Vinyl, Tapes, CDs… and SiriusXM?

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Maybe you remember something called “fast forward”?IMG_7444

Back in the days of audio cassette tapes, you pushed the FF button to get to the next song on the playlist. Compact discs made tapes obsolete. Now you could just skip to the next track. But CDs were clunky – and only held a relative handful of songs. Digital music rendered CDs yesterday’s technology only about ten years after they were first mass-marketed.

I think satellite radio is next-up for retirement.

Because Pandora.

Free music.

Yes, there are some commercials – one every 10 or 15 minutes or so. But the service – unlike SiriusXM is free. Pandora (unlike SiriusXM)  does not expect you to pay them to listen to commercials.

Lots of commercials.

Listen to almost any SiriusXM channel – but especially the talk/news channels – and you will be deluged with obnoxious 5-10 minute blocks of ads.

Remember: You are paying to hear them.pandora pic

It’s damndest thing. And – arguably – the stupidest thing.

People have fled so-called “terrestrial” (AM/FM) radio to a great extent because the ratio of music (and talk) to commercials reached a tipping point, became insufferable. One of the major draws of satellite radio was commercial-free content. But that’s not what you got. At least AM/FM radio was free.

It’s hard to choke down paying $10-$20 a month to hear sales pitches.

Sirius/XM is careful to qualify that it offers “commercial free music.” It’s only the talk channels that are chock-a-blocked with “learn more” and “call 1-800-BUY GOLD NOW” juggernauts. But, here’s the thing.

Pandora and other forms of digital streaming music provides the same thing – without the commercials.

Or, for free.

I recently loaded the Pandora app on my iPod and now can listen to whatever music I want to listen to (as opposed to whatever music Sirius/XM programmers think I might want to listen to) without paying a penny for it. Pandora gives me (and you) the option of paying a very small fee – it’s less than $5 a month, so a fraction of the cost of a Sirius subscription – to get 100 percent commercial-free streaming music. Personalized, tailored to suit. Not “programmed” – and take it or leave it.Howard pic

This is going to do to SiriusXM what garlic does to Dracula.

Because it’s not just the obnoxious pay-for-commercials thing. Not just that they pigeonhole you into picking “this” or “that” music channel (as opposed to a personal/configurable stream that’s uniquely yours).

There are also functional problems.

For instance, the signal sometimes cuts out; reception can be spotty. XM seems to be worse in this respect than Sirius, perhaps because the two channels use different satellites. But they both have “dead zone” issues, especially in mountainous areas or where there is a lot of dense overhang (trees, etc.). This is annoying because you’re paying. Often, the radio will cut out right in the middle of something you were interested in. Only to cut back in just in time for “learn more” about male enhancement…

Pandora also cuts out sometimes (“buffering”) and of course you need a WiFi signal to keep the music flowing, which does limit where you can listen to music using Pandora. The Sirius/XM signal is beamed down via satellite, so – assuming you have a portable receiver – you can take it with you, wherever.

But, again, you’re paying for it. The music (and the talk) plus the commercials.

And with an iPod or similar device (SmartPhone) you can carry an almost limitless selection of music or talk (including Podcasts) with you wherever. Just download them prior to going wherever. It’s easy and – to a great extent – it’s free.RIP Sirius

The other looming problem for SiriusXM, I suspect, is the looming prospective departure of the service’s biggest star, Howard Stern. Like him or not, he has brought literally millions of subscribers into the fold; people who bought-in chiefly (and many probably solely) to listen to his four-hour morning show.

But Howard has been doing a kind of slow-motion fade-away, reducing the number of days he’s on – with previously recorded and “best of” selections now accounting for the majority of the programming on the Howard channels (100 and 101). His contract is up for renewal very soon. What happens to SiriusXM if Howard does not renew? Will the millions of people he brought in as subscribers unsubscribe? Take away Howard and what else is there? None of the other talk shows come even close to drawing the audience he has. And many of them are not exclusive to SiriusXM and can be heard elsewhere for free (CNN for example).

It’s a perfect storm.

Pandora offers more – not just for less, but for free.

SiriusXM’s technical problems have not been fixed. Might not be fixable.

And the service’s premier act is very possibly about to do a David Letterman – which will leave the service with a profusion of not-very-good talk shows and a bunch of music channels that aren’t as versatile (or as personal) as Pandora.

But which they still expect us to pay for.

Seems pretty dark to me.

