Thursday, July 05, 2007

AAA Radio Gets Downgraded By XM

"Enhancements" Mean XM Cafe and Starbucks Hear Music Channels Are Being Combined

Buried in a press release earlier this week about channel "enhancements," XM Radio jolted listeners like me who turn to it largely for its AAA (Adult Album Alternative) programming, which is spread over three channels that have each succeded quite well on their own merits. At least I thought so.

XM says it will launch the Starbucks XM Cafe channel on Aug. 1 to create the "highest-quality coffeehouse music experience ."

Fine and dandy. Only thing: What that actually means is XM is combining two of the AAA channels, XM Cafe (ch. 45) and Starbucks Hear Music (ch. 75) into one.

Enhancements don't usually come from subtraction, but there you go.

At first listen, both channels cater to essentially the same audience -- 25-54 adults who have been disenfranchised by the stultifying programming on commercial terrestrial radio. They feature an eclectic, expansive playlist, everything from Norah Jones and Lyle Lovett, to REM, Snow Patrol and Bonnie Raitt.

One nice thing about both channels -- slightly more so at XM Cafe -- is that they feature a lot of new artists who would otherwisie go unheard on the radio. I know iTunes has gotten some business from me after I heard a song on one of the channels that I wanted to keep.

To be sure, there's enough out there for both channels to be complementary to each other, even if some artists and songs were duplicated. That's certainly not unique on XM, which has enough formats floating around its channels for songs to span several genres for different audiences.

By consolidating XM Cafe and Starbucks, many promising artists may be iced out of the playlists, especially if there's a greater emphasis on artists whose CDs you can buy at Starbucks.

Either way, it's a shame that XM has diminished one of its reasons for being. You pay your $12.95 to choose what you listen to, rather than let someone else who may be more focused on what music moves more macchiatos choose for you.


Bruce said...

The new "SBUXXMCAFE" sucks! I had no idea until I found this on Google. I'll re-think my XM subscription, XM Cafe was the best!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that the new channel blows. Unlike you, I thought the old 75 was far better than 45. The new 45 sounds a lot like what I thought the old 45 sounded like but I didn't listen to it that often. I used to consider 45 "endless Dave Matthews" and other lame-o easy-listening-sounding bands that bored me to tears. 75 was fresh and exciting and introduced me to great artists I'd never hear anywhere else. I'm very depressed about the consolidation and considering canceling XM too since we listened very little to stations other than the old 75. Susan

Anonymous said...

I agree with 7:32! Hear Music was great NEW music. Now it is random live recordings from upmteen years ago? My girlfriend and I have 2 subscriptions and we usually only listen to Hear Music. Don't think I'll be with them much longer...

Anonymous said...

Add another unhappy Hear Music fan to the list! I enjoyed the eclectic mix on CH 75... everything from Regina Spector to the Rolling Stones and Tom Petty. I keep trying to like the new XM Cafe but it's too much REM, Dave Matthews, Nickelback... what I appreciated NOT hearing on 75. I too will most likely cancel my XM radio soon.

Anonymous said...

75 was awesome. I miss it terribly. 45 just isn't the same. that blows.