Friday, May 18, 2007

And The Beat Goes On...

Oh, I'm sorry. If that title just put images of Sonny and Cher in your head, I apologize. I was thinking about how quickly time marches on (it's another Friday already!!) and about music at the same time.

I have recently discovered XM radio, thanks to GM for the free trial service for a couple months. And with that, I've recently rediscovered Ruthie Foster. She recently released a new CD and if you've never heard of her and enjoy the sounds of old soul mixed with folk, a bit of blues and gospel, I think you might enjoy Ruthie. One of her songs, Beaver Creek Blues, is very funky and gets a lot of airplay on XM 74 (and includes "insect wranglers" in the credits ;-) but "Mama Said" is a great gospel revival spirit tune and there's a lot of diversity on this latest CD. She's on the Blue Corn Music label, out of Austin, TX and they have a nice write-up on her as well.

An aside: There are certain products and services where the best marketing is to simply let people try it, and XM is certainly one of those services...I was not a believer, until I tried, I'm hooked and will renew my contract at the end of the month. XM radio may not be all commercial-free like they say (I mean, if you have to listen to XM "advertise" their other channels, isn't this still advertising?), but it's non-stop music or talk of whatever style/genre you want, when you want, and it doesn't change even if you're driving across country.

My favorite channel right now is "Bluesville" ("exit 74 on the XM dial"). But I've recently discovered "Hear Music, Sound of Starbucks." I will admit that I don't like the implications of there even being a "sound" of Starbucks. I'm already of the opinion that Starbucks is sucking money out of our pockets faster than we can put it in, standardizing and globalizing what was once almost a fingerprint of a community, its local coffeeshops. I really do prefer to keep my money local if given an option, but Starbucks is just so darned consistent. And good. So then, because of their market domination, the "Starbucks Experience" includes not only great coffee, a great ambiance and (hopefully) great service, but also great music and entertainment of all types (movies, books, etc.). It somehow reeks of a steamy game of Monopoly. Or a rapidly growing cult of latte drinking, hip music listening, Mermaid followers. But once again, I think Starbucks has got it right and the Hear Music channel is something I flip over to once in awhile. So now, when will they offer up free wi-fi??



At 5:52 PM, May 18, 2007, Blogger Eric said...

I agree with your take on XM radio. Since getting a receiver for Christmas, I've finally just mounted it permanently in my car and that's what I listen to exclusively now when traveling. Haven't even bother to bring the iPod and transmitter on the past several trips.

It would be interesting to see a survey of how many people still carry and play CDs in their vehicles. I can't remember the last time I plugged in a disc.

As to Starbucks and free wifi, I just don't see it happening. But what might be on the horizon is the "x free minutes with purchase" model (which is probably what you had in mind anyway). Surely most of their stores still need to keep their customer turnover levels high, and no-strings-attached wifi runs counter to that goal.

At 9:09 AM, May 19, 2007, Blogger Gwynne said...

I still carry CDs in my car. :-) Because sometimes, I really want to listen to a particular artist. And because I don't have a good iPod transmitter in the Buick (I leave the iPod in the Beetle which doesn't have XM). One can never have too many musical options. ;-)

And while I understand Starbucks' need to turn over customers, it seems there are always squatters even without free wi-fi. Panera offers a similar "experience" (granted, they don't have the same "coolness" factor but their pastries and food offerings are far superior), and yet they still manage to keep people moving. I think Starbucks could do the same and I do like the idea of x-free minutes with purchase...that makes a lot of sense.

At 7:18 AM, May 21, 2007, Blogger Foo said...

Shoot... I'm falling so behind. When I got my new car in November, I was tickled because I could finally play CDs in the car (my '97 Civic had a cassette player). I knew I was the last living geek who didn't own an iPod, and now I find out that even that is passé.

At 1:52 PM, May 21, 2007, Blogger DarkoV said...

Sorry, Eric, I'm still one of the fossils who plays CD's. I tried the Nano route and was sorely disappointed. Aside from the enormous amount of time I clocked loading, deleting, soothing said iPod, my car has too have one of those FM-station type hookups to get the Nano to work in the vehicle. With the large amount of FM stations in the area, I can;t pick out one frequency that will sound true the entire way from home to work.
A hassle I quickly stopped dealing with after multiple cross-lane swerves.

I'm back to playing CD's and quite happy with them. I may yet make it to XM/Serius; I'll wait for the fallout of the combination and see if the prices skid down as well.

I seriously miss a well dj-ed music show with minimal interruption and our home's FM reception is atrocious. The latter may be the thing to push me over the edge as NPR is on XM (i believe) and it would be a treat to listen to their programs with minimal hiss-pop-crank.

As far as CD's are concerned this is one guy who'll have to have them removed from his cold dark hands as his spirit goes off to a better musical venue.

At 5:32 PM, May 21, 2007, Blogger Gwynne said...

Foo, there's still time. ;-) And there's still a need for a CD player in every car, imho.

Darko, I think your iPod experiment contained two major was the size of the iPod (it simply must be large enough to hold a collection so you don't have to mess with all that file management once you've loaded the tunes) and the second was the use of the FM transmitter which is basically impossible in any urban area (once I upgraded my stereo to one with a built in jack for the iPod, it was smooooth sailing after that).

As for XM radio, I'm hooked, but I must say that I haven't felt any DJ connections yet. In fact, I'm not sure there are any, not even in the programming. And I'm not sure that NPR is an option...I've been stuck in Bluesville for a while and need to get out and explore. And while I've only been listening for a little over a month now, I haven't heard too much repeat programming which I expected. The ideal would be to get a car stereo that allows CDs, iPod and XM alternatives (oh, and cassettes, and 8-tracks too). ;-)


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