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  1. My auto which I bought 3 years ago has a 10 stacker cd in the boot. With 10 of my own made up cds of songs that I like, I can get 10 hours of music of MY choosing. Or a mix of mine and commercial cds from my extensive collection. No radio, and I gave up on radio 15 years ago. I could care less if radio dies out. No abnormally educated or uneducated djs, no fucking ads, no fake news, no listening to politicians lie, etc. This is the only way to go, for me anyway. For new music, it’s youtube or the second hand salvation army shops and their like.

  2. I’ve had both Sirius and XM, way back years ago when they were separate companies. I started out with Sirius because (lord forgive me) they had NPR and at the time I was young and dumb and uninformed. But it was a poor version of the channel and so I started listening to the music channels instead. The audio quality was poor, the playlists were shallow and the receiver didn’t work very well.

    At the time I was doing a lot of skiing, and really wanted a music player. XM had a really neat portable player about the size of an iPod, but Sirius kept promising a portable player too. So I waited for the Sirius player, which turned out to be a turd. So I voted with my wallet and bought the XM player. By this time I knew the news/talk channels were just the audio of the television feeds of CNN and Fox News (for example), but I was over all that and just wanted music. And boy was I surprised. The music on XM was SO much better than the pablum of Sirius. I’m talking deep cuts, b-sides, quirky shows like “cowabunga uber alles,” (all surfer music), original performances recorded in their studios, and just well thought out playlists. And the audio quality was much better too. The portable player had space to record songs, and to copy over your own music too. It was really just an incredibly good service and hardware.

    But then Sirius bought XM and it all went to s***. All (no exaggeration) of my favorite channels were gone. The audio dropped down to Sirius quality. So I canceled my service, bought a Nokia phone that could play mp3 files and never looked back.

    Oh, and shock jocks like Stern aren’t funny when they go mainstream (and don’t get fined for dropping F-bombs). Just like Letterman wasn’t funny after he moved to the 11:30 spot.

  3. Why can’t we just got back to the regular and decent Am and FM stations?. Cut these commercials times length to something normally like they were some years ago?
    Oh, thats right, we had regulations to protect the listener and consumer as to all this crap. Now the crooks run the airwaves, for their own benefit.
    So the big mouths and latest schemers are out to relieve you of your money and put you in debt or sell you a scheme to help you lose more money trying to get out of debt.
    Greedy corporations bought up most of the stations (thanks to no regulation and a political party that protect schemers and the damn to consumers) and you got 24/7 commercials interrupted every 20-25 minutes by some voice like Rush. or a Rush wannabe.
    Regardless what station you select the commercials are all the same, just at different times. This is the same across the Nation.
    Used to have different networks with news, music, etc.. like Mutual radio and others. Now we got Greedy radio and commercials that say their phone numbers a dozen times. The same cable stations are owned by the same political connected corporations.
    There is no real news today, just opinions. And depending on the radio station, the opinions are reading off the same program page.
    Progress, I have not witness any in the air wave sector. Instead of music now you got foul 4 letters words.
    Beam me up, Scotty!
    And people wonder what the public is going to social networks, being driven there by crappy radio and cable stations.

    • She aint what,she used to be,what I do to alleviate this problem is subscribe to streaming feeds of what I like,didnt somebody mention John Prine?one of my favorites,His music always seemed so honest.

      • Hi Kevin,

        If Pandora can figure out a way to incorporate talk/news channels and make everything a la carte and available “on the go,” I think SiriusXM is doomed.

        • Eric,I believe you are right a Friend of mine, who basically owns the local phone company,was dabbling in a form of internet cable,He was trying to do it ala carte,I havent heard lately were He is on it,but if He would have done it,it would have been a no brainer for Me even though His MPS servicewas over $50 a month(I bought the 3 meg service and get around 2.6 at the HP all in one I use.He actually ran fiber optic upgrade to the laterals and I think my choke point is the 2 pair service that comes into the house(copper)
          I finally lost my bridge on my right front and lateral incisor,so rather then go the bridge route again,I opted for the implant and crown route(was under the impression it was going to cost 3k-well it turns out I paid the the oral surgeon around 3K for about an hours work and probaly $10 worth of titanium.Well that bit and I said oh well,it was worth 3K when I finally get the crown,got the impressions and finally got the crown,works good looks good,(the dentist is excellent)anyway imagine my suprise when the additional 3K bill was presented(could have got the hardware and whole procedure done at “Affordable Denistry” for about 1.9 k) so I took my medicine and am in the process of paying up,but I did let them know that $4100 was a heck of a discrepency(doubt if I go back.So what I ‘m trying to say is ,where is my parity?I get $12 an hour for my sweaty oft times difficult efforts,it seems my parity has decreased by at least a factor of 3 since the 90s,so the greedy satellite providers can keep their so called service,so please forgive Me for rambling.I’m ready to drop out of the ratrace.

