Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sirius XM changes channel lineup and still is annoying

This morning, having a bit of a writer's block, I ended up surfing Google Trends for top searches. 

Obviously Osama bin Laden was still at the top as well as being somewhere in the ocean.
There were the lingering searches for the Royal Wedding in the UK.
After that, Sirius XM showed up.

I was a little surprised too, but I remembered they shuffled their channels today. 

Those who have their radios would have gone through the channel reload where you are presented with a count up to 100 percent while you have silence and wonder if it will work.   It has always worked.  On the other hand you get to reprogram your presets and hope you can find your favorite channels.

That's the problem.  I can't.  They deleted "The Strobe" which was one of the original reasons why I bothered with Sirius in the first place.  I've listened since B.H.  - Before Howard Stern.  I've listened to Howard Stern occasionally, he is at times simply an amazing entertainer and I am hard pressed to think of anyone who is better an interviewer with pop culture icons.  

I can take or leave the shock, but the interviews are fascinating as well as his crew on the air.

On the other hand Sirius XM has a love hate relationship with dance and electronic music.  The Strobe started out as a disco only channel.  Rigidly programmed, there was almost never anything newer than 1980 and almost never anything played that was older than 1974.  That would be the sweet spot for the Disco Era.  However it was fairly tight on the play list and limited for the most part to the more popular music of that era.  Growing up in Philly you either were into rock, or you were into disco and you usually were heavily into it.  It was an amazing city for music.   The problem was that Sirius left out a lot of the other formats that would play from time to time on the disco stations of the era.  There used to be a lot of overlap with RnB.  There would be some Funk.  That sort of thing.

Later when they did their first channel shuffle, they dropped The Strobe but after complaints it came back.  Then they messed with the format.   They included some of the "late disco era" music of the early 80s, and even stretched the station into the mid 90s dance tracks that were so popular in the Northeast of the US for a while.  It did get better but still no RnB, but that was off on it's own channel and at least we had The Strobe back.

Lately it seemed like The Strobe got stale.  I found myself surfing online and when I needed a Disco Fix and ended up with Diva Radio.  Much better breadth of music on that web only station.   There were actually tracks that I hadn't heard and I've listened to some very obscure music. 

On the other hand, I'm not strictly listening to "Ghost Radio".  While I do listen to "40s on 4" for a fix of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman when I need it, typically when I listen to Sirius, the radio is tuned to two different channels.  Area which is Trance, has drifted to being more progressive and there's a lot more chaff thrown in.  The king of chaff is BPM.  I have BPM on right at this moment.  I rarely like it because it's the old "Hot Hits" format - dance tracks, short versions, and DJs and Bumpers yelling at you between the tracks. 

In this era of the iPod and Internet Radio, that Chaff is what drives people away from broadcast radio.  Sirius seems to be embracing the chaff.   The DJs on BPM are even more annoying because they're always sounding like they just had four or five shots of Cafe Cubano and are yelling things at you to the point of being almost overmodulated.

The worst DJs on Sirius are on BPM.  You have "Geronimo" who every time I hear I want to jump out of an airplane or better yet watch him jump out without a parachute.   There is also the stomach churningly bad Tim Bauman who sounds like he's a Pimp Wannabe from a bad movie from the early 80s. 

The best thing they can do with BPM is to go back to the way it was Before Howard and play music.  Forget the bumpers, they're unneeded and we have a display of what we're listening to.   The DJs have GOT to go.    Just play music.  There was a twin channel to BPM back at that time which was almost the same music, but No DJ Chatter at all.   You don't have to listen to Tim Baumans wretched rap about "The Gurrrrls" or Geronimo's confusion about Relaxing and Exciting BPM.

Hey Geronimo What Does THAT mean?  Did you bump your head on the desk this morning?

If a Dance Channel is meant to reflect a club, their programming managers need to actually go into a club and listen.   The DJs Don't Talk Over Every Song! 

"Electric Area" is better but not perfect.   They've been getting bumpers played over the tracks, and the shows that are played on Electric Area are basically the same thing I get when I surf Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, DJ Shah, Markus Shultz or any of the other Euro DJ websites.  There's a little chatter, but nowhere near as much as BPM - maybe an announcement every 30 minutes or so.  The reason for that is that Sirius has been playing the DJ's web tracks directly.  Better than the Progressive and Electro that has slipped in over the last few years.  They're basically two different formats -Trance and Electro - similar music like RnB and Disco, but not fully interchangeable and while you can mix in some for variety, they are probably best on their own channels.

As for my once again gone The Strobe channel, they said they'd put it on as an Internet Only Stream.  It wasn't there when I went looking for it at 10AM today.  If I have to make sure I have a way to play Disco, I won't go to Sirius.  There are many better sites that play more variety - and that is something that can be said generically about any of the Sirius channels.   Loosen the playlists.  Your music is too repetitive.

When it comes time for me to finally get a new car, I won't activate the Sirius radio.  One reason is that I already have a "Permanent Subscription" which was a big mistake, I know.  The other is that there are just way too many ways to get good music on the car radio these days.  My complaining probably won't have an effect, but I'll just end up with an iPhone with a data plan surfing and playing the Trance Channel there, or if I need disco back in my head there's always Diva Radio.   

I guess it's the promise they made is great for some but they fell short.   Their program directors could do better.  Lets just grade them a "C Minus".  After all, just like FM Radio, Sirius is good for Classical and News.  The music formats just aren't there.  If you love Elvis or Sinatra you will be happy.

No wonder why I had to blow dust off the top of the Sirius Radio this morning!

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