Sirius’ XM Acquisition

For a really long time, I was very anti-Satellite radio. Why pay for something when you can get it for free? I just couldn’t understand why somebody would do such a thing!

When the head unit in my car stereo went out on my old car, I thought about upgrading to an HD Radio unit but couldn’t justify the cost of it … so I went with an HD Radio-ready unit just in case I wanted to upgrade. Luckily for me, only a few months later I bought a new car that had Sirius Satellite Radio pre-installed. At first, I was still kind of iffy on it, and being from Chicago, I had my favorite radio station, The Mix … and when I don’t have my Sirius, I definitely turn them on, but they had been doing this stupid social experiment, and that’s when I turned off over-the-air radio for good.

The choices that Sirius (and I’m going to be Sirius heavy here because I have never subscribed/used XM Radio) offers are amazing. Mainly, I listen to the music and talk stations as my two main staples. There’s a wide variety of point of views, from liberal left to radical right … and they seem to get along. Even the gay/lesbian station invites Fr. Dave from the Catholic channel on from time to time.

And for a number of months, there has been talk about an acquisition of XM by Sirius. Personally, I’m in support of the merger. While I’m not a share holder and therefore don’t have any say in the matter, CNN reports that shareholders of both have approved the acquisition to continue. Now, the only thing that can stand in the way is the U.S. Government … hopefully, it won’t be too bumpy for the two, but who knows. We’ll definitely see how it will play out.

I am very excited to see the combination of resources to focus on programming choice and flexibility of subscriptions rather than competition and customer retainment. From the same CNN article, it appears as if there has already been some preliminary discussion of the future choices that may be offered. You have Sirius, here, for a little more, pick some of XM and vice versa. Personally, I can’t see this going on for too long before they’re merged into one force. Why maintain two separate staffs, etc … But for my two cents, as little as they’re worth, I’m glad to see the acquisition move onto the next step. I know that Sirius has made a committed customer out of me (for now), so let’s see the service only get better!

Editor’s Note: Greg Probst is the author of Blue Sleeves Blog and is a regular contributor to Probstisms.

Get ONXRT: Live from The Archives Volume 10 Before It’s Too Late!

WXRTI can’t even explain to you how much I miss WXRT. XRT is the best rock radio station in Chicago, and now that I’ve lived in several other cities, I can say that it is one of the best (if not the best) radio station in the country. Every year (or almost every year), XRT releases a recording of songs from their archives of concerts it has sponsored in Chicago. ONXRT Volume 10 hit Chicago area Starbucks stores earlier this month, and my brother, Greg, was kind enough to pick up a copy for me. Not only is it a great collection of songs by artists like The Pretenders, Chris Cornell, and The John Butler Trio, it also helps select Chicago-area charitable organizations. From XRT’s website:

Proceeds of ONXRT: Live From the Archives, Volume 10- will benefit the Little City Foundation and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Greater Illinois Chapter. The Little City Foundation ensures that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are provided with the best options and opportunities to live safely, work productively, explore creatively, learn continuously and play pleasurably throughout their lifetime.

The MS Society Greater Illinois Chapter works to end the devastating effects of multiple Sclerosis, fund research, provide more services to people living with MS, offer professional education, and further advocacy efforts.

If you live in Chicago (or if you know someone who does), run out and get yourself a copy before they’re gone. These CDs quickly become collectors items. You’ll get some really good music and help two great organizations.

I Want My Last.fm!

Last.fmI admit that I’m a little late to this party, but I love Last.fm! It’s an incredibly simple concept. You go to their website, type in the name of an artist you like, and music by that artist and similar artists starts playing in the music player that is embedded in the site. If you want to take it a step further, you can create an account and download the Last.fm software for Mac, Windows, or Linux and listen to music on your computer without using a web browser. The nice thing about the software is that it can keep track of the music you listen to in iTunes and on your iPod. Last.fm calls the process of tracking your listening habits “scrobbling.” Basically, information about all of the tracks you listen to using iTunes, an iPod, and Last.fm is collected and stored in order to develop a personal listening history. Once you have used Last.fm long enough, your personal Last.fm radio station based on your tastes should be all you need to fill your day with music that you like.