        • Get a podcasting app for your phone. Don’t want a smartphone data plan? Buy an old smartphone and don’t activate it, just use it on WiFi. There are a lot of really fantastic podcasts out there, and more all the time.

      • Kevin, yeah, it was me mentioning John Prine, a mighty fine program. I subscribed to XM radio over a decade ago and it was way superior(as in Sirius didn’t have squat) to their competitor. Of course, now I have to like what is played since it was forced on us. But Sirius does have some great content. I don’t know that it’s better than XM in those formative years.

        Just for an instance, where else could you hear Choctaw Bingo long ago? And shows with classic everything were replete. I love old country, the real thing and old soul and R&B and most everything else. Yesterday I got excited an felt much better just listening to a station play some old 70’s and 60’s music of all sorts.

        had to leave a big rig and drive a roustabout truck today to get home. Boy, talk about a difference in basic transportation. I listened to Sirius and got some great, very obscure country. So with the sixties stuff I had heard on FM and the stuff I heard on Sirius I’d say turn into the classic vinyl station of Sirius along with all the other channels thereof. How many players can you buy with those qualities? Pandora is expensive in my part of the country since cell phone time is the only place I’ll get it and so will countless thousands of other people. Just figure out what and where you want the entertainment you desire and the choice is easily made.

        • Gotta concur Eight,I hear some of the old R&B.C&W,etc,it makes me feel something,this newer music doesnt”strike a chord” with me so to speak,it doesnt seem to me the great artists are there,heard one of Dollys greatest the other day,it was like Filet Mignon,compared to water staining cheap franks.
          Eric G,has put out some good info,Guys like you all make this site very worthwhile(plus the talent of the multi talented Eric P) at least Clover hasnt ruined this site.
          I learned of the retirement of a Clover Lawyer yesterday,the only bad thing is we will have the hypocritcal CA for another term it seems(can you win if no one runs against you and you have very few votes?)

      • Kevin, I love Prine’s music, but it is never played on the radio. Only youtube or cd that is available on amazon. Big box retailers don’t carry his music. Not commercial enough you see.

  4. I got three newer autos all with the Mandatory satellite radios. Hate the dam things. Why cant I have a choice? It is like getting a new computer and all this bloat ware comes with it. I do not wan it, cant use it and want to get rid of it. If you have to use your phone and a data plan to listen to Pandora, where is the “free part” to all this? Sounds like another marketing scam for phone companies to make you use more data so they can raise your bill.Apple is making iTunes so unfriendly and unhelpful, I do not use it anymore or buying their products.

  5. Hmm,I hate the God of competitive sports and I absolutely despise paying for commercials,The Wife is talking about moving to the VA Beach area while I stay here,I assured Her I absolutely didnt want,Dish or Direct or any of that other crap,since the Discovery channel has been ruined,The history channel is the only one I really like,I would love to have an ala carte option on the satellite crap and I would a little extra for commercial free viewing.I gave up on Kim Komando,Rush LImbaugh a long time ago,used to listen to Liddy,then got tired of His same old,one of the Shows I do like to hear is “In the garden”with Mark or Andre Viette(a lot of good info).
    If I didnt know better,it seems the commercials are taking up more airtime,once in a while a person can find a decent FM station,sometimes PBS isnt too bad if you turn your liberal filter on.But now I either buy Dvds or just rent a real good movie from Amazon or just satisfy my longings with “Amazon Fire”(sometimes even read a book,when growing up we didnt have a tv very frequently,so I dont miss it that much,when I dont have it.One Radio Show I would love to see remade with new people is “Cartalk”The surviving brother could supervise and get it started back on the right track.During the long Insomniac nights,I would listen to “The Rollye James show”{She would answear your emails} C2C or Neal Boortz,personally I do not care if Satellite TV disappears.

  6. Eric. I purchased a new car 5 years ago and received “free” Sirius XM for three months. Like your article implies I listened to non-stop commercials so when it came time to pay I cancelled the service. My I-Tunes account froze so going back to that was a battle. I-Tunes has no customer service and after repeated tries I simply filed a complaint with the Attorney General in PA, they froze $1,500. in songs. Within a week a P.R. representative from I-Tunes called me and fixed my I-tunes account! Lately I had to repair my PC and my I-Tunes music was erased again. I found out you cannot download from your I-pod to I-tunes anymore so I’m screwed again.

