SiriusXM is pretty great, and you should consider paying for it

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 13, 2020, 9:22 PM | comments: 0

First off, you can stream SiriusXM stations for free right now through May 15. You should try it.

I loved radio. I mean, I loved it so much that I wanted to be on it. While I achieved that goal in short order (and subsequently found out it was a terrible job in a crumbling industry), that love affair started when I was a kid. My step-dad received a radio Walkman as a gift, I think when I was 10 or 11. I was sick with the flu or something, and couldn't sleep, so he let me use it one night to hopefully get me there. With a fresh pair of AA batteries, I found the top 40 station in Cleveland, and it blew my mind. When the voice stopped talking, the music played in glorious stereo. I vividly remember Pat Benatar's "We Belong," because of the stereo-ness of it. I think Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" was another one I heard.

Shortly thereafter, I had a clock radio, and would listen for hours, hoping to hear whatever it was I was excited to hear. I started using the sleep button to listen for an hour as I fell asleep. I would do this for years, eventually migrating to CD's at bed time in college, but radio seemed like magic still. In college and at the radio stations where I worked, I'd anxiously get the latest issue of Radio & Records to see what was charting, especially on the modern rock chart. As bland as radio started to get by then, settling mostly on country and adult contemporary formats, there was a wonderful art to curating music and taste-making. I felt like the Cleveland alt-rock station at the time, 107.9-The End, was particularly good at it. They created an image that wasn't afraid of popular things, but also not shy about that song or band that wasn't on anyone's radar. It was fantastic.

By the mid-oughts, I had largely given up on terrestrial radio. But in early 2010, I retied my last aging Toyota Corolla and got a Prius, which was equipped with a satellite radio. That radio had a three-month trial to the recently merged Sirius and XM radio services, and it took all of one week of commuting between Issaquah and Redmond, Washington, before I was hooked. AltNation and Lithium became my favorite channels, but it was great to have access to literally every little genre. The service doesn't have to compete with other formats, it simply serves them all.

I've been a customer ever since. Annoyingly, you've had to call them up and threaten to cancel every six months to a year, at which time they give you the best deal available. It's a stupid business practice, but I think it's changing. This time, I just popped a chat window on their web site, and they gave me the best deal, currently $5/month plus fees and taxes, for a year.

"But Jeff, when are you in your car?" Good question. The car I drive doesn't even have a satellite radio. But the streaming service became part of the package last year, and it works on the web in a browser, on phone apps and on Amazon and Google speakers. I listen to it nearly every day.

So you're probably like, "Yeah, but I just use some other streaming service." Yeah, I've tried those, but all of the algorithmic "station" things don't really work. My car has Slacker, and it blows. Human curated radio is still pretty great, both as a way to listen to what you're comfortable with, and as a discovery means. They also have the news and talk stuff, if that's your thing, and lots of stuff on demand, like weekly countdowns and in-studio performances. There's a human energy to radio even now that I adore, and it's commercial free.

Outside of public radio and colleges, terrestrial radio still blows, and stopped being local years ago. Satellite radio, even when it's streaming, can't be local, but it's pretty great. You can't even buy a Starbucks coffee for $5, so this is worth it. I'm worried about the service because people are not driving much these days, which is evident in how much they're pushing people to use the app to listen.

Give it a shot. I think you'll like it. It's free for another month. When that's over, consider subscribing. It's worth it.


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