Monday, March 31, 2014

SiriusXM's sucker punch

Those of you who are familiar with Allicia and I know how instrumental satellite radio was in bringing us together. We met because we both listened to The Catholic Channel. Without SiriusXM, I would not have a wife or daughter.

Needless to say, I have great enthusiasm for SiriusXM, and aside from their assist in the marriage department, they have great programming. One of the reasons I love their service is because it gives me music that I don't get on normal radio, in a package that is far more convenient than other internet-streaming sites (I don't want to pay for a gigantic data plan to support internet radio in the car).

There's Classic Vinyl, which is great for people like me who love classic rock from the early 70s and beforehand (on terrestrial radio you get that but it's often mixed in with 80s bands like Guns n Roses, whom I'm not a big fan of). B.B. King's Bluesville has great old and new blues music, and I really dig Outlaw and Prime Country.

There's another station I love dearly though, and that's 40s on 4. It plays a lot of great stuff from the mid 1930s all throughout the 1940s, and that's definitely something I can't get anywhere else, unless I buy specific albums. It's one of the reasons I adore the Fallout series of games so much, as they use a lot of music from this era inside the game. The Ink Spots, Billie Holliday, and Bob Crosby are just a handful of artists that are on the Fallout soundtrack and the 40s on 4 station.

40s on 4 helps put me to sleep, which isn't an easy task as I work third shift, and our curtains don't completely block out the sun. It's great, relaxing music. So imagine my horror when I went to bed Friday morning, turned on the Sirius XM radio by the bed, and found Billy Joel instead.

'I must be on the wrong channel," I thought to myself and hit the favorite button 6 again. Still, Billy Joel. What in the world has happened to my radio?

Turns out, Sirius XM decided to turn 40s on 4 into the Billy Joel channel for three months. Three months without the Ink Spots? Unacceptable. I dig Billy Joel's River of Dreams album, but not at the expense of one of my favorite radio stations for a quarter of a year!

Sirius XM has a bunch of empty channel slots that Billy Joel could have fit in (18, 73, the list goes on and on). Why take away big band music? Yes it's just three months, but when the solution seems obviously easy, it's unacceptable to take away a complete genre not represented on other stations. We already lose 40s on 4 from Black Friday to January 1 in lieu of Christmas music, and now I have to give it up again?

I took to Twitter and voiced my frustration. The stock answer myself and several others kept getting was, "Well 40s on 4's normal programming is online and it's streaming!"

1. I'm not always near a computer. I can't stream easily in my car.
2. I have a Windows Phone. There is no SiriusXM app for Windows Phone. Why, I have no idea.

It is maddening, because the solution seems legitimately simple. Put Billy Joel onto a different channel. If he HAS to be in the single digits, as a friend suggested on Twitter, why not make him channel 7 or 8, as the 70s and 80s corresponds with his style of music. Or, move Sirius Hits 1 to channel 1 (why it is on 2 I have no idea), the 20 on 20 channel to 2, and use channel 3 for artist-specific channels like this. This option would make a ton of money for SiriusXM. If you're Lady Gaga, One Direction, or (insert popular band here), and you have an upcoming album, how great would it be to buy a whole weekend where your music alone is heard on channel 3, right next to the pop stations? You could even run specials. Give indie bands a discount to get their music front and center. Genius!

I've just given SiriusXM an idea that would net them a ton of money without the outrage. Where's the job application form?

Did I say outrage? You bet. Go to the SiriusXM Facebook page and you'll see that I'm not alone. Every story they post, even unrelated ones to Billy Joel, is filled with comments asking why they're doing this. There are so many posts from angry people, many allegedly cancelling their subscriptions or threatening to do so by April 10 (we have two radios, and I have no problem axing the one in the bedroom to send a message to SiriusXM).

I feel like SiriusXM sucker punched me on this one. I've spent years telling people how great of a service it is, because you truly get a wide variety of music and entertaining talk, not to mention all the sports games. But this just seems like the beginning of the end for that. First they take away the 40s on 4. Then what? Do we get rid of the 50s and 60s stations when agents and handlers of big artists demand specific slots to advertise themselves? So much for commercial free music. I'd rather hear 20 second ads in-between songs than lose the songs altogether.

It is beyond ridiculous and it makes me sad that a company I love dearly would do this to it's listeners without really giving us a solid explanation. And if SiriusXM continues to ignore the people hijacking it's social media and flooding it's inboxes with angry letters, we could be seeing a really epic PR meltdown in the making.

Just give me back Billie Holiday, and nobody gets hurt.

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