No Bluegrass for nine days?! Let’s all relax.

It was recently announced that SiriusXM made the decision to temporarily preempt the the usual programming of the Bluegrass Junction channel from December 6-15 in favor of a program of Chanukah music. The temporary programming starts tonight at midnight and will continue until December 15th. Predictably (sigh) there has been lots of complaining and general gnashing of teeth over this in Bluegrass communty. One Bluegrass industry pro even asked their attorney to write a letter to SiriusXM management, which was then shared via social media. That may have garnered some cheers from the crowd, but is a pretty pointless and ultimately embarrassing stunt.

(Edit: I have been informed that the letter was not written at the request of a client.)

So, before we all cancel our satellite radio subscriptions, rip receivers out of our cars, whatever, let’s relax for a moment and take an honest look at the situation then decide what to do.

Start by reading this letter from IBMA Executive Director Paul Schiminger, he explains the situation quite clearly.

Bluegrass Junction is a good channel and one of the highest-profile outlets for Bluegrass music. It’s particularly kind to new artists and is crucial to their exposure and development. We as a community are lucky to have it. Despite what we sometimes think (and read in the Bluegrass press) Bluegrass is a fairly small niche market within the music industry. We do not have a massive amount of leverage to exert. The support of SiriusXM and a few other players is big for us, we need to cultivate those relationships rather than test them. I have seen many people threaten to cancel their subscription over this interruption, claiming that BGJ is the only channel they listen to and that this is the most egregious betrayal since Brutus stabbed Caesar.

Let’s walk that down the road a bit.

As dedicated Bluegrass fans we may get a sense of satisfaction from canceling; “I sure showed them!” we might say to ourselves. But, nine days from now BGJ will return and those of us who cancelled with either re-up, which makes the fact that we canceled in the first place meaningless, or we’ll no longer have access to BGJ. Both of these are crummy options. Not mention that a mass of cancellations might make SiriusXM take a look at the role of BGJ in their offerings. “A niche channel with an unreliable subscriber base? Hmm… We’ve been looking for place to put the new Pinterest channel.”

You see where I’m going with this?

If you feel that you must register your disapproval, by all means send a polite note; I understand that you can get a refund for the time BGJ will be unavailable, that’s generous. Understand that SiriusXM does these preemptions in rotation, so it’s unlikely to happen again for a long time. Think of this as the radio equivalent of jury duty; it’s a drag but it’s temporary and doesn’t happen often.

Then, scan around the other channels; there’s a lot of great music out there aside from Bluegrass. You could even listen to the Chanukah programming, maybe you’ll hear some Andy Statman. Or listen to your local station, dig through your record collection for old chestnuts or buy some new records. Radio is kind of passive anyway and music shouldn’t be a spectator sport, so discover a new artist and let yourself go down a rabbit hole exploring their music (NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, available on YouTube, are a great place to start. I’ve discovered many new favorites there). Are you concerned about artists losing income through nine days of lost programming? Go attend a concert, buy some merch, tell your friends about them. Be the great fan that all great music deserves and find a way to support the music you care about rather than complaining that you have been let down in some way.


Thanks for reading.



4 responses to “No Bluegrass for nine days?! Let’s all relax.”

  1. Stephanie Taylor Avatar
    Stephanie Taylor

    Hey JD – I’m the attorney who wrote the letter. No one asked me to write that and no one paid me to write it. I wrote it to explain that there is an economic impact in this decision that impacts bluegrass artists and songwriters, as well as labels, publishers and producers. It was an important perspective that was not being presented. The music business is a business in which creative people make a living making music. Radio is a critical component of that.

    1. Thanks for chiming in and correcting me, Stephanie. I must ask, what makes you think SiriusXM hadn’t considered the impact? I assume that they know their business and the effect an interruption can have on artists and fans. I think it’s fine to express a personal position as an industry member, but a “letter from an attorney” carries with it a rather clear implication, particularly when that letter is then publicized. If you were simply writing to explain the impact of the interruption, even as an attorney within the industry, why then allow that letter to be shared, if not to send a message that some action is being considered against SiriusXM?

  2. Sorry, I have to disagree entirely. Sirius XM’s marketing teams will tell you that they make the most reliable money off of it’s ‘niche’ markets: Those markets who are vehemently loyal to paying $45 a month for two radios to make SURE they don’t miss a minute of their favorite. Examples of this would include NASCAR, Howard Stern, and JamOn. Yes, the bluegrass market is a small one comparatively, but it is a fiercely loyal one. Yes, many who cancel will re-up, or in my case, they will call and get a free month of service. No matter what Sirius XM might choose to do in the future, I am taking a harder look than ever at cashing in my $45 a month toward extending my data plan and saying goodbye to locking in with anyone. They had so many easy choices, such as the MLB stations, Golf, and NASCAR that all enjoy about 12 listeners combined for the next several weeks.

  3. I don’t have sirius radio. But I do listen to Pandora radio. It is available free with commercials. Or you can pay a very small monthly fee for no commercials. Get this on your cell phone and run it through bluetooth speakers. BGJ is a great station I have heard it online. But if they ever quit broadcasting Bluegrass on sirius there are other options.

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