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Friday, November 14, 2008

XM / Sirius Merger - Programming Disaster

OK, now listen. I realize my musical tastes aren't for everyone, but, they're mine and I like them. I became enamored of satellite radio 2 years ago, quite by accident. There's nothing but crap on FM these days unless you are a hormone overdosed teenager (and even then I'm not so sure).

I'm a jazz fan. More specifically, I like modern jazz, acid jazz, fusion jazz - stuff with more of a bite than straight ahead jazz. Cutting edge stuff. Jazz that pushes the boundaries and tries to go places where jazz hasn't been.

Don't get me wrong - straight ahead jazz is ok, but, one of the reasons, I think, that jazz doesn't get a lot of airplay is that when it is on, it's usually people covering the same old tunes from the jazz masters of 30 or 40 years ago. It's stagnant, it's like classic rock radio. Still good, but, man, if you want to hear something new it just isn't there!

In addition to the aforementioned jazz music, I like something called "chill" music. It's kinda like electronic dance/house music, but not as loud, not as driving. A lot of it has jazz influences and it has that certain "edginess" to it that grabs my attention. Add to that the fact that it's great making out music, and you have the perfect mixture for horny old farts like me.

Two years ago, I discovered XM radio by accident when I bought a new SUV that had XM as part of the package. More specifically, XM had two particular programming channels that knocked me out - "Beyond Jazz" (XM 72) and "Chill" (XM 84). Wow, I thought I was in heaven - this was just what I was looking for. I loved it and ran out and bought another XM radio for my other vehicle too. The latter one is a portable unit that I can remove and take with me when I go jogging.

I haven't listened to FM radio except by accident in 2 years now.

But, if you are a jazz fan, or a chill fan like me, then you have to be disappointed with what happened this week to XM radio.

In case you haven't heard, Sirius and XM merged and this week, unbeknownst to XM subscribers and without any courtesy warnings at all, significant programming changes were made. Several previous channels were either deleted entirely or modified so that they are now unrecognizable.

I went out Tuesday evening to a local jazz event, listening to the above mentioned stations on my XM radio on the way. Three hours later, when it was time to go home, Beyond Jazz was gone - pffftt! It was replaced by an airhead, newage programming channel called Spa - geez, the name of that channel alone makes me want to puke!

So I changed the dial to my Chill channel, and, although it was still called Chill, it was renamed Sirius/XM Chill, and it was different. It didn't sound like the XM Chill station. The artists were different. The style of chill music was different. The flavor changed. I don't like it. They may as well have removed Chill entirely from the line-up. It's different. It's almost a Stepford Wife Chill station now, if you catch my drift.

So, I went to the XM site, looked for some explanation of the programming changes. The best I could find was a press release from that day from Sirius/XM. The press release was bragging about the merger and all the programming options available to subscribers now.

But there wasn't any mention of the channels that were dropped. There wasn't any mention of all the other duplicitous channels that remained (I mean, how many rock and roll or hip hop channels do you really have to have? I can hear most of that same stuff on FM!)

So, I did what most folks would do, I looked for someone to whom I could complain. There were 2 contacts given at the bottom of the press release. So I emailed them. Told them I was disappointed in the programming change. Told them that the only reason I had subscriptions to 2 XM radios was because I listened to the two XM channels described above. And I told them that I was very disappointed that Sirius didn't even have the courtesy to let its subscribers know that the change was going to happen. They just did it without any warning.

I got a reply the next day from some suit. A senior VP of programming for XM. Said he was a fan of Beyond Jazz too, but that it didn't have the audience. Told me to give the new Chill channel a chance because it was a "work in progress." Then told me thanks for my past business if that didn't satisfy me. Told me to check out all the other offerings to see if there was something else I liked.

Well gee - duh, there isn't. And heaven help us all if that drivel on the SPA channel is popular!!!!

Damn, I'm so pissed. Anyone else out there feel the same way. Or am I the only one?