    The point is…..they’re all thieves! I miss my free pushbutton music days that was also hassle free. I used to laugh when I had to open the radio and tighten the “tuning string”. I’ll check out Pandora…..seems like a decent setup. Just my thoughts.

  7. This is just like satellite and cable TV. Many of those subscription channels have commercials out the whazoo. And then most of them show the same shows other ones are showing, or syndications from broadcast TV that you can see on a hundred local channels for free.

    By the way, iTunes internet radio is awesome as well as Pandora. It has thousands of channels to choose from of every genre possible. Channels from all over the world. It’s really fun to listen to some of them.

    • I recall when CABLE TV was first sold without commercials as the primary feature along with guaranteed signal reception. Give us a local monopoly they said to defray the install costs of all those cables.

      Now they are all merged because monopolies are almost by nature inefficient, and those merged firms are even less responsive than Ma Bell used to not be.

  8. I have the option of Sirius in my new car but will never ever subscribe because they have simply deluged me with phone calls and direct mail. I seldom listen to Pandora, although I appreciate their free option to piggyback on whatever internet connection I’m paying for. Their algorithms make decent choices for me. But I would never subscribe because I simply wouldn’t listen often enough.

    I prefer to simply plug my iPhone or iPod into the car and listen to podcasts and previously downloaded (at home) music or music ripped from my old CDs.

    No additional monthly cost.

    I do get sucked in by video content though. It’s the only time I wish for autonomous cars. The idea of watching videos and the scenery as the miles roll by on a boring portion of my annual 1800-mile road trips appeals to me.

    I’d ride a train or plane if they went direct where I needed to go. But honestly I prefer the flexibility and capacity of a personal vehicle.

  9. when I used to drive taxi full time, (I now run a small company of cabs, which means I am not on the road nearly as much) I used to subscribe to XM for one thing & one thing only. Baseball. XM carried every game of every team. To me, that was worth the subscription price. During the summer months, I would listen to two or three games a day. It was a real pleasure to hear Charlie Steiner from the Dodgers, and Ron and Pat from the Cubs, and Bob Uecker….
    That’s one thing I will miss about XM if it dies.
    As for Howard Stern, he is a rude, crude damn Yankee, and if he goes away I couldn’t possibly care less.

    • Hi Paul,

      I think they’d be smart to let people buy individual channels a la carte.

      I’d pay $5 or even $10 a month for Howard. But I have zero – no – interest at all in paying for the other channels.

  10. My wife listens to Pandora at home, letting it decide what to play for her by what she’s chosen previously. That doesn’t work for me. While AM/FM get harder to listen to, I’m thinking more of listening to podcasts. Still, the idea of giving up local news, weather forecasts (a big, big deal around here, for good reason), and the serendipitous datum, make it hard to switch just yet.

    A rental car we had had satellite radio. The only station that delighted me? The one that runs old-time radio shows–mystery, comedy, sci-fi, Fibber McGee, etc. Most long before my time, but still real pleasures to listen to.

  11. To get Pandora “free” you’re either paying monthly for WiFi for the car or data through the app for your phone. Pandora is great for true variety of a type of music, but I’m a channel surfer and Pandora is not as easy as changing radio stations, which Sirus is. I work out of my car 8+ hours per day and don’t have the inclination to horse around with apps and battle sail fawn battery life to get music to play. I don’t think either is perfect, and I like the competition, because Pandora is what keeps Sirius from raising rates like cable, but seriously, since Pandora is publicly listed now, how long before it’s shareholders demand it achieves “price parity” with Sirius? I do think Sirius is coasting on already outdated tech, I doubt they are going to continue with satellites forever, I can see them switching to a delivery platform closer to Pandora or Spotify. One other thing Sirius can offers is original content. My wife said she prefers Pandora. Her car has a Pandora app (’13 Buick Verano), I let the Sirius subscrition lapse figuring she likes Pandora better, as soon as the satellite went out, I heard about it. Long story short, I think there is room for both.

  12. I bought an XM unit years ago when I drove haul trucks (Cat 793 and 797). 12 hours a day of commercial radio was pretty much enough to make me want to jump out the window. So, I bought an XM “Roady” and life was grand. Time passed and I developed an unnatural hatred for “Kim Komando” and “” with their incessant commercials. I decided to abandon the satellite radio and get comfortable with bland programming and annoying commercials.

