How DJs at CJLO 1690AM navigate tangible Music

A talk with CJLO’s music director about the radio station’s airing process.

As Concordia’s one and only radio station, CJLO 1690 AM’s team needs to stay up to date with the emergence of new music to air while continuously cataloging incoming music. As conveyed on their website, over 80 DJs spin through various music genres and  CJLO has been streaming seven days a week from early 2003. Their tower and transmitter can be heard as far as Ottawa and Burlington, Vermont. This means that the station’s crew ought to not only constantly broadcast but also take into account their large number of listeners to successfully run a radio station in 2023. 

CJLO’s head music director, Lisa Rupnik, shares a typical day in the life at the station and what the DJs encounter and need to consider when airing music these days. Her job mainly consists of tracking what DJs play on their shows and translating that information into their weekly music charts. In her day to day, she is also in correspondence with record label representatives and radio promoters who keep her up to date on all the latest releases. This allows her to ensure their playlists are suitable for listeners and offer novelty. 

After receiving recommendations, Rupnik curates what gets added to the station’s digital library based on their DJs’ tastes and interests. After the digital side is taken care of, she explains that the next step is to oversee the physical media collection and coordinate volunteers to help with music library projects. 

Rupnik validates that the majority of the DJs at CJLO stream music for their show exclusively. With the decline of tangible music like CDs and vinyls at the station, she says some DJs make an extra effort to play physical media, but it is generally just for fun and doesn’t actually make any noticeable difference to listeners at home. 

Their in-house music library holds hundreds of physical media and is part of their permanent collection that has been going strong since CJLO’s start 25 years ago. As music director, Rupnik continues to add physical submissions to their library, which she receives from promoters. 

“We value keeping CDs and vinyls to keep a tangible archive of music trends over the years,” Rupnik says. “The fact that CDs and vinyls are rarer these days encourages us to keep and maintain a quality collection.” 

As a core member of the CJLO team, Lisa can tell when a release is really exciting, as the singles take the radio by storm long before an actual album is released. For example, the latest Slowdive album, Everything Is Alive, was just released on September 1, but CJLO’s DJs had already been spinning the singles since June.

That being said, a lot of other DJs will play artists on their show whose entire discography consists of singles. These artists are often found on TikTok, YouTube, SoundCloud and even Bandcamp. Rupnik agrees with this support: “It’s great that DJs are supporting these artists as some of them are totally DIY, although you should take into consideration that the “singles only” trend happens amongst both indie and major artists.”

Concordia’s on-campus radio station is then far from vanishing collectible pieces of media but does keep a close eye on taking the extra effort to sustain their library and encouraging DJs in engaging with more tangibility in music. 


Techno and house with a Montreal touch

Marbré is ready to take over the city’s electronic music scene

At the end of a corridor, mimicking the atmosphere of the Paris catacombs, lasers are skimming through the room, creating an atmosphere blending visuals and sound draped in blue light. While Jean, also known under his stage name Salem, is behind the turntables for his first set, other members of Marbré are getting ready to take over the set until 3 a.m.

But before becoming a music collective, these young men were primarily a group of friends. Hector, Jean, Pierre, Benjamin, Jules, Simons, Lucas, Ezer, and Nico, who wish to remain anonymous as part of their collective image, all share a passion for electronic music that pushed them to form Marbré in September of 2019.

The eight McGill students created Marbré with the main goal being to democratize all aspects of electronic music through their passion for mixing. “We are on a large spectrum of electronic music; listening to different styles,” said Jean, who is in charge of communications. “We can give the people a taste of all the other genres that exist.”

“That’s what we are trying to do in our sets, to transfer from techno, to tech-house, to deep-house,” said Lucas, the graphic designer of the collective. “To gather as many genres as possible.” They demystify what is happening behind the turntables and shed light on the creative process behind DJing.

The collective found a frenetic audience at both of their house-style shows that promises them a bright future. “We have to learn how to control the energy we get as this project begins,” said Nico, one of Marbré’s DJs. “The hype that we got from the night at the Belmont was not expected.”

Yet, the success of their performances does not seem to trouble the members of Marbré. “We need to stay in contact with reality, keep our feet on the ground, our hands on the plates,” said Lucas, with a laugh.

On Jan. 23 at the Velvet-Auberge St-Gabriel, Marbré had their first show as La Marbre, the name used to distinguish their techno performances. “The idea was to develop something that was more tech,” said Hector. “To continue the big house events that everyone loves but also to develop a more techno branch—something deeper.”

La Marbre will also allow them to incorporate visuals and VJing, starting with the lasers at the Velvet, which is more adapted to techno music.

Electronic music has a whole community, mostly based on SoundCloud, who come together to “dig” and share their favourite tracks. Artists dig tracks that they intend to analyze up to the last beat to use them during their performances.

“Mixing is about knowing your tracks,” said Pierre, another of the group’s DJs. “You have to listen to a track again and again to know what comes next. If you had cut the treble when a voice comes in, you’re fucked!”

According to all the members of the collective, this aspect of DJing is crucial to a set: they all talk about their hours of digging to find the “gem,” as they call it.

“Groups like Chasse et Pêche, Kizi Garden and Turning Point paved the way for us,” Pierre said. “Here in Montreal, we can really do whatever we want. There is a saturation in larger markets that makes it more professional.” The scene allows them to express their diverse style and have complete freedom in their sets.

Their upcoming performance on Feb.13 will be the next chapter of La Marbre at the Velvet, further exploring the darker musical side of the collective.     


Photo courtesy of Ezer Berdugo

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