TORONTO – Toronto’s newest radio station Indie 88 is days away from its official launch but it’s already on a (Rick) roll with listeners.
The upstart indie-rock-focused station has a week to test its signal and has decided to do so by spinning the same song over and over and over: Rick Astley’s 1987 blue-eyed soul-pop tune “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
Of course, that song achieved Internet immortality years ago with the “Rickrolling” meme, in which pranksters send unwitting victims misleading links that, in fact, direct them to the tune’s dated music video.
“It’s one of those jokes we think is timeless,” said Indie 88’s general manager Megan Bingley in a telephone interview Friday. “A lot of people have been very surprised and much like online, they have been tuning into the radio station and have been Rickrolled again and again and again.”
The broadcast test period is required so regulatory bodies can monitor the fledgling station’s signal and ensure it’s not interfering with anything nearby on the dial.
There are no rules for what a station should play during this trial period, so Bingley and her staff thought a practical joke would be a good way to introduce the new station to the city.
It’s won the soon-to-launch station much free publicity, with amused bloggers and mainstream media outlets alike posting stories about the stunt while listeners chatter about it on Twitter.
“There’s been a lot of positive feedback, a little bit of confusion as well, which is obviously part of the joke,” Bingley said, noting that 88.1 had been one of the only unoccupied frequencies in the city, and thus was used by some to connect their iPods in the car.
“So when we switched on the transmitter, they got a little bit of a surprise and have been tweeting about it.”
Bingley says she and her staff have been listening to their own station — and thus Astley’s song — around the clock.
“You would have thought that it’s something you would get bored of, but it is such a fun song and literally every time I go into my car it starts playing, it makes me smile and laugh a little bit,” she said.
When the station officially launches July 31 at noon, they’ll focus on a mix of homegrown and international indie acts, with a playlist that includes the likes of Arcade Fire, Metric, Feist, Purity Ring, Young Galaxy, the Pixies, Born Ruffians, Beck, Dinosaur Bones and Radiohead. Bingley says the station is encouraging listeners to help shape their playlist, so they’re soliciting feedback online.
Once the station finds its regular groove, does that mean it’s destined to give up Astley’s cult classic song?
“I think he’ll always have a special place in our hearts, but I’m not sure he would necessarily receive any sort of radio airplay,” Bingley replies with a laugh.