One of the things I like best about Last.fm is that I have been able to discover new music that I never would have heard on the anemic radio stations here in Saint Louis. There are links to Amazon.com to buy the currently playing tracks, or you can do a quick search in the iTunes Store. Since moving from larger radio markets like Chicago and San Diego, I have not found a good source to hear good music, and Last.fm is perfect for those purposes.

If you enjoy music and have access to a computer throughout your day, check out Last.fm and enjoy.

George Harrison Catalog Added to iTunes

George Harrison

I have written about the eventual availability of the Beatles music catalog on iTunes before here, here, and here, but Apple and the band have fooled me each time. Yesterday, George Harrison’s catalog was added to iTunes so now all four of the former Beatles are available through the store.

I have always been a fan of the songs George wrote while he was with the Beatles. His songs had a different vibe than the typical Lennon-McCartney compositions, and George brought sound elements from all over the world into his music. I remember listening to my dad’s vinyl copy of All Things Must Pass when I was a kid, and I eventually bought the remastered CD when it came out. Great memories!

This time, it’s pretty clear there is only one more big release that these fine gentlemen and their estates can announce. That’s right; I am once again predicting that the Beatles catalog will soon be added to the iTunes Store. You have to admit, it is the perfect time. People are starting to think about their holiday shopping, and what better gift can you give to a Beatles fan than every track the Beatles ever recorded and then some? Maybe Apple will offer something similar to the package they put together for U2. How about a Beatles iPod packed full of tracks you can’t find anywhere else? Now that sounds like something worth the wait.

Amazon MP3 Is Worth A Visit

Amazon MP3

It looks like Apple’s iTunes Store finally has some competition. As has been rumored for some time now, Amazon has released a beta version of Amazon MP3 to the public. Amazon MP3 sells their music in MP3 format using either a 256 kbps variable bit rate or a 256 kbps constant bit rate. According to GigaOM, songs sell for either $0.89 or $0.99, and albums sell for between $5.99 and $9.99. The iTunes Store has DRM free AAC files at 256 kbps, but they cost $1.29 per song. Most of the albums still cost $9.99.

Amazon has a slight advantage as far as price is concerned if you can find the music you want to buy. The selection is still skimpy compared to the iTunes Store, but I’m sure this will change soon enough. I’ve also never been a big fan of how Amazon displays its product information, but it’s not bad enough to turn me away from shopping with them. Apple definitely has the ease of use advantage over Amazon MP3 because everything is contained in the iTunes software although Amazon provides the Amazon MP3 Downloader that will automatically add purchased files to your iTunes library.

Based on the beta version of the store, Amazon has a very promising product here. Apple will soon find themselves with some work to do to either either lower their prices to match Amazon or prove to consumers why they should pay a $0.30 or $0.40 premium for the DRM free songs. Apple, it’s your move.

The Power of Music and Childhood

My daughter, Kyah, has a birthday coming very soon, and the presents are starting to trickle in from relatives around the country. Uncle Terry and Urbis got her all sorts of cool gifts including an MP3 player that she’s been listening to almost daily. I hooked it up to my Mac to see how easy it would be to update it, and I put some Beatles music on there to see if it would work. Sure enough, it worked just fine, and I’ve been able to teach her how to turn it on and play songs. We’re still working on learning how to turn it off so we’ve burned through a few batteries, but we’re getting there.

