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Podcasting: Do-It-Yourself Radio

I surprised my wife in 2004 by not wanting satellite radio for Christmas.

It pisses me off that you can only get 100 channels, and frankly that’s just not enough for someone (me) who considers himself “higher-than-FM”. Am I the only guy that commutes to work each day in total silence? I want to listen to something new and interesting — and I’m not talking about Mancow or Effeminate Male and Ditzy Blond in the Morning.

XM Radio (backed by General Motors and Honda) offers 101 channels and has over 2 million subscribers. The XM Radio network consists of two geosynchronous satellites and repeaters in major metro areas.

Sirius Radio is still fairly new, but they just signed Howard Stern (who was recently on Letterman practically offering money to people to sign up). Their first broadcast was in July 2002 and they have a subscriber base of less than 1 million. Ford and other foreign car companies back Sirus. They have three elliptical-orbit satellites and fewer repeaters than XM Radio.

It really comes down to WHAT you want to listen to and WHEN you want to listen. For example, let’s break down the classic rock offerings, since it’s so easy to separate the wheat from the shaft:

XM Classic Rock stations: The 50s (Early Rock ‘n Roll), The 60s (The Authentic 60s Sound), The 70s (Best of the 70s), Boneyard Rock (Stadium Rock and Hairbands) and Lucy (Classic Alt Hits).

The 70s bands weren’t exactly great, so maybe I don’t want to hear them one after another. Please — Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind,” followed by Judas Priest, then something by Jefferson Starship? No thanks.

Sirius Classic Rock stations: Classic Vinyl (feat. Led Zep, Sabbath, David Bowie), Classic Rewind (feat. Foreigner, Boston), The Vault (feat. Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, The Doors), Buzzsaw (feat. Rush, Ozzy, AC/DC).

None of these “groupings” of listed bands match any any logical High Fidelity way. Jack Black would be way pissed.

So what happens if I don’t ever want to hear anything from AC/DC or The Eagles? I never want “Back in Black” or “Hotel California” to pollute my tony seven-speaker Infinity sound system, so how can I ensure my premium musical palette won’t be diluted by “radio spoilers,” as I like to call them?

Shouldn’t I be allowed to set up a filter for certain bands or songs? How about this: Let’s bypass songs by artists named Chad or Chester. Or any track with the word “baby” or “girl” in the title.

Fortunately, there is a solution to all of my demands, and it’s called Podcasting. I’ve recently started downloading some Podcasts from iPodder to my iPod. Now this is the wave of the future, not satellite radio. (Apologies for the quadruple pod-dropping within one paragraph.)

With Podcasting, you and your buddies could record a radio show every night doing whatever you want, playing whatever song you want and generally just screwing around. Then you host it on the web where Podcasting geeks set their computers to download your “show” overnight via free RSS subscriptions. The next morning, they grab their iPod and head off to work, listening to your show via their iPod instead of traditional FM or satellite radio. Podcasts that are really good might have 200-500 subscribers each night.

Just as blogs are a journalistic leveler, Podcasting will be the radio medium’s leveler. All for one and one for all, or in this case, one-on-one radio catered to your liking. Do you prefer absolutely horrible, early 90s polka music from northern Wisconsin? Odds are there’s a podcast for you, and if not (here’s the best part), you can start your own.

The top two reasons why Podcasting is better than radio:

1). It’s fully customizable. If you don’t like something, delete it and never download it again. If you love it, e-mail the host and request something special. Odds are they’ll be flattered.

2). You will never have those driveway/parking lot wait-to-get-out-of-the-car moments again. Simply pause and resume when you get to your desk or get back to the car later.

Even Frank Barnako, who thinks he’s keeping up with young people and their techno-toys (but isn’t), is finding himself reaching for his iPod instead of his XM radio receiver. Barnako says that “XM could devote a channel to either playing the home-made programs or, preferably, delivering them as digital files for download to your hard drive. XM may be listening. Just yesterday, we learned the satellite broadcaster has introduced Net-only channels featuring gospel, retro-lounge and hits.”

However, I don’t think the corporatization of Podcasting is going to fly. Just like the FCC and Clear Channel have stymied and ruined shortwave radio stations and any semblance of variation on what “real” radio plays now, will they eventually start paying local Podcasters to play and promote certain songs, eventually ruining this new medium? I hope not. But then again, everything great is eventually ruined and overregulated by the government anyway. Just look at the new law introduced to stop people from fast-forwarding commercials on their TiVos.

Regardless, I’ll post a few of my favorite Podcast RSS feeds in the Rantboard (Worst Music You’ve Never Heard, Rock and Roll Geek Show, Al Franken Show, etc.), and I invite you to join me and share the wealth. In the meantime, I’ll be tooling down the car pool lane rocking out to anything but AC/DC. For those about to Podcast, I salute you.

View CommentsPodcasting: Do-It-Yourself Radio

  • Linda Grein

    I really enjoy listening to the several decades of music that you’re playing today. It sure makes me feel younger listening to XM.

    I just wanted to know if there is anyway I can get a list of all the songs that you’re playing?
    I’m looking forward to an answer.

    Thank You Very Much,

    Linda Grein
    Norwalk, CA

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