PM Pick

Who needs satellite radio?

I always thought satellite radio was a technology equivelant of Colecovision, something that would be obsolete before it ever gets real momentum behind it. So this WSJ report on the industry's doldrums fit nicely with my worldview: "Last year, XM lost $667 million, and Sirius lost $863 million. And Sirius is facing a potential exodus of subscribers as a clutch of promotional one-year trials soon comes to an end." Satellite radio seems like an intermediate stage before a real breakthrough that everyone can see coming, which is having portable Internet access sustained by a cellular-phone-type network -- why have satellite radio when you can have Internet radio?

That the satellite radio firms basically have to give away subscriptions through a variety of free-trial deals, and the fact that most people won't subscribe even when the hardware is built right in to their new cars tells you something about the inherent consumer indifference to this technology. There's just no real demand for it. Perhaps this is because everyone senses that a cell phone will likely be able to deliver everything a satellite radio feed can soon enough. Also, it seems a lousy way to get music. Who needs satellite radio's multiplicity of channels when you can download a gazillion songs and plug an iPod into your car stereo? Wouldn't most people rather have 60 GB of their own music to play in whatever sequence they desire rather than a subscription to music someone else plays for you? I don't think most music consumers are willing to let go of the idea of songs a product one buys and owns; satellite radio and Napster's subscription service and other similar concepts try to sell people on renting music in general -- all of it, whatever music has been recorded. But people don't want all of it so much as they want to own a small piece of it and tend that small piece with care, curating their own musical museum of selfhood. The sort of music consumer who is not interested in the minutia of managing playlists and so on is probably indifferent to the added spectrum of sounds satellite radio affords and is content with FM. These customers need to be sold on the fact that it is commercial free, but I suspect that they probably don't mind commercials -- they pace one's listening experience, are probably found to be amusing in some cases, and at any rate spur one to act, to start scanning for something else. Commercial-free radio can start to seem like Muzak, someone else's sound design intended to program my moods. Of course, everybody I know who has satellite radio just uses it to listen to Howard Stern. But others just download Stern on Bit Torrent and listen to his shows at their leisure on their iPods. How far can a cult of personality really carry a technology?

More than anything, though, I think radio is a local technology (traffic reports, weather, news, school closings, local talk radio, etc.) -- once it ceases to be local, responsive to local events -- once it no longer includes your theoretical participation -- it is easily replaced by prepackaged entertainment you can actually own.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image