channels fred, ethel and lucy

2/19/07

This just in from the News That Will Seem Unbearably Quaint To Readers from the Year 2073™: satellite providers XM and Sirius have decided to merge. All four of you who have been reading since 2002 know how much I loved my very early adoption of XM Radio, and the company probably owes me about forty finder’s fees.

That said, XM and Sirius were like two unpopular kids in third grade who spent so much time fighting each other that they forgot about the bully. Sirius had Howard Stern, XM had Oprah; Sirius had all GM cars, and XM had me. Neither company made any money, and it always seemed like it was a matter of time before they both flickered off the dial like the midnight star-spangled-banner sign-offs of our early youth.

XM has kept me company for five years now, accompanied me on every road trip, and splashed the Taconic State Parkway with fabulous music. From 2002-2005, when all American news sources offered nothing but parroted talking points from our disastrous Administration, we listened to nothing but the BBC World Service. We caught Woody Durham on the ACC channel while driving through Wyoming. And my daily feast on XMU, Channel 43, has re-awoken cells of new music love that I’d thought long dead.

Sean listens to nothing but the Broadway Musical Theater Channel, but that’s because he likes backrubs and daisies.

Anyway, this is one merger that everyone should be psyched about: satellite radio lifts the shackles off your car stereo, and allows you to leave the iPod at home. It is a direct middle finger to Clear Channel and their lobotomized Top 40 playlists. There’s even a humor channel where you can say “fuck.”

I’ve been involved with companies that had great ideas before their time, and I suffered for it. I proposed schemes that had to wait ten years for the infrastructure to catch up. Websites make millions now from inklings a few of us were knocking around in 1996 – we became victims of a “can’t do that yet” culture, grew demoralized, and quit. Think about Ricochet, who blanketed a city with wireless internet in 1994, only to implode in 2001. Now over 200 American cities have municipal wireless.

I’m stoked to think that satellite radio was an idea whose time had come; few things are worse than falling in love with a technology run by people who can’t afford the french fries.

0 thoughts on “channels fred, ethel and lucy

  1. Joanna

    I’m convinced my “cells of new music love” are dead. What are you listening to, Ian? Fellow aficionados of The Smiths have recommended The Decemberists, but I just haven’t made the connection. The last time I played around on iTunes, I ended up fixated on The Wedding Present. Am I forever lost in the ’80s? What should I try?

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  2. John Schultz

    Try Fred, Lucy and other channels between 40 and 55.
    I absolutely love XM and have it everywhere- car, home, etc. It has introduced me to bands that I would never hear on local radio and I have ended up buying more music because of it.
    Coupled with ACC sports and every news channel you could want, it makes for excellent listening on short and long trips.
    I love it so much I don’t even have FM channels programmed in my car. As far as I am concerned, the death of FM radio can’t happen soon enough.

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  3. emma

    I love Lucy, Ethel and Fred in that order. I am a little torn between the idea of this merger. First of all, I am completely satisfied with what XM provides. I don’t care that I don’t have Howard Stern or NFL. But if the merger means that XM listeners will get NFL, then that will make my husband very happy (which, of course, makes me happy).
    I don’t see how this merger would not constitute a monopoly and be looked down upon by the Trade Commission, but on the other hand, it blows my mind that these two companies cannot make a profit. If merging them helps them turn a profit, I think they deserve a profit. They are providing a service that I love. Without it, I would be stuck listening to nothing but classic rock, country and easy listening.

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  4. Jody

    It’s all about the Satellite Radio. These companies deserve profit. Monopoly? I still have a CD collection-
    FM radio needs a real kick in the ass to remain relevant. They’d better hurry ’cause my last installation was on my motorcycle, which pretty much rounds out every option I have to get rid of free radio.

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  5. eric g.

    As the only person I know who has both XM and Sirius, I am cautiously optimistic about the merger, but I am concerned that some of my favorite channels will be lost in the shuffle. For example, I love having two different Old Time Radio channels, one on each service, because there’s always one of my favorite old detective shows on one of them, while a long-forgotten comedy like “The Life of Riley” or “The Great Gildersleeve” is on the other. All of this confirms my long-held suspicion that I was born in the wrong half-century, but I digress. I hope for the best, and it will be nice to have all of the sports on one service.

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  6. s

    The only concern about the merger is who’s gonna lose their job. The XM Broadway channel is 100 times better than the Sirius one, they play more than the same 15 songs. Seth Rudetsky and Andy Probst both have followings, and I hope there’s room for both.

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  7. Zach

    I’ve had XM for around five years as well and can’t live without it. I like XMU, The Rhyme (old school hip hop), XMPR (with Bob Edwards!), Air America (which will take a hit with Al Franken’s departure) and the Laugh channel (complete with uncensored bits from the greatest comedians ever).
    It’s also unreal to have access to every UNC hoops game with an uninterupted signal. I can’t tell you how many times I clenched my jaw when losing Woody on an AM station and scrambling to pick up the next Tarheel Sports Network channel.
    While I don’t know why XM can’t turn a profit, all you have to do is look at how much money Sirius is paying Howard Stern and that’ll explain their lack of money.
    On a side note, anyone out there using Pandora (www.pandora.com)? It’s the web manifestation of the Music Genome Project, a database that ascribes over 400 characteristics to each of the more than 50,000 songs in its collection. When you type in a band or a song (i.e. Beastie Boys or “Sabotage”) it creates a streaming playlist or “station” that searches out similar artists or songs that are “related” to you choice. I’ve discovered so much great music this way. And, best of all, it’s free! Check it out.

