Another Graveside Attraction at the CBC

Red faces all ‘round at CBC News as it slowly sinks in that the sharp marketers behind the Tragically Hip played them fully, completely.

As reported by the Corpse earlier this week, Gord Downie, the band’s lead singer, has terminal brain cancer. Downie was diagnosed in December and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Frank was as saddened as the next Hip fan (a fat drunk in a ball cap, as it happened) by the heartbreaking news. By all accounts, Downie’s a sweetheart, an uncommonly good shit in a shit business.

Alas, the same can’t be said of the Hip’s management. Sure, they were also grief stricken by Downie’s diagnosis, but, hey, the show must go on. When life hands you incurable lemons, etc, etc.

So sitting around the boardroom last winter, they came up with a marketing strategy to cash in on Gord’s brain tumour.

Playing it like any other product launch, they offered CBC News the “exclusive” rights to break the news of Downie’s condition, and CBC News eagerly went along for the ride.

After weeks of planning, Hip management choreographed the story to break on their social media pages at 6am, May 24, as it aired simultaneously on CBC Radio News.

Downie was the lead story on the national newscasts at 7am and 8 am, ahead of Justin Trudeau’s Japan trip.

By 10am CBC was at full gallop, with four (count ‘em!) different Hip stories “above the fold” of the CBC Toronto website. The Corpse even assigned a News Network producer for the entire day to coordinate the Hip desk.

Tickets for the last-grasp farewell tour, efficiently enough, went on sale the next day.

Meanwhile, the usual social media bathwater backwash helped drive the hype, according to the CBC’s bril’ Twitter formula: Broadcast the story, everyone gets upset, then follow with a story about how the Twitterverse reacts to the upsetting story we just told ’em.

It worked. Within two days, the Downie cancer story had nearly 38,000 shares on the Corpse website.

Thanks in no small part to the CBC push, over 1.7 thousand commenters flocked to the Hip’s Facebook page, the tour is fast selling out and pre-orders are pouring in for the new album, Man Machine Poem, to be released next month.

Mission accomplished by The Hip/CBC publicity campaign.

Too bad the group’s exploitive marketing hacks (and presumably some of the band members) didn’t take their cues from David Bowie.

The English singer died Jan. 10, two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his album Blackstar, from liver cancer.

He had been diagnosed 18 months earlier but kept the news private. Even the musicians who played on Blackstar were unaware of his illness.

There was no tour, no publicity campaign, no Twitter promotion – and no CBC.


  1. Gag! The entire media complement went way over the top with this admittedly sad story, but frankly (no pun) I’m sick of hearing about it and I won’t be attending any of the concerts. Whadda bitch!

  2. I recall being inundated that morning with what Frank has now confirmed was an exercise in CBC/Gordon Downie Stage Four Wankery. It’s your brand buddy, own it.

    Here’s the verbatim transcript of an email I sent to a dear friend at 10:33am that morning:

    “The Gordon Downie Tragically Hip ‘Sympathy for the Opportunist’ Tour 2016 & Cross-Country Check-Up w/ Rex…whoops! Wrong kind of check-up! The man wants to live, not die of Sunday afternoon boredom!
    Listening to CBC Metro Morning earlier.
    This story is all over CBC Radio and CBC Newsworld today
    Or whatever the fack they are calling themselves this week.
    I don’t get why someone getting a brain tumour is news.
    Yes, it’s unfortunate, but that is life.
    So it’s news?
    Big news.
    They’re having this phone/Tweet-in thing on Metro Morning
    Songs for Gord or some stupid bullshit.
    The media is so maudlin.
    It’s so annoying to listen to these radio talking heads discuss music because they are such jack-of-all-know-nothings-via-Google. Opinions that are clueless.
    Every time someone famous dies it’s a mass-media regurgitation of past news bits (Prince / Bowie / Winehouse etc) and uninformed opining gleaned from the Al Gore interwebs.
    Maybe it’s because I am not a huge fan of their music I find this all so off-putting.
    I think they’ve done some good stuff (New Orleans) but are seriously over-rated.
    Personal opinion, ‘de gustibus non est disputandum’ etc. yada yada.
    I just find it maudlin and cloying.
    The coverage.
    There’s a press conference at 11:00 this morning at Sunnybrook Hospital and they’ve sent reporter Charlsie Agro!
    Just me?
    The first thing I thought of was, “Wow, would they be trumpeting this news so hard of this was Chad Kroeger?”
    Not bloody likely!
    It would be triple-trebles all ‘round ad infinitum in perpetuity!
    CBC and their annoying/gratuitous/un-informed coverage.
    They are the worst for this shit if there’s not some other story they’re hammering to scare or bore the shit out of their listeners/viewers.
    Masters of the story-non-story.
    Sorry. Not sorry.
    ANNNNND… a GIGANTIC VAT OF CUT-EYE and a permanently raised brow to Downie and Co. announcing a tour along with the brain tumour report!!!
    That smells a tad ripe to moi!
    Is it gratuitous to even throw shade at the poor guy since he’s been advised he is terminal?
    Not my intention here at all.
    It’s the fucking optics of the tour announcement coinciding w/ the illness report.
    And they suck, generally. 🙂