Now that you know the back story, I can finally get to the point of this post. Kyah has really taken a liking to the Beatles which I think is one of the coolest things ever. I remember listening to the Beatles with my mom and dad so it’s nice to see another generation enjoying their music. Kyah said the coolest things I’ve ever heard a kid say in my life the other day. She was listening to “Here Comes The Sun,” and she handed one of the ear buds to me so I could hear what she was listening to, and then she says, “Dad, this song is really hopeful and joyful, isn’t it.” I was almost speechless when the words came out of her mouth. After a few moments, I finally responded, “Yes, Ky, it is very hopeful and joyful.” It’s these moments that remind me how amazing my daughter is. I mean, really, how many little kids can listen to the lyrics of a song and feel hope and joy? She’s going to change the world some day.

To Touch or Not to Touch

Unless you’ve been buried under a rock for the last week, you already know that Apple released an entire new line of iPods at their special event on Wednesday. The iPod shuffle has been refreshed with new colors, the iPod nano has a whole new look and feel, the iPod is now a classic, and the iPod touch is the iPhone’s younger cousin. Consumers now have more choices than ever when it comes to their iPod purchases.

Without spending time with the new models, it looks like Apple has a winning lineup for this holiday season. The thing that bothers me a bit is that if I were to buy a new iPod, I would have to choose between form and storage. I would love to have an iPod touch because of its incredible user interface and its new wireless features. The problem with the iPod touch for me is that it really has very little storage. My music library is humongous, I subscribe to many podcasts, I have a very large photo collection, and I have a ton of television shows and movies from my TiVo that I would love to take with me on the road. It would be incredibly annoying for me to constantly have to pick and choose which media to take with me if I only had 16GB of storage to work with. On the other hand, the new iPod classic has enough storage to hold every single one of my media files assuming I don’t put every single movie on there. The classic would be a huge upgrade over my 20GB iPod (dock connector). I would gain photos and video and a whole lot more, but I wouldn’t have Internet or the touch interface.

So, now you know my dilemma. Do I touch, or do I go with a classic?

Paul McCartney on BBC 1

So, Fake Steve Jobs says that Apple will change the world all over again today. Even though I know he’s fake, he gives a sweet little tidbit of information on his blog this morning. Paul McCartney will be doing some sort of announcement at 10:00 AM PDT. Is it just coincidence that this is exactly the same time Steve Jobs will be starting the Apple special event in San Francisco? I think not! Go out and get your free trial for Sirius radio and listen in a little less than an hour.

Rubin Knows Music, Not Consumers

The New York Times ran an article in The Times Magazine on Sunday about Rick Rubin. For those of you who don’t know who Rick Rubin is, he is a legendary music producer that has been around the block with the likes of LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Johnny Cash. Rubin recently took on the challenge of leading Columbia Records with Steve Barnett. For the sake of a great record label like Columbia Records and the sake of the music industry in general, I hope Rubin is successful at transforming Columbia into a new kind of label.

In his interview with The Times, he made some comments about how the future of music was going to be a subscription model. I cannot disagree more with Rubin on this point. It has been proven time and again that consumers have little to no desire to rent their music. The success of iTunes provides enough evidence for most to understand this. Music is a very personal thing. Music stirs emotions. Music brings back memories of certain times in your life. Who would want to rent something that important? This is the fundamental difference between music and video, and this is why all subscription based music products have failed to date.

People want to own their music, period. There is something to be said about flipping through your old albums to find something you listened to in high school or college or when your kids were born. Who would want to pay subscription fees for decades to be able to relive memories like that? Let’s hope Rick changes his mind and leads Columbia in the right direction.

Via (CrunchGear)

Hate to Say It, But . . .

Not that I find great pleasure in saying this, but I told you so! This morning I wrote that I thought Apple would be announcing a special event soon and that they would be introducing new iPods and the availability of the Beatles catalog on iTunes. Well, it looks like I may have been right on with this one. Check out this post from AppleInsider. The media invitation appears to be based on the Cover Flow feature in iTunes so the news is most likely related to the iTunes/iPod/iPhone businesses. The kicker is that Apple used a quotation from the Beatles final press release as the caption: “The beat goes on.” I am so glad I have next Wednesday off so I can keep up with all of the live blogging that is sure to happening.