D.O.R.K. are getting ready to set out on their first nationwide tour, hitting over 40 cities across the country in 8 weeks. Although they had an eventful summer with the Warped Tour, it was a a rough one, they’re looking forward to getting back on the road again. After having to replace their drummer for the forth time, and having two other band members experience personal losses, they still managed to record and complete their second DIY release, due out in September. Over the past year and a half, D.O.R.K. has made significant progress, including the ability to devise a financial plan where each tour pays for itself, publishing companies offering invaluable advice and connections even if the guys don’t sign on the dotted line, and securing a slot at the Whiskey on a Saturday night. This is an early show, being the first all ages gig for the Soiled Dove. D.O.R.K. goes on at 8:30pm sharp.
kb reviews xm radio’s variety, and mostly free commercial programming
This week we’re taking a look and putting an ear to XM Radio’s subscription service, which offers 101 channels of satellite radio – 70 music channels and 31 news, sports, comedy, talk, and variety channels. XM is one of two companies on the market offering this service, with the other being Sirius.
The combination of limited commercials and a much more expansive selection of music is amazingly appealing. For the cost of a couple of drinks at the bar including tip, $10, is what they charge for their monthly subscription compared to $12.95 with Sirius.
Half of XM’s 70 music channels are commercial-free, and the rest play about 2 minutes of commercials per hour. According to David Butler from XM, “That is much less than the 18-22 minutes of commercials per hour on typical radio stations. Whether you sign up for XM or Sirius, you are going to hear very few commercials, far less than what you hear on AM and FM.” I would tend to agree, especially if you’ve dropped your CD during drive time and to avoid a rear-end collision, are stuck listening to the droll of Tom Shane and his friggin’ diamond company.
XM sent me the XM PCR receiver, which goes for $69.95. It uses the power off your computer and is mainly for home or office use (it just uses the power via USB cable, but doesn’t require any internet connection). This unit was really easy to install – took ten minutes tops, from opening the box and installing the software, to connecting the cables. I used my computer’s speakers to get the sound I was looking for.
You need to have your subscription set up already to instantly get all the channels. But if you haven’t got that set up, you can access the web site or call their toll-free number. They start you off with some sample channels until that’s done.
The software looks like many MP3 or other music media (Windows Media) software interfaces. Four custom tabs allow you to easily add the channels you like most by going to the custom tab, then right clicking to add the current channel you’re listening to.
I would have to say my favorite is Fred, which plays the best new wave, Brit-pop and alternative rock of the 90s – from Ocean Blue, Wall of Voodoo and Peter Murphy, to Wonderstuff, Catherine Wheel, Pop Will Eat Itself, Dinosaur Jr.’s “Just Like Heaven” and Stiff Little Fingers’ “Suspect Device”. Beginning this week and going until Sept. 1st at 4PM ET, they’ll be doing a countdown returns for the annual Labor Day replay, comprised of 2044 songs chosen as the most essential by Fred.
XMU is the college station of the group, playing the underground, alternative artists from Fischerspooner, The Postal Service and Ween to the hip-hop flava of KRS-ONE.
Deep Tracks is another great station, playing all the 60s artists that set the ground work for bands like the White Stripes, The Hiss, Vue, and BRMC – from The Leaves “Hey Joe” and Standells “Dirty Water”, but then gets into the 70s soft rock crap at times.
A new show debuted this past week, Trap Muzik Radio with Paul Wall on RAW, who brings deep down hip-hop and “Reppin’ the Swisha House outta Houston.” He’s also got a one-hour show called Screw, where he raps and interviews hip-hop celebrities. The other 7 urban stations go from old school on The Rhythm to Flow, which pulls out soul, hip hop, funk, jazz and spoken word.
If you’re into time travel, each Decades station allows you to visit those periods in time – the 40s for some Polka or old school jazz, a psychedelic trip with some 60s Who, to the 90s with the electronic theme to Mission Impossible from Larry Mullen.
