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SIRIUSXM: Still Lazy After All These Years

Discussion in 'Mobile Phones / Entertainment' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 7, 2018.

  1. 1 Feb 7, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
    Ronald Epstein

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    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
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    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.
     
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  2. RBailey

    RBailey Second Unit

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    Best channel on SiriusXM is Little Steven's Underground Garage...Hits, non-hits, album cuts and music from ALL eras. Most of the hosts (particularly Michael Des Barre in the morning) routinely gives song info on the producers and writers of the records. Have you checked it out on Channel 21?
     
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  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    John,

    That is one channel we have not listened to. How is the level of repetition on that channel? How long do you listen to it each day?
     
  4. RBailey

    RBailey Second Unit

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    I am amazed at how little repetition on the channel. Usually, Steven Van Zandt picks his "Coolest Song of the Week" which plays at least once during each of the hosts shifts. Past "Coolest Songs" get some repeat airings also get a few more frequent plays.
    Here's a recent post from Sean Ross and his "Ross on Radio" page with some sample playlists and more info on the channel.

    https://radioinsight.com/ross/122822/fresh-listen-sirius-xm-little-stevens-underground-garage/
     
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Perhaps, the difference, in this case, is that someone is actively monitoring this channel as opposed to the other channels.

    On the 60s on 6 channel, when there is actually a live DJ such as Pat St. John (who was a staple of NYC radio), the playlists are more carefully curated.

    Otherwise, it's very obvious that the playlists on the other channels are just simply loaded into a computer and run endlessly. If you do a Google search on SiriusXM repetition, you will see a plethora of complaints.

    Here are two popular stories:

    https://www.customchannels.net/for-businesses-is-music-repetition-too-high-on-siriusxm-satellite-radio/

    www.nepascene.com/2016/02/wildly-frustrated-premium-service-sirius-xm-feels-like-terrestrial-radio/

    Happy to hear that your favorite channel has not fallen victim to that.
     
  6. 6 Feb 7, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
    TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    The two Howard Stern channels are the biggest reason that I have Sirius. My other go-to channel is the great and above mentioned Little Steven's Underground Garage. I was basically too young to have heard rap in its infancy & early years but I love Backspin (channel 43) and Soul Town (channel 49) has a lot of stuff that I was pretty unfamiliar with but really enjoy. Other channels that I listen to are 50's On 5, 60's On 6, 70's On 7, Classic Vinyl (channel 26) and having been a teen in the 90's, Lithium (channel 34) has that era's rock music that is either good or nostalgic for me.
     
  7. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    This is the only reason why I keep Sirius radio in my car. I listen to Howard daily during my commute.

    I stay away from the music channels.

    Whoop-Whoop!
     
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  8. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    Hey now!
     
  9. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Road
    Trip
    Radio
     
  10. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    Every time I listen to satellite radio in my car during a free period, it sounds like crap due to the highly compressed music. I just cannot bring myself to pay for something that sounds like AM radio. I just have a 64GB flash drive in my car filled with my own music that I have on random play. Last summer my wife and I took a long road trip from Michigan to Maine, returning through Quebec. During that entire trip, we probably only heard the same song played multiple times a half dozen times.

    Dash sounds interesting, Ron. We stream a lot of music via our Amazon Echo device. It would be great if Dash would hook up with Amazon like Pandora has.
     
  11. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Scott,

    I think I can help....

    https://www.amazon.com/Dash-Radio-Inc/dp/B01NCNGJ47
     
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  12. Bill Coolidge

    Bill Coolidge Stunt Coordinator

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    I got the free trial for SiriusFM on my new car and decided to subscribe. Several channels (Like the NPR channel) sound terrible but my favorite channel -- the Broadway channel 72 -- sounds very good. It's a world away from my old alternatives which were AM and FM radio. Where I live the radio reception is terrible and the commercials and songs are repeated constantly so SiriusXM despite it's limitations still sounds better than that.There is a lot of repetition although just when I get irritated at the repetition I hear something I hadn't heard before. At At least on the Broadway channel. I try listening to CoffeeHouse but the repetition on there is quite noticable as there are no hosts like on the Broadway channel.
    I try loading songs on my phone but I am dependent on Nissan's excuse for a music player as my car (2017 Nissan Leaf) didn't come with carplay. I have managed to get it to play some of my favorite podcasts but it's not easy.
    My wife's car lost it's Sirius reception and she is stuck listening to the same local Oldies FM station which she tolerates but drives me batty and I wish I could get Sirius back for her because even bad Sirius is better than being stuck with modern AM/FM radio at least in Sonoma County, CA.
     
