Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sirius Snobbery

While I'm on the topic of music, and since Douglas brought it up, let me take you on a tour of my Sirius Satellite Radio system. I've alluded to it before, but here's the lowdown of what I live with.
First of all, don't ask me how much it costs, what equipment to get, etc. The 17 year old pimple-faced salesguy will fill you in on all that. I have a boombox for home, and a unit for my truck which broadcasts a low power signal which is then picked up by the stereo in the vehicle. Just slip it from one receiver to another. Pretty easy stuff, really. Oh, and the vehicle unit can be picked up by cars parked within a couple of parking spaces, so be advised! I can also access the music channels online for times like now when I am away from the boombox.

I'll also warn you that satellite radio will spoil you quickly. It's tough to sit and listen to earth-bound radio unless I'm looking for local news, sports or weather. For music, it's a whole 'nother world. It's all I can do to fight the radio snobbery impulse to look down my nose at the commoners with the quaint old-fashioned radio.

Do not take this post as a commercial advertisement, endorsement, or condemnation of Sirius or of satellite radio in general. We would all live just fine if all the radio airwaves dried up. This is just fun stuff, OK?

If you're a music lover, Sirius is paradise. If you listen to nothing but the current hits, current country, or even basic classic rock you're better off not investing. That stuff gets played everywhere. Where satellite radio pays off is the stuff nobody else is playing. I'll take you on a spin down the dial.

The pop music section includes variations of the same theme -- stuff you hear on the radio now or for the past 50 years. You get a station for the 50's, the 60's, 70's and so on. There is a love songs station and a few that only play songs which annoy me. Sirius also has an all-Elvis station and currently has an all Rolling Stones channel. My favorite in this section is channel 12 which they call Sirius Super Shuffle which takes songs from most different types of music and plays them at random. At least that's what it's supposed to sound like. Often it does.

There is a section for rock with the basic classic rock stations: Classic Vinyl for 60's and 70's and Classic Rewind for some of the newer stuff. There is old punk/new wave, hair bands, garage bands, and every flavor of rock station you can think of. My current favorite here is channel 18, the Spectrum, which is more eclectic off beat stuff.

The dance/hip-hop/soul section is a mystery to me. Some of the older stuff I like, but this section really makes me feel old. Especially the all-disco channel The Strobe, channel 37. I find myself thinking, "Wow! I really hated this song in high school and it's no better now!"

The country section has a current station, an 80's and 90's station, a traditional country station and Outlaw Country, which is always good for a laugh. It's always fun to roll down the truck windows at a stop light with Tennessee Ernie Ford blaring out of the speakers! The bluegrass station is nice sometimes too.

The Christian section has expanded from two to three stations since I originally signed on to Sirius. There is now a basic channel, Spirit 66, for the Michael W. Smith and Casting Crowns stuff, then Revolution on channel 67 for the harder edge stuff. Revolution plays a lot of Disciple, Jonah 33, Hawk Nelson and a bunch of bands I've never heard of before. I'm about 50/50 on Revolution. Some of it is just too much for me. Other songs are great. The other Christian station is for Gospel recordings, and it seems I rarely get in the mood for that stuff anymore.

Next comes the Jazz (3 channels), New Age, Blues, Big Band and Standards, classical (3 channels) and international stations. The Jazz stations are great for when I'm writing, and there are always days I want to turn up Sirius Blues to around the decibel level of a small aircraft. The international stuff can be fun sometimes too, but unless I'm having a fiesta I don't usually turn on Universo Latino channel 90.

Mostly the three-digit channel numbers are sports and talk channels. Right at channel 100 and 101 are the two (yes, two) Howard Stern channels. Like it or not, the self-proclaimed King of All Media comes with a Sirius subscription. For folks like me, it's really easy to avoid him as he doesn't stray from his two frequencies. Same thing for some of the other less-than-wholesome programming which is bounced off the Big Dog's satellite. I can skip past the Maxim magazine station, the homosexual station, the unrestricted comedy channel and the new Playboy channel. I'm sad that my money helps go to support these things, but I do my voting with my tuner. I'm willing to bet that there is some way to measure how often each individual station is tuned in on my receiver.

There is a "clean" comedy channel which isn't bad and something called Blue Collar Comedy which seems to be trying to do some clean and some not as clean. It's not the station to listen to with the little kids in the backseat. Too many surprises.

There are a host of news options, from CNN to NPR to Fox News to BBC to Radio Korea. The talk radio options are a bit weak on Sirius right now after they picked up Fox Talk Radio which features Tony Snow and a bunch of folks I don't know. The right wing talk station is pretty worthless as is the left wing station. I used to be able to hear Laura Ingraham and Tammy Bruce, but they pulled that whole channel to put Fox on. Air America used to be on Sirius, but that only lasted a few months. I believe that network is still operational, so I'm not sure of the whole decision-making process on that one.

Then there are the traffic stations -- great if you live in one of the top 20 cities in the country. I don't live in one of those, so they are worthless. There is a Christian Talk station that I haven't quite figured out in the two months it has been on. EWTN is there for Catholic programming. There are a couple of kids' music channels too.

Sports is fantastic on Sirius, as every NFL game is found on the dial somewhere. I also find a lot of NBA, NHL and college sports on the air too. Of course there's ESPN Radio and ESPN News, but also NFL Network's radio channel is always on and there are other sports events broadcast live.

Sirius seems to invest a lot in getting some "name" personalities to attract listeners. As the number two satellite radio provider, they continue to look for a promotional edge. So it's not shocking to know that all of the five original MTV veejays pop up on Sirius music channels. Aside from Stern, Sirius also has Martha Stewart (how that sounds on radio, I don't know), Barry "Greg Brady" Williams, Jimmy Buffet, Bode Miller, Eminem and assorted other celebrity voices working on the air.

My favorite part is simply having the musical choices. I can go from a traditional jazz mood to an 80's music mood at the drop of a hat, but it's an easy transition with Sirius. My least favorite part is having to avoid all the stuff which really needs to be avoided, or stuff which will never pique my interest.

Is turning up the Sirius better than spending an hour in prayer? Of course not. But as I discussed yesterday, music is a language of the heart. On many of the channels I have my desire to speak that language fulfilled. It may not be huge in the Grand Scheme of Things, but it's an extra joy in a life already flooded by joys.


julie said...

It sounds like something my husband would like. He is interested in music noone else knows about.

Charlie said...

Hey, thanks for the great overview. Music is a language of the heart, and I think it's great to have a product like Sirius that offers so much music that isn't heard on the radio.

GiBee said...

Hmmm ... just trying to visualize YOU listening to DISCO.

But I will say this ... as you stated in your previous post (which was excellent, I might add), I can totally see you as musically multi-lingual!!!

I just noticed that the word verification is about 50 letters long and italicized so I can barely make the letters out ... did you plan that just to drive us (okay, ME) mad??

Pastor Taylor said...

I was introduced to Sirius Radio when it came as part of the package with Dish Network. I was hooked quickly. BUT, I still don't have Sirius in the truck...maybe Father's Day?

Douglas said...

Thanks for the tour! I'm listening to Sirius online as we speak, using a three-day guest membership. Your post was very helpful.