Liquid Metal definitely plays the groovier metal shit you’ll never hear on the mainstream rock stations, like Society 1 and Ill Nino, and is a sister station of sorts, to Boneyard.
Country and bluegrass fans have a number of choices, including America, Nashville, X Country, Bluegrass Village, and Hank’s Place, which plays the older, cooler country stuff.
On the talk radio side, Dragnet actually airs those old radio shows that ran from 1949 to 1957, and on the flip side, The Best of Dr. Demento tweaks your weird funny bone. Two of XM’s 31 non-music channels – C-Span and BBC Radio – are commercial free, and the rest play 2 minutes per hour. XM’s competitor Sirius offers 40 news/talk/comedy channels, nearly all of which play commercials, plus 60 music channels without commercials.
If you’re really into a band or want to hear more of their other songs that may play on XM, you can “Save Info” and it will add that artist to your “View Saved” list. The next time that artist is playing, if you’re listening to another channel, it will alert you and ask if you want to switch the channel where they’re playing via a pop up (and allows you to disable this pop up).
For the most part, the DJs keep pretty quiet. But they do rise to the microphone to give you some info on what they have coming up on the playlist, information on artist releases and shows, or other live events taking place on XM, even on other channels.
One such event was on Liquid Metal where Motorgrater performed a live show filled with, “sonic explosion of apolyptic mahem.” The XM Radio web site is a great resource to find out more details about stations and what other special programs they have scheduled.
MusicDish wrote an article recently about the commercial aspect of satellite radio, stating these companies swore that they were completely commercial free, and are not. Butler replied to that statement with, “XM’s business model has been consistent since the day it started. XM has always offered some channels without any commercials, some channels with very limited commercial interruptions, and a lower subscription price (XM is $9.99 a month versus Sirius’ $12.95 per month).”
MusicDish also made mention of Clear Channel’s investment in XM. One would have cause for concern on hearing this, fearing that the mega conglomerate may have some impact on programming.
Butler pointed out that the MusicDish story, “made a couple of errors in suggesting that Clear Channel bought into XM in 2003 and took a role in running the company. In 1999 Clear Channel was one of several companies to make an initial investment in XM Radio prior to its 2001 launch. In the years since, CC’s role as an XM investor has diminished as other companies and individuals have invested in XM.”
“Clear Channel does not play any role in the day-to-day programming decisions or business decisions of XM. XM’s programming and business strategy are autonomous from Clear Channel. Clear Channel is responsible for one of XM’s 101 channels – the Top 40 channel KISS in Los Angeles. The rest of XM’s music channels are programmed and broadcast from XM headquarters in Washington, plus a few channels are programmed and operated by XM in New York City and Nashville.”
As far as I could hear, the music offerings are far and away better than anything you would be able to get from your standard commercial station. This in itself is its main selling point, obviously. “If XM didn’t do that, it wouldn’t have some 700,000 subscribers today, and if XM stopped offering that kind of choice in the future, why would people stick with the service?” Butler asks.
Other units they have available are higher-end than the XM PCR for the car or home. The Delphi XM SKYFi™ Radio can be added to any existing car or home stereo system for $99.99, including a boom box you take to the park. The new Delphi XM Roady™ is a complete XM Radio system for the car in one package for $119.99, including an XM receiver, micro-antenna, and a cassette adapter.
When I was discussing this service with a friend of mine, his reply was, “Why would I pay for something when I can get it for free?” Good question. The problem is, you can’t get all this on commercial radio, just like you can’t get good movies or Sex and the City on NBC. And we still have to pay for cable just to get non-cable stations.
Nothing worth anything seems to be free these days. But if music is as central part of your life as it is mine, this is a very cool addiction that will make me give up a few vodka tonics at the bar and drink at home instead.
Buzz Band Stories this week:
— THROCULT seeks new vocalist
— Aggressive Persuasion searches for a new guitarist
— FaiL-YeRZ seeks drum tech
— XM Radio Unsigned Channel seeks bands for their programming
Do you have some news about your music or your band that you would like everyone to know about? Email us at email@example.com!!