When SiriusXM radio executives decided to launch a programming change by initiating an “All Billy Joel” channel for 90 days, likely they had not anticipated what it would do to their faithful listener base when they decided to put the exclusive batch of “Joel-songs” all across their “40s on 4” channel. As of April 3, 2014, the new Facebook page, “Bring Back ‘40s on 4,” has over 400 members and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the past two days, many faithful SiriusXM fans who’ve contacted this journalist shared, exclusively with examiner.com, that they’ve sought the exact place to air their concerns, but to no avail. Apparently, the satellite music giant remains entirely radio silent on the subject.
At stake is a substantive and enthusiastic listener base of big band music that harkens back to a day and time when lives were lifted up by swing, jazz and happy sounds, performed by skilled soloists and directed by tremendous band leaders. Tremendous new singers became stars when their voices were featured, as the big bands traveled around the country sharing music with people who loved to dance.
Imagine those happy listeners and those who love this music. Then one day, they wake up, turn on their Sirius/XM receivers and hear, “No, no, no, no, you had to be a shot, didn’t ya, all your friends were so knocked out! You had to have the last word, last night...” It was the shot heard round the world for many who uttered a collective “what????” and a few other collectives that aren’t exactly printable.
The biggest errors that SiriusXM made were twofold: (1) they gave no advance notice to their station listeners that programming would change; (2) they believe their audience demographic is based primarily in their golden years. You know, the ones ordering those step-in bathtubs, SunSetter awnings, and discussing Colonial Penn life insurance opportunities. Not the group we’re hearing from at examiner.com! Sirius/XM might want to know that it’s a large group of intelligent–young–professionals writing and calling. And they’re trying to find someone, anyone, at the network to hear their complaints.
The biggest complaint being voiced is that no one there actually cares about their listeners. Read for yourself (reprinted with their permission):
Gregory Heath, a 49-year-old, fifth-grade teacher in Jacksonville, NC, started the Facebook page “Bring Back “40s on 4” channel, had this to say:
I have been an XM subscriber for about 8 years, and one of the reasons that I originally subscribed is because of the "40s on 4" channel. I love the swing era and big band music, and I regularly listen to "40s on 4" on SiriusXM. I was surprised to find out that SirusXM had replaced "40s on 4" with the "Billy Joel Channel". I have nothing against Billy Joel or his music. I grew up listening to his music. However, I think it was a very poor marketing decision to replace "40s on 4" with Billy Joel instead of assigning his channel to one of the channels that SiriusXM has already designated for "temporary" channels.
When I noticed that other SiriusXM subscribers were posting their concerns on the Facebook pages of "40s on 4" and "SiriusXM", I decided to start a page designated for those who wanted SiriusXM to bring back "40s on 4". I had no idea that it would grow so fast. I wanted to send a message to SiriusXM that there are plenty of subscribers who feel the same way I did. I think people have the idea that most of listeners to "40s on 4" are people who were born or grew up in the 1940s, but most of those commenting on my page are younger people.
I gained an appreciation of music from the 1930s and 1940s from dad grew up in the 1930s. My appreciation was further developed when I joined our high school's jazz band in the early 1980s. Much of the music we played was from that era. I feel it is very important that we preserve this great American music for future generations.
My hope is that SiriusXM understands that "40s on 4" has many loyal listeners of all ages who love swing music, and Sirus XM will think twice before preempting "40s on 4" programming in the future.
Gerry Gunn, an attorney in Virginia, wrote to share news of Heath’s Facebook page:
Here is a noteworthy follow up to your article on Billy Joel and SiriusXM. Go look on the Facebook pages of SiriusXM, SiriusXM 40s on 4, and even Joel’s own page. It is filled with righteous indignation that SiriusXM preempted the 40s music from Channel 4 to play nonstop Billy Joel music. The subscribers don’t want him there, including the undersigned. We want our 40s music back.
Ashley London, a Charlotte, NC attorney who is not yet 40 herself, had this to say:
I am not an 85-year-old woman. I am a 39-year-old attorney who happens to love that station. It is the only reason why I pay for this service. And I am not alone.
My 11-month old daughter also loves the station. She dances in her car seat when the music is on, and I feel that these largely upbeat and positive tunes are completely appropriate for her age. That is another reason why I am so adamant about its restoration. SiriusXM also needs to take a look at who can afford to pay for their services...it’s not the teenagers that I know. It is their parents, who are often caring for boomer parents, who also enjoy that music.
London brings up another major point and demographic that SiriusXM is missing here; 40s on 4 is a family channel, which once featured music Baby Boomer parents grew up with, fell in love to, sent soldiers off to war to, and (hopefully) welcomed them back home again. It’s those familiar melodies that bring comfort to so many seniors, who may well remember every word to “their songs” even if they can’t remember their own names.