  3. When this supposed news story led CBC radio news again and again my thought was that it showed how inbred and amateurish CBC is. Insipid dorks covering insipid dorks. Naïve me. It was all an infomercial.

  4. Tragically Hip Catalogue Rebounds, Online Petition Seeks To Have Gord Downie Named To Order Of Canada:

    “In the wake of the grim news last week that Tragically Hip frontman and lyricist Gord Downie has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and his plans to tour with the band, sales of the band’s catalogue of albums and singles have skyrocketed.

    “According to Nielsen Canada SoundScan data, album sales for the band went from 340 last week to over 5,000 in the week, with their ’05 best-of album Yer Favourites re-entering the Billboard Canadian Albums consumption chart at #6 with 4,500 units.”


  5. Don’t know why the man is going along with it? Have they kidnapped his dog?

  6. I am so naive! I couldn’t understand why CBC Toronto TV news spent the first 12 minutes of the broadcast on this, especially since The Hip is really a cult band and the guy hadn’t even died yet. Thank you, Frank.

  7. It turns out that scalpers…I mean..”re-sellers” are making a fortune off this tour..

    • Cha-ching!

      Scalpers and the ticket agency, which is holding tickets back for its higher-priced premium service.
      “But fans cried foul when they found no tickets available for some shows on Ticketmaster within MINUTES— even though tickets were already being resold on StubHub.
      In Vancouver, for example, at 11 a.m. PT, all the Ticketmaster tickets for the July 24 show were gone, but nearly 100 floor seats were being offered on StubHub for between $237 and $2,799 US per ticket.
      The original prices were between $116 and $166 Cdn for the same seats, according to Ticketmaster’s website.”
      Meanwhile the CBC says “Ontario attorney general might investigate Tragically Hip ticket sales”

      And so the story goes, and recycles, and goes on all summer.

  8. There’s no pink ribbin’ campaign at StubHub! They’re not runnin’ a charity yannow! What’s next? The Ticketmaster Chemotherapy Suite at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre?

    This is exactly the kind of kick in the goolies one SHOULD expect from the seriously unhip Downie and Co., a band so niche that when you look up ‘CanCon Schrapnel’ in the Merriam-Webster, there’s a picture of them with Avril Lavigne and Celine Dion.

  9. “Fans getting ‘fleeced’ in scoring Tragically Hip tickets, experts say” CTV News Wednesday, June 1, 2016 4:28PM EDT.

  10. “The CBC will broadcast live the final stop of The Tragically Hip’s upcoming tour, which ends in Kingston, Ont.
    CBC television, radio and online platforms will carry the concert on Aug. 20, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.”

    Wow! 5:30 Pacific Time. Will they be back from the beach by then
    Is there something else that is better to do on a Saturday night in Kingston, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Victoria?

    All 5 channels including several CBC music streams eh? What if the internet blows up?

  11. Sad news, but CBC didn’t have to broadcast Gord giving Justin a handie in the middle of the show.

  12. Piya Chattopadhyay ?@piya 1d1 day ago
    Gotta say I’m proud of (y)our public broadcaster and you should be too. #CBCTheHip
    133 retweets 320 likes

    Piya Chattopadhyay @piya 1d1 day ago
    120 thousand people steaming @thehipdotcom on #CBCTheHip. countries incl: Trinidad/tabago, Kuwait, Laos,Bangladesh,Philippines, India.

    Mrs Piya (Peter, CBC-Business-CBCNewNetwork) Armstrong
    never uses spellcheck or cares, tweeting about her employer.

    “steaming”? “tabago”? (sic)

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