Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Getting Sirius

One of the better gifts I got this Christmas was a Sirius satellite radio. I’ve long since tired of the choices, particularly of music, on local “terrestrial” radio around here. (The exception being WQNA which continues to offer a wide variety of music formats and alternative programming.)

Satellite radio really is the latest wave (pardon the pun) in radio. As FM stole the music from AM, satellite will be taking it, in time, from FM. I saw some industry expert on some cable TV news show recently who predicted music would move to satellite and talk would move to FM. He was a little vague as to what would happen to AM, something about “How-to” programming, what ever that is.

I think that’s about right. Satellite radio is only going to increase in popularity. Sirius has something like 120 channels already. Most are music of various formats but there is also a ton of news, sports and talk available.

One of my favorites on Sirius is an uncensored comedy channel called “Raw Dog”. While it has regular “shows” I like the strings of stand-up comedy bits, usually running about 5 minutes each, from well known and not so well known comics. While listening in my car, I’m a danger as I’m often laughing so hard I can’t see to drive.

Of course there are many, many music channels. They slice music genres pretty thin at times but also have channels that mix it up a bit.

I’m a little disappointed in their “1st Wave” channel that is supposed to have all the New Wave stuff from 20-25 years ago. Sadly, despite how it’s billed, it seems to be mostly the pop, top-40 brand of “New Wave”. You know, Thompson Twins, Duran Duran and even David Bowie (!).

They have a “Jam” channel featuring jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish, a couple of channels playing Alternative and channels for each decade since the 1960s. They’re all good. And, of course, there is much more including an all-Elvis, all-the-time channel.

Oh yeah, they also have Howard Stern but I couldn’t care less other than he draws more subscribers to satellite radio.

The cool thing is that the music channels, for the most part, have no commercials. The news, talk and personality driven channels do but they need to offset the cost of talent somehow. For those who object to paying a subscription fee and having to endure some commercials, I have two words for you: cable TV. It’s the same idea.

Technically, my receiver, pictured above, works pretty well. It picks up the satellite signal and then rebroadcasts it on an FM frequency of your choosing. In my case, I found 89.1 to be clear enough on my car radio. If you have the unit set to rebroadcast on a frequency that already has a local FM station on or near it, you’ll get poor reception and interference. My satellite receiver is detachable from my car so I’m able to use it in other places. Separate home kits are sold.

It’s hard to tell how all this is going to shake out. Will XM and Sirius merge? Will a better service arrive on the scene? Will space junk smash into the Sirius satellite? So I’m going with paying only a year at a time. It’s cheaper than paying monthly but doesn’t commit me to anything too far into the future.

Anyone else happy or sad about their satellite radio experience? Any advantages, cool channels I didn’t mention?

1 comment:

JeromeProphet said...

Sounds kind of boring, but you seem excited by it - so it must be a thrill!

As far as radio goes it's a hot medium, or is it cold? Whatever, I can only listen so long before I realize that whether canned or live it's just about good for an hour at most.

I'll listen to Jim in the morning cause that's local, NPR, and PRI on the weekend.

For music I turn to Rhapsody at home, and MP3 elsewhere.

I guess I feel that I don't need someone else to program my listening for me - I'm a big boy now, and I'll listen to exactly what I want, when I want - so radio to me in any form as long as some DJ, or programmer is back there - well it just sucks as far as music is concerned.

For some it's probably just the price of a steak dinner a month - but for the massess who struggle to justify cable, internet, phone, cell phone, and other bills - shelling out for pay radio sounds a bit too fancy pansy.

But we'll see if Howard Stern's incest, and beastiality forum can pull in the listeners now that he's not the bad boy of terrestrial radio anymore.

To hedge an industry's future on that sounds strange - but stranger things have happened, and paid off.