Senior HTF Member
- Jul 3, 1997
- Real Name
- Ronald Epstein
Listening to SiriusXM radio has been like living in a music prison where one is being punished for subscribing to their service rather than being rewarded. The company has become a monopoly in satellite radio delivery and as such, has no reason to attempt to even compete with anyone else, including FM radio.
I have been a satellite radio subscriber for 14 years now. I was one of the initial subscribers of XM RADIO when it first launched. It was a remarkable satellite radio company who truly wanted to make music fresh again for those willing to subscribe. XM RADIO executives encouraged online music DJs and programmers to be original, break out of the mold, and avoid the daily repetition of playing just the "hits." In addition, the sound that emanated from car stereo speakers was nearly CD-QUALITY.
However, in 2007 all that was about to dramatically change when XM merged with a company called SIRIUS. SIRIUS had been in existence for almost as long as XM, but most people who knew music didn't look at them as a big competitor. SIRIUS had a dramatically different attitude towards the music it played. SIRIUS thrived on limited playlists, playing the same familiar songs over and over again. Their philosophy was that satellite radio was only heard during short commutes and as such, only the most recognizable hits would be played. Additionally, with limited bandwidth at its fingertips, upon its merger with XM RADIO, the newly formed SIRIUSXM decided to add more than 200 channels in their core service that would reduce overall sound quality to its end listener. If you have listened to SIRIUSXM on a very good car or home stereo system, you probably have noticed how hollow and tinny it sounds. It is estimated that music is broadcast at a mere 31-33kbps. To give you something to compare that to, most reputable online music download services offer 256-360kbps. For SIRIUSXM to offer an eighth of that quality in its music delivery should indicate just how awful it sounds compared to CD music.
If you really want to know how disgustingly awful SIRIUSXM is, you should be forced to listen to it 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. This is the predicament I find myself in. I work in a warehouse setting. Its concrete walls inhibit any kind of FM reception. In order to provide constant music to our workplace, we stuck a satellite antenna outside one of our windows. For the past two years, SIRIUSXM has been our only source of daily music while we work.
Sometimes I wonder what is more of a chore -- the actual work that all of us do in our warehouse, or having to listen to SIRIUSXM radio. Every single day, the same selection of music is repeated over and over again across every single channel. We have exhausted listening to most all of their music channels, only for the fact that within a week, we are extremely bored by the repetition. We attempt to find a new music channel, and once again quickly find ourselves fatigued. We find ourselves listening to a single channel for a day, only to return it to it months later, to hear the same short list of songs being played.
I did some quick research to find out what a SIRIUSXM radio programmer makes in salary. It's about $25k per year. That's little enough to make one hate their job and it absolutely shows. These music programmers, either by lack of self-interest or directives from their bosses, have an absence of drive or imagination. It seems they load about 100 songs into a computer playlist and let it execute in an endless loop.
As an example, let me start with one of my most listened to channels, TOTALLY 70s. It basically sticks to the same top-charting hits, only diverting away once in awhile to anomalies from that era in a feature called "Jukebox of Dy-no-mite." Rarely will you a hear a song that will make you think, "gee, I haven't heard that one in awhile." There are some songs that never get played on that channel. While I realize "Stoney End" by Barbara Streisand or "All I know" by Art Garfunkel may not be chart-toppers --- they still represent the music of that era and should get equal play. There's no reason I have to hear "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees every single day just because it charted higher. The only time, in fact, that one gets to hear lesser-known hits is during the weekly broadcast of Casey Kasem's American Top 40. It's the only airplay on that channel that seems "fresh."
This past year, SIRIUSXM introduced two new noteworthy channels, The Beatles, and Pop Rocks. On paper, these both seemed like outstanding additions to the line-up.
Listening to The Beatles channel this very week, my co-workers commented on just how many Beatles songs are NOT played each hour. While I don't mind the channel playing solo hits by the Fab Four, they muddle the selection of music by playing songs that inspired the group. In addition, they add cover songs by other artists. One might think this is all well and good, offering a wider variety of music to the channel. Truth be, it just means fewer songs by THE BEATLES are actually being played, and when they are, it's the same limited selection over and over again. To their credit, there is some original programming offered on that channel that plays deeper cuts, but as with the overall music being played itself, it is also limited.
Things get even worse when listening to POP ROCKS, a channel that celebrates rock music of the 90s and 2000 era. If ever a channel stuck to limited playlists, this is the one. It literally plays the same hundred songs over and over again each day. Sometimes, it will play the same song (such as Thunder and Lightning by Imagine Dragons) twice in an 8-hour span. In our workplace, this has become one of the channels we have voted to ban due to the fact that our ears have become completely fatigued from its daily repetition.
This is what happens when you are the only satellite music delivery service in town. When you become a monopoly, you don't have to worry about competing. You can be that lazy, unimaginative program director who loads a hundred songs into each of its channels and keeps it on auto-play all year long.
Here's the biggest kicker of all....
Every year or two, SIRIUSXM raises their subscription rates under the guise of "higher music royalty costs." What that means is that the service is hiking up the price of their music when they are only offering you a limited selection of it. I absolutely refuse to play full price for a limited selection of music and I often have to resort to deals to keep my subscription active.
THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE
These days, when sitting at home, I find myself listening to Internet streamed radio. There is a huge radio service out there called DASH RADIO, and I have to tell you, it's the best thing to happen to radio since FM. It's curated by people who understand music and want to free its listening audience from the repetition of FM and satellite. They even offer a Cinescore channel that plays movie soundtracks -- something which SIRIUSXM pulled off its line-up years back.
I have been listening to their 70s channel for months. There isn't a day that goes by that I hear something I haven't heard in years. Many times, I'll hear a deep album cut by Chicago or America that never gets airplay on the radio, but was actually a hit that charted on Billboard. The music is presented commercial-free and without DJs spouting senseless banter all over the music. In short, DASH RADIO is a true music delivery service for the music-minded individual. Best of all, it's absolutely FREE and available on any desktop or mobile device. It also sounds terrific on my Sonos Play:5 speakers.
Of course, the biggest downside to DASH RADIO is the fact that unless you are using your phone's data to stream it, there is no way to play it on your car radio.
The sooner this country can come together to offer nationwide WiFi service, the sooner car manufacturers can offer Internet radio in their automobiles and the sooner we can all be listening to better music services like DASH RADIO. It's the kind of competition we need out there to entice SIRIUSXM to stray away from its "Paid FM" platform and offer a better variety of music to its listeners.