    A few years later I transferred to another operation with even worse local radio (canned top 40, canned country and a canned classic “rock” station that is so far into the 70’s that it may as well be called WKRP in Cincinnati. So I bought a Sirius unit (post merger) and again listened to hours of Kim Komando commercials for only $14.95 a month, and again abandoned them in favor of returning to “the voice of no choice”, local radio.

    As I am one of those people who refuse to own a smartphone, I pretty much live off of mp3 files on a thumb drive. Radio in general has been killed at the hands of advertisers.

  13. Speaking of Howard Stern, I remember him saying 20 years ago that 95 percent of all TV watching is done on just 20 channels and that these channels subsidize all of the others that no one watches, but that cable/sat subscribers are forced to pay for. This I absolutely believe. While I’m sure that the 20 channels figure is still true, the number of subsidized channels no one watches has probably more than trebled since then.

  14. I still use the same “infotainment” system in my car that I’ve had for decades: an AM radio, an FM converter, and an 8-track tape deck. (Also a cassette adapter, I can play both kinds of tapes in the deck.) Works for me.

  15. Pandora gives me (and you) the option of paying a very small fee – it’s less than $5 a month, so a fraction of the cost of a Sirius subscription – to get 100 percent commercial-free streaming music. Personalized, tailored to suit. Not “programmed” – and take it or leave it.

    Let us hope that the cable and satellite TV providers take note. I’m on the verge of cancelling my DirecTV subscription after 15 years as a loyal subscriber because:

    1. They raise their subscription fees by an obscene amount every year while adding no new worthwhile content offerings.

    2. I only watch six channels with any regularity. Unfortunately, I can’t get all six of those channels without subscribing to a premium package – which forces 500-plus other channels down my throat that I have no interest whatsoever in watching, ever.

    3. I can no longer justify paying three figures each month to watch just a half dozen channels.

    I’ve encountered a few lists recently predicting that DirecTV’s days are numbered (hopefully this also applies to Dish Network, which has both programming and service that are abominable). Let’s hope this goes for the cable providers as well. There’s no technological or practical reason why video/TV viewing can’t move to the Pandora format.

    • libberanter, as an ex-dealer, I want to tell you something about both DirecTv and Dish. They both raise rates little by little even though you signed an agreement that had nothing about raising rates. You can call their bluff and demand the original price and they’ll give it to you and reduce and sometimes refund what they’ve been over-charging. Very few people do this and that’s why they do it.

      If you’re supposed to get X programming for $64/month and it goes up, simply call them and read them the riot act and don’t miss telling them how long you’ve been a customer, blada blada blada, and they’ll come around toot sweet.

      I was first a Dish sub my self(before being a dealer)and when they had an offer for new customers giving them a DVR receiver for free for joining. Well, I’d had dish for years and was at the time, and this was 15 years ago, paying something like $105/month for all the stuff I got(everything). I was incensed when I called and wanted my DVR too since I had paid for it many times. The same hostile black woman that ATT and the IRS employ told me I could take a running jump in not a kind way. I tell her I can get the DVR myself easily enough. So she takes the bait and sorta challenges me, How you gonna get that DVR sucka?” to which I replied DTV has the same offer and I’ll be rid of yall and be a new DTV subscriber tomorrow. She didn’t even try to mollify me or keep my business so true to my word, I then called DTV and set up an installation date for the next day. We had dead Dish crap and new DTV stuff the next day with the DVR and free this and that. Of course DTV eventually started raising month by month and that bill got out of hand too but they listened when I said I wanted my original deal, everything I had, for that price they guaranteed and they send out an installer and we got back to basic. Lots of people do this but mostly, people just bitch and never confront them. Be a man. Stand up to them. They either want your business or they don’t and since enough people did this, both of them caught on and started giving complaining old customers their free equipment upgrades as well as programing.

      Speaking of XM, I loved it and had it for years and I’m about to re-up with Sirius since there’s a great deal of programming I like.

      This last Sat. I was running a hotshot load and one of the DJ’s had a great program with some people live on it and he was interviewing John Prine who did a lot of live stuff and they spoke for hours about how Kris got popular finally and took Steve Goodman to his music company and then Steve got Kris to listen to John and his music took off too. It was a great interview and they played a lot of the people who did all of these artists music such as Johnny Cash, Roger Miller(recorded the first Me and Bobby McGee) and a lot of other people. I wanted the job to go on for a few more hours or at least another one so i could hear the rest of it.

