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.