Monday, August 16, 2010

Thoughts on Sirius|XM

One of the very few times where I actually want CanCon is in my 80s music. I grew up with Much Music, in a time when it was Znaimer-owned, and still had some integrity. A lot of the bands promoted on Much Music went on to have great careers and notoriety within Canada, and had some great songs. Many of these songs are right up there with Duran Duran and Heart in my playlist.

Listening to Sirius|XM, I miss hearing Canadian artists. They play a smattering of Bryan Adams and Corey Hart, and that's it. There is no time devoted to Kim Mitchell, The Payolas, The Box, The Grapes of Wrath, Alannah Myles, or Tom Cochrane (with or without Red Rider). The more I listen to Sirius|XM, the more I miss these artists. There is a channel for French Canadian programming, no doubt to comply with CanCon, but this leaves the English artists out in the cold.

One of the biggest problems with 80s on 8 is its repetitive nature. Its programming focuses around what was played on MTV, which I will grant were the biggest hits. The problem is that they play a lot of those hits once or more every day. As someone who listens to this channel in my car, and sometimes during the day in my office, it starts to get annoying after a while. A friend of mine, who received a free 3-month trial with his new car, declined to continue with the service. He cited dead zones and repetitiveness as the two main reasons he wouldn't be continuing with the service. "How many times can they play 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun'?"

Another problem with the programming is the division of catalog. As an 80s fan, I will flip between 80s on 8, Classic Rewind, and 1st Wave. I can only hear The Cure and Depeche Mode on 1st Wave, certain rock songs on Classic Rewind, and the rest on 80s on 8. Unless they are playing the weekly countdown, I would never hear things that were also hits of the 80s, like Kenny Rogers, Eddie Rabbit, or Stacey Q. There is a ton of variety to choose from, but they have segregated the programming so much that they end up with a repetitive mess, or as in the case of 1st Wave, some extremely mainstream pop songs mixed in with very obscure artists.

In one very weird example, 80s on 8 rarely (if at all) played Michael Jackson's Beat It until after his death. Arguably the biggest 80s artist, a song which is on the best selling album of all time, and was a big hit for him. XM, before the merge with Sirius, had a better 80s program director and better variety of music, with the small exception of being a little too focused on Jody Watley for a while. I don't think I've heard Jody Watley more than twice since the merger. Kenny Rogers and Eddie Rabbit had hits in the 80s, whether we like them or not. I can't believe they're finally playing an INXS song on 80s on 8. For being such a hit-prolific 80s band, you wouldn't know it from listening to this channel.

I took a look at the playlist for Galaxie, the commercial-free music service that is part of Canadian digital or satellite TV programming. This is pretty much what I want: Prince's When Doves Cry mixed in with National Velvet's Flesh Under Skin. Unfortunately, having only the old-style analog cable service means I don't get this programming, nor Much Retro, which would play the same style only in video form. If I were made of money, I would upgrade my cable to digital. Alas, I am spending too much money already on TV.

If I had an iPod, and a car with an iPod port, I'd be thinking a bit more strongly about canceling the subscription to the car. I'll be taking this into consideration when I go vehicle shopping next year. I just hope GM has finally smartened up regarding this type of technology. My car is a 2007, and yet it only has a 6-cd changer, and can't even play MP3s. I am probably the only person I know who still makes mixed CDs for my car.

All that being said, the current Sirius|XM is still better than traditional radio. It's easy and convenient to use in my car, and I can and do flip around to other channels. As a long time user, however, I realize how repetitive it truly is. Every once in a while, though, they pull something out that I had totally forgotten about. I guess that's what keeps me hanging on. I also like someone else making the decisions for me on the playlist... sometimes.

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