      There is stuff like this continually on Sirius and they play obscure music of all genre’s.

      By the way, that was Dish equipment and they owned it so they played hard ball and wanted me to box it up and ship the old, worn out, out of date crap to them. I told them they brought it to me, installed it and if they wanted it back they could send an installer to uninstall it, box it up or whatever and take it away. They countered with threats I laughed at and told them to go to hell. Gee, it really did feel good. Probably in a backhoe hole somewhere that equipment is resting or it might be in the barn or a store room. I could care less but someday I figure if I still have it, somebody might be able to screw up some govt. crap with it.

      We had a dish tv antenna once, a boosted thing, and it worked pretty well, so well it picked up the military planes that constantly flew over us and jacked with us. We could tune it to hear everything they said and I dug out an old CB with a military channel(hell yes it was illegal, KMA FCC)we used to communicate back in the old days of DC 3’s and going here and there with ground support. It was so much fun to punch out thousands of watts on these channels and have the guys try to figure out who was talking to them. We knew how to keep them guessing….and damned if it wasn’t entertaining to say the least.

      • 8S, yo to Prine and Goodman. I was introduced to their music 35 years ago by college friends. I’ve got quite a collection of both plus Kris & Johnny, my BILs and oldest son now listen to their music. I was all up in the clouds about seeing Goodman after his first cancer op, then it returned and he had to cancel the tour. A few weeks later he was dead. Such a great loss of a great musician, and human being.

      • Thanks, 8SM. Good to know.

        However, even if I could get them to trim their rates back down to something reasonable, I doubt I’d remain a subscriber unless they let me customize my own (tiny) package – which I guarantee you they won’t let me do. They wouldn’t make any money off of an 8-channel package.

        • liberranter,

          I know that feeling. The years I had cable and satellite, regardless of the channels offered, always ended up watching primarily about 10-15 channels.

          Last summer I finally ditched cable. (Tired of increasing costs and poorer service) I installed an OTA (over the air) antenna, a DVR (from channelmaster) and a Roku. The setup including installation was about $500. This has been paid within a year from the savings of not paying a monthly cable bill to ©øm©@$t.

          High-speed Internet access is needed for using the roku, but otherwise there are no other monthly fees.

          I get about 20-35 channels, but YMMV depending on your local tv market and how far you are from the transmission towers. (I am about 50-60 miles from the transmission towers.) (Its is mainly big network, pbs, and some smaller stations)

          There are a few shows and channels (not OTA) that I would like to get, but it is not a terrible inconvenience. If needed I can find/access the programs via local library or other means.

    • ATT just bought DirecTV…we will see what will happen. I can see them doing away with the satellite dishes in urban-suburban areas, but in rural areas I doubt that they will run the cables necessary to do away with the satellite dishes

      • Hi RG,

        I don’t think there is a technical reason why cable TV could not be a la carte. That is, you get only the channels you specifically want to pay for. Not this “package” bullshit. I threw my cable in the woods several years ago because I was sick of being given no choice but to pay for literally dozens of fuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhtttttball channels in order to get the History channel.

        I despise the Cult of Sports and refuse to contribute a got-damned penny to its maintenance.

        • Eric,

          That is one thing I noticed when I ditched the subscription for OTA antenna. (lack of live sporting events)

          For me, the cost savings per month was worth the trade off. I even found better (more interesting) programs on the OTA stations to watch in place of the sporting programs.

        • I never thought of it as paying for channels I didn’t watch. I though of it as the high price of the channels I DO watch.

          Even then I don’t watch channels. I watch shows that happen to BE on channels and discover new programming on channels that happen to have the shows I enjoy.

          So for me only choosing channels isn’t granular enough. Let me choose shows and give me the first one free to see if I subscribe to it. Pay a dollar for every 4 hours of a show that appears a month. Or pay for a certain number of hours and let me watch any show I choose.

        • OK. I work in the cable television industry.

          At one time it was technically fairly difficult for companies to offer channels a la carte. The reason was because of cable-ready televisions. It was far cheaper for the cable company to send channels out “in the clear” and have the customer connect their TV directly to the cable. Scrambled channels were the exception, HBO and the like, but the incremental revenue justified the cost of a set top box or positive trap. If you only wanted Basic channels, there was a negative trap installed, which would block out all channels above a given frequency or only pass a give number of channels, but almost always an entire block of channels. Moving a channel from basic to expanded basic would become a quagmire of swapping traps on every customer’s drop, and inevitably some customer drops would be missed.