The seniors whose 30- and 40-year-old children cherish time together now with their parents, and both can listen to “their music” together. The grandchildren in their car seats even know “that music” belongs to their families, as they accompany parents and grandparents on trips in the car. Truly, the 40s on 4 channel spans three generations of listeners, and SiriusXM could “seemingly” care less. So far, their collective response to the listeners trying to contact them is: nothing.
That’s a scary business model when Pandora and iHeart radio are so very easy to click to. Just this week business icon Amazon launched Fire TV, which streams Pandora and iHeart on demand in your home (see related story below). Given smarthphone apps, those same channels can snap up the competition in a heartbeat, the listeners SiriusXM is presently ditching and leaving in the dust. For years, it was considered a luxury to have satellite radio in your car. But now, there’s a USB port instead of, or in addition to, a cigarette lighter, so you’re just a connection away from the competition if you want to find the “40s on 4” genre of music. No satellite required.
Keith Orr, a professional DJ who hosted his own radio show in Boston for 15 years, had this to say:
With the positioning of the Billy Joel 90-day non-stop aural marathon on Channel 4 for XM radio, they have *** off hundreds of faithful listeners (many of whom actually like Billy Joel) by preempting the only outlet for the genre of jazz/swing music. Hundreds of complaints are now posted at their social media sites and the only response from XM is to have some moderators cut and paste the same platitudes over and over again – but never addressing the core issue of the programming change and why the 40’s genre was on the chopping block....
Last week examiner.com reported it was “on March 26, 2014 when SiriusXM annnounced the next-day takeover of “limited engagement” which meant 90 days through June 25, 2014,” for the “40s on 4” programming to be preempted by the piano man. Don’t blame it on Billy Joel, though. He didn’t start the fire (or pick the channel).
However, if you figure that Joel wrote most of his own multiyear catalog of consecutive hits and that the singer gets royalties, the writer gets royalties and the label gets royalties every time a Billy Joel song is played, or downloaded. Cipher up and determine 90 days of 24/7 programming of all your songs, that’s an astronomical number for BMI or ASCAP to have to cough up next quarter. But did it have to be channel 4?
“Why the 40s channel?” many have asked, validly so, particularly when so many niche channels are available for individual listeners with specific interests. Could the SiriusXM folks possibly have interrupted listener channel 360, the “Krishna Das Yoga Radio” where there’s 24/7 “chanting, sacred and spiritual music”? Maybe not; it might be bad karma to mess with that channel.
Or could they have possibly “interrupted their regular programming” on channel 166, FrancoCountry (Francophone and Canadian Country-Folk) for not “the longest time”?
Canada would still be represented, abundantly! After all, channel 162 is CBC Radio 3 (Canadian Indie Music First), 163 is Chansons (SiriusXM’s Canadian ‘Chanson’ music channel—who knew?), channel 164 is Attitude Franco (The new rock alternative), channel 165 is Multicultural radio (yes, the cultures of, you guessed it...Canada!).
Then, channel 167 is Canada Talks (Canadian Current Affairs and Talk) and 168 is Canada Laughs, 169 is CBC Radio 1, 170, Premiere is Radio Canada News, 171 is CBC Music: Sonica (Adult Alternative Artists), 172 is Canada 360 by AMI (Canada’s News/Weather by AMI-Audio) and well, perhaps not because you just can’t get enough Canadian programming. No sir. It’s all about Canadian music being available whenever there’s a need in the free world. And don’t you forget it!
Only thing they seem to be missing is an all-Paul Shaffer channel, which is not a halfway bad idea. Once David Letterman retires next year, SiriusXM might snap up that programming suggestion and extend their loyal Canadian listener base by 50%. Should we submit a “listener feedback and care” form?
But wait, here’s an open space on the Sirius/XM dial: channel 184! It’s the Sirius Preview entertainment channel. You know the one, like the kind that comes in on your car, that repetitive “channel 1” preview that repeats over and over, until you call the 800- number and have them refresh your signal? Yes, that one. That could have been the perfect spot for the exclusive Billy Joel channel, but it would not have been so easy to find on your car radio, home channel or online; you might have had to click for, one more time.
The clock is ticking, and considering the old demographic that every letter to your hometown newspaper might represent the opinions of, say, 300 residents or more, then today’s 411 members of the “Bring Back “40s on 4” Facebook page will continue to grow in number and in voice, and sadly enough, cancelled subscriptions.
Surely someone in SiriusXM programming knows by now that their decision was made with (apologies to Billy Joel in advance): lack of “Honesty” because “An Innocent Man” (surely no woman would have thought that up) made a mistake to make some “Easy Money” and now they’re under “Pressure” to “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” and “Get it Right the First Time” and stop being the “Big Shot” because when it comes to “40s on 4,” Sirius, your devoted fans clearly loved you “Just the Way You Are(Were).”
More of your listeners are speaking out, and joining the "Bring Back the 40s on 4" Facebook page every day. And the one Billy Joel song they’re taking to heart (enjoy the video) is...”Pressure.” Are you listening, SiriusXM?