MusiquePlus MuchMusic TikTok

MuchMusic made a comeback on TikTok today. Is MusiquePlus next?

We spoke to former staff of Quebec’s music TV station about what made MusiquePlus great and how to flex those strengths with a new audience.

Before it became all about old Simpsons reruns, MuchMusic was a Canadian cultural juggernaut. For many years after launching in 1984, the channel served as a go-to resource for discovering new music, watching music videos and seeing your favourite artists be interviewed in-depth. 

Following Bell Media’s purchase of MuchMusic, the “Music” half of the name was removed in 2013, and its music programming steadily decreased — largely due to layoffs and budget constraints.

MuchMusic is back, on TikTok

The MuchMusic brand was revived today on TikTok. But what about its one-time French-language sister station?

Two years after MuchMusic’s inception, its French-language equivalent, MusiquePlus, was launched by CHUM Limited in collaboration with Montreal broadcaster Radiomutuel, which later became Astral Media (now owned by Bell Media). Initially taped from a studio on St-Laurent Blvd., MusiquePlus would eventually set up shop on the corner of Ste-Catherine and Bleury.

The channel acted as a launchpad for the careers of various Québécois(e) celebrities, including Véronique Cloutier, Anne-Marie Withenshaw, Denis Talbot, Louis-José Houde, Sonia Benezra and Claude Rajotte. Not only was MusiquePlus a vessel for Quebec-based artists to increase their exposure and promote their music to young viewers, it was delivered via the channel’s crop of engaging, relatable on-air personalities.

On June 10, Bell Media announced plans to revive MuchMusic via TikTok, with a focus on “creator-driven content” aimed at younger Millennials and Gen Zers. The revival is expected to launch July 7, and will also relaunch old MuchMusic shows like Intimate and Interactive and Video on Trial

From a business and user engagement standpoint, this approach makes a great deal of sense: TikTok was last year’s most downloaded mobile app, and the Chinese video sharing platform has established itself as a platform for elevating the careers of many artists—namely Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat, and Lil Nas X.

However, Bell’s announcement has not come without controversy. In late April, former MuchMusic staple Ed the Sock successfully crowdfunded his own online music channel, New Music Nation. This channel aims to be “an online multi-platform interactive channel with the energy of classic MuchMusic, featuring new VJs from across the country and a focus on unsigned and independent Canadian musical artists.” The infamous sock puppet took to Twitter shortly after the announcement, accusing Bell of stealing his idea.

Ed the Sock crowd-funded New Music Nation

With both of these MuchMusic revival efforts in mind, would a MusiquePlus comeback of any kind resonate with Quebecers in 2021? For longtime MusiquePlus VJ Chéli Sauvé-Castonguay, the answer depends on how much of it would be guided by the channel’s old philosophy.

“It would have to go back to its ultimate roots, at a time when it was a creator of original, irreverent television,” she says, adding that it was also a time where the channel was “less worried about numbers and raking in money, and more concerned about having fun, thus attracting viewers.” The VJs themselves would also not have teleprompters to feed them their lines, nor would they have stylists or makeup artists available to them.

Sauvé-Castonguay also sees a MusiquePlus comeback possibly balancing all-new content with classic shows from the channel’s heyday — though it may be difficult to provide viewers with in-depth looks at artists, with modern attention spans increasingly shrinking.

“We used to have certain episodes where we’d do half-hour interviews with a band. Unfortunately, I don’t think that can exist anymore,” she adds. “It’s very sad that we can’t go deeply into a conversation with an artist, because we’re afraid to lose the viewer’s attention.”

Despite MusiquePlus’s presence at the forefront of music and pop culture in Quebec, the channel lost that identity over time — similar to the demise of both MuchMusic and MTV. Music videos would gradually fall to the wayside, in favour of both American and domestically produced reality TV shows. 

As YouTube and social media both grew in popularity, the channel found itself needing to adapt their programming toward whichever shows would draw in the highest ratings. Additionally, Bell Media — who had purchased MusiquePlus’s prior parent company, Astral Media — would sell the channel to Groupe V Média (now Remstar Media Group).

MusiquePlus was founded in 1986

With its programming becoming less music-focused over time, MusiquePlus officially ceased to exist in any form by 2019. It has since rebranded as Elle Fictions, an Elle magazine-licensed specialty channel geared toward young adult women. Regardless, there remains a sense of nostalgia among Quebecers for homegrown music from decades past, as well as for what the channel represented.

“They’re nostalgic about the sense of community, and the fact that you’d finish school and there was no question that you’d turn on MusiquePlus when you got home,” says Fred Bastien, who competed on the channel’s VJ search competition VJ recherché in late 2009, while still completing his undergrad degree in communications at UQAM. “It was the YouTube or Facebook of an era. I think people are more nostalgic about their own youth than specific pieces of content from back then.”