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  8. Sharon

    My hope is that the merger will bring NCAA coverage to XM. You can get the regular season and ACC Tourny, but no NCAAs. I know that all good Tarheel fans should be squarely in front of the TV in March, but we travel every year to DC for a family thing and I’m always stuck listening to ESPN News or similar and checking the blackberry for scores. Also – have to give a shoutout for XM Channel 12 – Cross Country. And, the 116 Kids channel.

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  9. Curtis

    I have subscribed to XM for about two years, and absolutely love it. I generally bounce around between XMU, X Country (the alt-country channel), Fungus, and the usual suspects of Fred, Ethel and Lucy. And it’s virtually worth the subscription price to hear Bob Edwards have extended conversations with a terrific selection of guests.
    XM offers a great product. It deserves to make a profit. If this merger is necessary for XM and Sirius to survive, then so be it. With that said, any merger of this sort worries me. History tells us that media mergers and consolidation only lead to the limiting of listener/viewer choices. (Can you say Clear Channel?) Rest assured that XM and Sirius will eliminate “redundancies” in their lineups by getting rid of some of our favorite channels and/or hosts. And I would be shocked if the elimination of competition doesn’t result in a significant increase in the subscription cost.
    Common sense suggests that XM and Sirius may have trouble getting governmental approvals of this deal. But given the FCC’s recent history of allowing unmitigated media consolidation, it may get approved.

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  10. Grumphreys

    Don’t have either Sirius or XM, but I did visit the Sirius offices in manhattan for an interview a few years ago – very swanky! I loved the interview format; in-depth, much longer than your typical 5 minute hey-howz-it-goin’. The host had actually listened to the CD in its entirety and had detailed and insightful questions at the ready. (Sorry if i already mentioned this in an earlier blog comment).
    Re: FCC merger approval – our fellow UNC alumnus Kevin Martin is the head of the FCC now! That is an impressive accomplishment, although he’s a Bush-y and I obviously do not share his political views. Hey Kev, how ’bout breaking up those corporate media monopolies? Hello? (dialtone)
    Thanks to Emma and her husband for coming out to our gig last week – its nice to meet folks from xtcian out in the world.

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  11. GFWD

    Zach, I’ve checked out Pandora.com before. I enjoyed watching it try to link the band HALLOWEEN, ALASKA and then try to link SEAL.
    When is HOBEX coming back to the ATL? Now that Scruggs ain’t preggers anymore, she can be my date to the show, if we can convince our respective spouses to stay home with the kids!

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  12. ken

    I feel compelled to comment as someone who’s worked in radio for nearly 25 years. So much of what makes radio so special is that personal connection which I feel is something that satellite radio sorely lacks. There’s a comfort in getting to know the a DJ you like and relating to them, they go to the same shows you do and drive on the same streets and root for the same teams you do and talk about it. There’s a community there that to me is irreplaceable.
    I’ve heard some good programs on XM and I like ‘Fred’ but as you might imagine from someone’s who’s been in the business as long as I have, it’s pretty tough to hook me with a ‘depth cut’ that isn’t in my collection or on my iPod. I’ll admit that once in a while, I’ll hear a track that is either new to me or one I’d forgotten about but it’s never enough to justify paying for the service (I get XM free with my DirecTV service). While I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a music snob, I’m confident that the music collection I’ve assembled is more to my taste than what’s available on most of the satellite channels. Plus I love the democracy of the iPod, which provides an eclectic mix of music no satellite service could likely match. Certain terrestrial radio stations have seized upon this notion and formats that boast “We Play Anything” are missing the point that the pool of music they’re drawing from is based upon research and is rarely the wildly random mix they purport to have. They may think that hearing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” followed by “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and then “Hey Jude” (a set I heard recently) is random (which it is) but it can also be jarring unless it happens to be a mix of music that one person likes equally. The person who likes Cyndi Lauper may have to sit through another four or five songs they don’t like before “Missing You” by John Waite gets played.
    Don’t get me wrong, I could go on just as long on how commercial/terrestrial radio is dying and isn’t what it used to be. Maybe another time.

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  13. Ian

    Ken, I feel like the FM radio you’re describing is that of my youth in Iowa, and even in the ’80s in Virginia, but it doesn’t exist much anymore in places like New York City. LA certainly has KCRW (streaming on the Web as well) but most other towns in America don’t have that kind of radio anymore.
    Plus, as much as I love my iPod, I need an influx of cool, exciting new stuff, curated by people who know what they’re doing (which XMU on XM certainly does). The added bonus is being able to hear these things in the middle of nowhere.
    Joanna, I’ll try to put together some recent faves and post them on the blog.

    Reply

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