          However with digital video comes much greater flexibility. Now every channel is encrypted by default, and every customer has a set top box. The only technical holdback is the billing system, which is still designed around offering packages. But other than that there’s no technical reason why a customer can’t order one specific channel and no others.

          But, because the programmers like the way the system is set up now, don’t hold your breath for things to change. In fact I think the way it will work out is when programmers really start to embrace “over the top” Internet streaming video and you’ll just subscribe to their video direct from their servers, just like we all do with (we do all subscribe, right?)

  16. My Sportwagen (09) came w/a 6 mo. ‘free trial’ of Sirius. Since I listen almost exclusively to Classical, and have 2 NPR stations in the area that play that, I did not find anything on Sirius that was worth subscribing for.

  17. #1: T-mobile has plans that include something called “Music Freedom” which allows unlimited streaming of listed-with-t-mobile music services such as Pandora for free.

    #2: Howard Stern has been altering his content over time, spinning off formerly avid listeners. I had listened to Howard Stern almost every day between being 9 years old and around 2009. I have a lifetime account with Sirius that I got February 2006.

    Streaming music services with customization features are the present and the future. SXM is diversifying its offerings to include car services that may or may not be useful relative to the web-based and app-based offerings, but they face the same problem as Cable TV providers. Their most loyal customer base is simply going to die off as they age. I think the next telling step will be adoption of the Android and Apple car integrations and apps. Those may close the door on SXM’s diversifications bearing fruit.

    The thing to watch for SXM would be boating. They will stay big forever on boating.

  18. One problem with Sirius/XM that I don’t hear much talk about: the sound. In many vehicles with factory satellite radio (mine included), all the Sirius/XM channels sound like they’re being played into your ear through a cardboard tube. Even so-so quality MP3s sound better. Can somebody more tech savvy explain why this is? All I know is that it’s enough to make me say, “No thanks.”

    • Jeff,

      I’m not sure, but it (poorer sound quality) could occur if they (XM/Sirius) are compressing the signal (they send to the user’s receiver) to conserve bandwidth.

      • I wondered if signal compression might be the culprit. And yet…

        Several years ago (before Sirius and XM merged) I had an XM subscription and a “Roadie” unit connected to a little stereo in my office. It sounded great. But most of the in-car units I encounter these days? Ugh. Have their been any changes in signal transmission since the merger that could be the cause of this? Or is it just a signal processing problem in the factory units that most car makers provide?

  19. My car (2007 Nissan Sentra) has an AUX port. I can play music from just about any portable device (Ipod, phone, cd player, etc) through my car speaker system. I think this more the norm with newer vehicles.

    I do not think I would ever pay for a sirius type service (especially if I still had to listen to commercial) since I live in an area with a wide enough selection of radio stations to listen in addition to music/podcast I can play through my car system.

    I do not use Pandora, since I do not use data plans (I do not wish to spend $30+/month). It probably is a nice service if I had unlimited access to WiFi (fine at a stationary location, not so much while traveling).

  20. My GF has been talking about getting me a Pandora setup for my car, but between three decent radio stations and about 300 CDs, I seem to always have something interesting to listen to.

  21. I realize that most people pay data charges for their phones they don’t otherwise use so Pandora might still fit within their standard outlay, but for those who have no other reason for a cell phone data plan would still be paying at least as much or more. Has wi-fi really gotten to the point of seamless handoffs every few yards or signal strengths to make it practical for driving?

    My internet provider has a hot spot I can see from my window. If I go outside with my laptop I can just barely pick it up. Barely. Yes I know with a home made better antenna it would work. I would just be surprised if the wi-fi coverage is there yet to make it practical when driving.

    As to downloading… I found that it was just too much trouble to always be planning out things, downloading this or that, trying to save a stream while I was asleep, etc and so on. I’ll listen to my music archive on memory stick in the car instead of using a CD, but that was a one and done thing. I add more to it now and then, that’s about all it requires of me.

    • Hi Brent,

      “Has wi-fi really gotten to the point of seamless handoffs every few yards or signal strengths to make it practical for driving?”

      Yup. I’ve driven four vehicles recently with in-car WiFi and it works as well as being at Starbucks!

      Several automakers include integrated Pandora with the suite of apps, too.

      You know I’m kind of a reluctant techno-phile… but I love Pandora.