  13. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    I don’t have the car set up and only use the iPhone app and the Echo Dot.

    The app does have a channel, 750 Cinemagic-Escape into the Movies.

    Most of what I listen to when I listen which is not often is Deep Tracks.
    It’s run by a former Philly fm dj Earle Bailey.
    He rarely intrudes and offers insight into what gets played and every day he plays a set that has a theme. He calls it head trips.

    While it isn’t the same as the old Deep Tracks channel from old XM it’s still pretty good and isn’t the same old hits.

    Currently I’m halfway through a $30 for six month deal that also included a $50gift card for Amazon.
    After fees I ended up ahead on the deal by about $12.

    They just sent me another email for the same exact deal on one of my other email addresses.

    I haven’t paid for SXM in over a decade as they have been sending me these deals three or 4 times a year for a decade.

    I’ll give that new one a go Ron thanks for the heads up
     
  14. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    I am a fan of traditional country music and loved XM back in the day when they had multiple channnels dedicated to the format with deep, deep playlists. The even had a series that played every top 40 chart hit by year over something like a 50 year period. Their DJs were legends in the industry and very knowledgeable.

    When Sirius took over it all went south. Channels were combined, playlists became repetitive and on air talent was reduced. I cancelled and haven't ever felt the need to go back.

    Fortunately I have an extensive music collection and because I rip all tracks at the highest setting I can use my iPhone for like no road trips. Still, I miss the XM days when I could usually hear something I wasn't previously familiar with.
     
  15. Edwin-S

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    I think the most annoying thing, for me, about SiriusXM in Canada is having to pay for a subscription to listen to CBC radio. I like to listen to CBC radio on road trips. The terrestrial service quality and availability has been decimated by years of cost cutting at CBC. The only way to get almost uninterrupted reception is via satellite radio.

    CBC radio is a publicly funded service. I pay taxes to support it and it pisses me off that I have to pay a subscription fee to receive it over satellite. SiriusXM has shown that it can broadcast channels without a subscription when it does promotional previews. CBC radio in Canada should be available without requiring a subscription over satellite radio as it is a government funded service. The GoC should be requiring SiriusXM to supply the service without a subscription or they should be paying SiriusXM to provide the service with out a subscription.

    I don't mind paying taxes to support CBC but I should not have pay access fees to listen to it, regardless of the method of delivery.

    The one thing I like about SiriusXM, regardless of its repetitive nature, is that I don't have to listen to an unending stream of advertising.
     
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  16. 16 Feb 9, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
    Todd Erwin

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    I hear you, Ron (pun intended). I remember when XM even tried to do multichannel surround using Neural-X, this was back when you could receivers that were XM-ready and DirecTV carried many of XM's stations until dropping them for an even lower quality service, SonicTap, in 2010. Neural-X all but disappeared as an option shortly after it was acquired by DTS and rebranded as DTS Neural:X (and replaced SRS, also acquired by DTS). And starting tomorrow (2/10), DirecTV is switching to Music Choice.

    I downloaded the DASH app on my phone and tablet. I do like the choices available, but can't get it to work with my Chromecast Audio setup in the house, despite the casting option. It must be a bug in the app, since iHeart Radio had this issue a few versions ago.
     
  17. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    Directv is dropping Sonic for another service soon.
    Not that there will be a difference.
     
  18. Todd Erwin

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    Starting tomorrow, as I noted in my reply, DirecTV is switching to Music Choice, which most cable systems like Cox, Comcast, and Spectrum use.
     
  19. John Dirk

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    I have tried so hard to like SiriusXM. Of course my new cars always come with a trial subscription. When it's time to renew I do not and they contact me with attractive offers. Their customer support is [in my experience] among the best but the product is just not competitive unless [I guess] you're seriously into Howard Stern. I believe they made a mistake with that one and I LOVE Howard. I just think they've mortgaged their whole future on him. With unlimited wireless plans proliferating, Pandora or Spotify are easy choices over SiriusXM for me although I do use their data services such as Nav Traffic.
     
  20. DavidJ

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    I understand Ron's and other's criticisms of Sirius XM, but I still really like it. I am paying too much for it though. I need to find a better deal.
     
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