XM 34 redux

Well, my subscription to XM 34 ran out ages ago and I only had one other chance to listen to it for an extended block of time. So here goes. To begin with, here’s the largest other cross-section of songs I heard in a single sitting, more or less:

  • Integriphant, “Terrible Time Down There”
  • Reggie Sadler Family, “Late at Night”
  • Hoskins Family, “Palm of His Hand” (hold the phone … Angie Hoskins sings the melody for almost an entire verse! And it is quite good stuff, especially in that second verse where the ensemble comes in behind her)
  • Janet Paschal, “If You Had Known Me”
  • Palmetto State, “Knock, Knock, Knock”
  • Sego Brothers and Naomi, “I’ll Fly Away”
  • Nelons, “I’m on my Way” (no comment)
  • GVB, “When We All Get Together with the Lord”
  • Three Bridges, “Cooling Water” (”From grandma’s well” Huh? Ugh.)
  • Cats, “Oh What a Savior” (from the Alive Deep in the Heart of Texas; second time a version of this song has been on in less than two hours - the first came from the Tribute project, I think … hmmmm)
  • The Perrys, “I Will Find You Again”
  • DBQ, “I’m Saved”
  • EHSSQ, “Stand by Me”
  • McKameys, “God is So Good” (the chorus of this song really is the epitome of lyrical tautology)
  • Rambos, “Follow the Leader”
  • Heirline, “You’ll Never Run Out of Blood” (This was No. 1?!)
  • Vestal Goodman with the Martins, “Stand and Testify”
  • Jonathan White, “The Passion of the Christ”
  • The Greenes, “Hold On”
  • GV, with Tracey Stuffle, “He’s my Savior”
  • Kingsmen (I think), “Little is Much”
  • The Hoppers, “Look for Me”
  • Cats, “Keep on the Firing Line” (erroneously listed as a George Younce solo … this sloppy mislabeling really started to get annoying after a while)
  • Kingdom Heirs, “He Had to Rise”
  • Poet Voices, “He Had to Be”
  • David Livingston, “All of You” (goodness this is bad)
  • Mike Upright, “I’ll be Alright”

After several hours of listening, I recalled a plea the station management put out when the thing first went live … for content. The station’s music selection is wide but not deep - at all. Though they play some good old stuff, nearly all of it appears to come from recent compilations and reissues (Rambos, Segos, even the GVB “When We All” came from a reissue collection of GVB hits and not the original project), which suggests their strength in song selection may be offset by a shallow pool of songs. There are a coupla ways to look a this: it could mean their programming know-how will only solidify as their song-selection grows. Or it could mean the scope of their variety will be limited to whatever classic or old stuff happens to be re-released by this or that commemorative phase of this or that group. At any rate, though my early enthusiasm is somewhat diminished by the second sitting, I’m still impressed with XM34. FTR, I’m not going to pony up $8 a month for a subscription, but that has more to do with my listening habits than the station itself.

One thing this experiment got to me thinking about was the whole satellite vs. internet radio thing. After doing some research and talking with people whole know more than I do about it, I think I can say with confidence that I was pretty much entirely wrong about satellite radio, at least insofar as I got all twitterpated and pumped about the prospect of an sg sat-rad station (I stand by my critique of the Old Media Mentality in sg, though). I mean, it would be neat and doubtless a few new listeners would derive from it. But I think I was dazzled by the newness without asking myself: how many people do I know with sat-rad? Not many. How likely are those few sat-rad subscribers to get turned onto sg if there was a sg sat-rad station? Not many. Take a look at this study, and you may see where I’m coming from here. Here’s the money quote:

In 87 metro markets surveyed by the The Media Audit, satellite radio attracts mostly a male audience, but only 681,000 or 0.5 percent of all adults. From a total sample of 117,737 respondents, only 571 adults (ages 18 and over) said they listened to satellite radio at least once in the past seven days (7-day cume). “We were surprised at how little market penetration has been achieved by satellite radio,” said Bob Jordan, President of International Demographics.

And if you push on into the report a little farther, you’ll see that these sat-rad numbers, paltry as they are, actually get worse when compared to internet radio, which has grown to 37 million listeners per month in America. Estimated weekly audience for Internet radio: 20 million (that’s about 5 million a week at major radio properties within companies like AOL and Yahoo). The real kicker is that broadband connections are now as common in American households as dial-up. Combine that with a marked preference among respondents for Internet radio because it allows them to hear content they can’t get elsewhere and to control what they play, and internet radio (and adjacent services like downloadables and podcasting) constitutes just about as perfect a storm as you can ask for if you’re looking for the vortex of music content provision (which is to say, until the marketing, fee-structure and logistics improve, forget sat-rad). All of which means that XM 34 online is important less for whatever influence it may or may not have on XM to put up a sg sat-rad station (if sat-rad usage is low among average Americans, imagine what it’s like among the above-averagely luddite sg crowd) but because it gets sg into another major content provider in the internet radio bidness.

I’m not sure why it took me this long to figure all this out, other than that I can pretty dense sometimes. But once it all tumbled into place, this started to align with other things I’m hearing from other sectors of the internet world: I was sitting in a presentation the other day from a library technologist who was talking about how you have to through a lot of expectations about usage and demographics out the window when you put content online. His example was a digital copy of an old unpopular and badly written novel from the 19th century. It hadn’t been checked out in 30 years or something, and the first year it was online in digital form, it was downloaded 6,000 times. Now it was free, granted, and consumer patterns can be predicted with a little more certitude than research interests, but my point is to say that the broad accessibility of content online means it will regularly find its way in front of people who would never otherwise have, say, listened to sg on old tower-feed stations or purchased sg music from a big-box store. But now places like live365.com have scores of sg stations available for free and content subscribers to places like XM (does Sirius have sg stations?) can easily browse through other XM radio stations adjacent to the ones they originally subscribed for. Serendipity, curiosity, happenstance - these are structuring forces online and though of course sg will be the last people to discover cyberspace in all its potentiality, it will catch up someday. And if it doesn’t, it will sure wish it had.

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