of a station.”

Twenty-two-year-old Jared Schaeffer, a web design student at Humber College and avid metal fan, said that fans of heavy metal are forced to take to the Internet for their fix of new and exciting music. “It’s just too harsh. It’s harsh, and it requires you to be patient with it if you want to get it. Most people just don’t want to do that, so people like us just have to find the stuff we like online.”

For the time being, it seems that metal fans may have to fight for their representation on Toronto’s radio waves.