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Chopping choruses: Calgary radio station promises more music with edited songs

CALGARY - Want to listen to a shorter tune by Justin Timberlake? Or maybe a cut-down version of Katy Perry's latest hit?

An Alberta radio station is promising listeners "twice the music" by cutting all of its song times in half, to an average of two minutes.

The station, 90.3 Amp (CKMP) in Calgary, changed to a format called QuickHitz one week ago.

Its owner, Newcap Radio, describes the switch as a first for a radio station in Canada and perhaps the world.

Steve Jones, vice-president of programming for the company, said Friday that a few stations in the United States have adopted the short song strategy part-time trial. But the Calgary station is the first he knows of that has made the move permanently, around-the-clock.

The company spent two years analysing behaviour of its radio listeners, Jones said. It found that people's attention spans have changed when it comes to music and they often listen to portions of songs or fast-forward through tunes on their iPods.

"The idea of three-and-a-half- and four-minute songs goes back to the 50s and 60s and the need to be on a 45 RPM record, to be in juke boxes and on the radio," said Jones.

So he said Newcap decided to scrap the established formula and try something new.

"There's been a lot of excitement about the idea that you can listen to a radio station for 15 minutes and hear six or seven or eight songs and feel that sense of momentum and energy."

A company in Vancouver, SparkNet Communications, supplies the QuickHitz sliced songs to the Calgary station. Jones said professional music producers take out long intros and repeated choruses, and make the shorter versions sound seamless.

He said the Calgary station was selected because it's in a tight top 40 market in a city that's relatively young and progressive.

Some of the company's other 89 stations may someday adopt the same format, he said, depending on their audience.

He admits the mini music move isn't for everyone, and that the Calgary station has received both good and bad reaction.

"We're very comfortable with not everyone liking the radio station. That's to be expected."

Calgary singer Jann Arden vented on Twitter that the station is basically messing with art and, amid expletives, called the people running it "morons."

"Can anyone recommend half a good book I should read?" she wrote.

"The NHL is only having one period this season. Makes sense. Those games are just too long."

Jones said editing songs for radio play has been done for decades. For instance, he said, Don McLean's classic American Pie was cut to four minutes from 7.5 so it could be played on air.

"This idea that somehow music is sacred and should never be tampered with is ludicrous."

He said no other artists or record labels have complained about the editing.

And the Calgary station doesn't play Jann Arden.

"That has nothing to do with the fact that she's taken to the Internet in a rage of hatred against us," Jones said. "It really is the fact that her music isn't suited to the format and hasn't been for decades."

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