      Love that it’s free; requires no contract or commitment. Love that if you want no commercials, the fee is nominal. Love that the programming is almost AI. Give a song “thumbs up” and the thing begins to learn your tastes and make song suggestions accordingly. Or just dial up exactly what you want – and nothing else!

      • It’s not actually using free wi-fi hotspots outside of the car then.

        In car wi-fi is just a wireless router in the car that then uses the car’s cellular connectivity to reach the internet. So that means paying an extra cell phone bill for the car or getting on-star or whatever it is for each make (after the trial period is over). The music is free, the data connection to get the music isn’t. Now of course if one is subscribing to the service anyway then it works out, if not, not so much.

        • BrentP, I don’t think we can say one thing is going to be the thing to get. There are so many options and the ones that work the best will out the others. One thing I have learned is it is always changing, constantly. If you’re the sort of person who wants someone to tell them the thing they’ll be happy with and is best for them, I think those people will be out of luck. There simply isn’t one answer. And that mainly depends on what you like. I love Sirius because I’m a musician and love all sorts of music and much of the music I love is older than most people who comment here. And that’s fine. Different formats for different tastes. It’s all building up to a greatly satisfying experience for everyone…..including those who just want to listen to their old record and collect more of them .. Mang, it’s free market…..and what could be better? Oh, yeah, get the damned FCC out of it, just crush the fuckers and be done with it and everything will be A-OK…..except for clovers who want someone to do without something just cause they hate freedom and happiness. Clover, there’s something between me and my music you don’t want to jack with. You may not understand it until it’s too late…..and I ain’t playin.

          I urge everyone to watch or re-watch a basically true story, the movie, Pirate Radio. One line is “The govt. just hates for people to be free”. No shitsky. And so does clover.

            • It was global warming until NASA and NWS got busted falsifying data. Now it’s “climate change”. I’m surely glad too. I don’t know, just guessing here, but the earth probably wasn’t very conducive to life as I know it before a lot of climate changed. I don’t understand how these idiots propose to stop it but the options don’t sound good.

              • They changed to climate change before people found what they were doing to the data. For most people the entire subject is decided for them by their political team. The number of people who’ve actually done a data driven scientific approach are few and far between. The left claims science for themselves, but their version of science is a religion. The right of course is anti-science along with the people who actually try to hold scientific authority to the methods of science.

          • I have sirius still on in my newest car. My cell phone isn’t capable of such fancy stuff. But it’s dying, I just keep patching it up, so I’ll probably end up with something with such capabilities sooner or later. I nearly dropped it when 40s on 4 became the billy joel channel but then it reappeared. They moved it to another station number now and changed the name. Maybe there’s similar stuff on Pandora, perhaps I’ll look when I get a new phone.

      • I’ve been an XM subscriber for years (in car only), and I hear exactly what you are saying. But one point is that there are no commercials on the music stations (at least the ones I’ve tried). Only on the talk shows. I don’t know of any alternative to the SAT services if you just have to tune in to talk show XYZ but don’t get a local feed. Plus the SAT model gives you everything in a very easy to use package, integrated into your car music system. I know it is not traditional radio, but it “works” just like a radio. I like that.

    • While I support what you’re saying, the bandwidth to get the free music is anything but free. Not defending Sirius (I’m not a subscriber to it or cable or satellite TV), but their cost covers the whole thing except for a one-time cost of a receiver. Same when you compare Netflix (which I do get). It may only be a few bucks a month but my Internet from Comcast and Verizon definitely is not.

      • Hi Jenny!

        That’s true – but most people already have Internet in their homes and if it’s WiFi (which is most) you’ve got that (signal) covered.

        And while you can’t “carry it with you,” you can bring your iPod or phone – and both store effectively unlimited selections of music/podcasts, etc.

        Finally, in-car WiFi is here and will soon be ubiquitous. Yes, there’s a fee for the service. At least, for now. I suspect it will become a freebie, too – because people will otherwise just end-run it by playing recorded stuff through the car’s system via Bluetooth.

    • WIFi will handoff if the access points are set up to do it. 99% of the APs outside of an office or hotel will not handoff. Xfinity wifi will not handoff.

      I spend a lot of time on the road and that means a lot of time listening to podcasts. The podcast app on my phone checks for updates every 12 hours and will automatically download any new shows -unlimited size on WiFi and under 150MB on LTE. I don’t know of any podcasts that require payment for downloading, although several I listen to will accept donations.


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