Bastien finished the competition as a runner-up, but the channel still hired him afterwards. He would work at MusiquePlus for eight years, largely as a “MoJo” (Mobile Journalist) working on content for their website. Now with a YouTube channel boasting nearly 35,000 subscribers, Bastien occasionally jokes that MusiquePlus still exists, but that it’s essentially changed its name to YouTube.

“It’s what made MusiquePlus famous: people who don’t really care about the technical stuff, but who speak from their hearts,” he says. “People who are not necessarily trained to be in front of a camera, but who have a passion for the subject. They can cater to an audience that has the same passion. MusiquePlus and YouTube bear a lot of resemblance on that front.”


Some of the most popular programs in MusiquePlus’s history include Le cimetière des CD123 Punk!M.NetLe Groulx Luxe and Dollaraclip. The channel was also well-known for their French-language editions of MuchMusic programs, such as Plus sur commande (MuchOnDemand) and Combat des clips (Combat Zone) — even borrowing Much’s logos and branding with French text. MuchMusic itself also occasionally highlighted French-language music during a half-hour show, French Kiss, typically broadcast on weekday mornings.

With all of this in mind, as well as the music video landscape being centred largely around YouTube and Vevo, a MusiquePlus revival — via TikTok or otherwise — arguably has two main options for content. One would involve new, fresh-faced VJs and an emphasis on modern pop culture and musical trends, and another would focus on nostalgia for old MusiquePlus content and Québécois(e) music from decades past, catering to older generations of Quebecers who grew up watching the channel.

Eric Cohen — who worked at MusiquePlus in various roles behind the scenes, including as floor director and assistant to the channel’s main producers — suggests bringing back old VJs like Sauvé-Castonguay, Isabelle Desjardins and Geneviève Borne, to show viewers the course their lives and careers have taken since their time with the channel.

“These were kids who got this dream job,” he says. “How do you take that dream job and apply it to life?… I think a lot of the history should play into the new version of it. It should absolutely be called MusiquePlus. We should own the fact that this was something unique.”

The channel’s French-language identity also seemingly helped it get away with certain things English channels might not. One such example is when Anne-Marie Withenshaw interviewed Blur, only for Damon Albarn to be disrespectful in response to her questions — whether by not answering them, or putting the microphone in his mouth. Once she finished asking questions in English, she’d switch to French to translate for viewers (common practice on MusiquePlus during interviews with non-French speaking artists), all while letting them know how she truly felt about his lack of cooperation.

“She had the wherewithal to be nice and polite with them in English, and then turn to the camera and go to town on how rude they were being,” Cohen says. “But [the members of Blur] didn’t understand at all what she was saying… You wouldn’t get that at Much, because people would be too afraid of getting in trouble. That exemplifies the kind of edge MusiquePlus had.”

For Bastien, MusiquePlus’s role in Quebec’s music culture has left a void in the sense that it is more difficult for homegrown artists to earn the kind of money they’d make when their video was being shown on the channel. This includes veteran francophone rap acts such as Muzion, Imposs and Yvon Krevé.

“[These artists] were not getting radio play. They were being shunned by the industry for tons of reasons, probably including systemic racism,” he says. “MusiquePlus opened the door to them, their music videos were being played, they got paid and they were able to make more music from these funds.”

Having worked at MusiquePlus from 2002 to 2015, Sauvé-Castonguay admits that it was a job she wasn’t keen on outgrowing. “I think everybody who worked at MusiquePlus always says that we have it tattooed on our hearts,” she says, later describing those working for the channel as the “misfits” of the television world. “There’s just something special about that place. Even now, I still dream about it!”

Claude Rajotte found myriad ways to destroy physical copies of terrible albums on Cimitiere des CDs.

When asked what she’s proudest of accomplishing while working at MusiquePlus, she praises the channel’s innovative camera work, as well as its openness to doing whatever they wanted without being concerned about censorship.

“On the VJ side, we got to do what we wanted, and talk about who we wanted,” she adds. “We could bring to the table artists that we pushed for, because we enjoyed them and the people behind the scenes would listen to us… There was no hierarchy. It was like a big classroom.”

As far as a comeback goes, Cohen believes that now is the “exact right moment” for MusiquePlus to make one, given both the public’s thirst for nostalgia and the continued popularity of TikTok. 

“I do think that a multi-platform experience would be best,” he adds. “You could have it on TV, but have people be able to react with each other on TikTok. Maybe that’s the combination. I just think it’s time for us to take that power back.”

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.