When I bought a new car last year, it came with a complementary, three-month subscription to XM satellite radio. I’d never had it before, so I was kind of excited to check it out. After all, it did have Hair Nation: All your Hair Bands are Belong to Us!
At first, I loved it. Between Hair Nation, Ozzy’s Boneyard, and the 80s channel, I got to listen to tons of rocking tunes, some of which I hadn’t heard since high school. But after a couple months, I started to hear a lot of the same songs over and over again. I started checking out some of the other stations, but could never find one to settle on for any length of time.
A little background on my situation: I have an hour-long commute to work, so if I have to change channels more than two or three times, then the medium isn’t working for me. I wouldn’t have minded if I could find something quickly, like if I could toggle between two or three stations and consistently find something I like. But if I’m constantly cycling through 6 or 7 stations over and over and can’t find a song I like…that’s a real drag. And it’s one of the reasons I stopped listening to normal radio a long time ago.
I had dabbled with Pandora and iHeartRadio streaming services a bit. I liked that the “channels” I created were more specific to my tastes, and I really liked the freedom to skip songs I didn’t like. Song selection was okay in short doses, but I started to hear a lot of the same songs over and over again. Spotify offered a fantastic option, but it was a paid service. At the time, I didn’t think it was worth the money.
And for me, the biggest problem with any of the streaming options is that I’d have to use my mobile data, which was not unlimited. I was reluctant to turn to streaming music for fear of going over my data limit and incurring additional fees. And because the number of songs I was getting seemed so limited, I decided to just stick with XM.
Eventually the free ride on XM came to an end. The normal subscription fee is $15 a month. Considering the selection started to stink and I couldn’t skip songs, I decided against renewing the subscription.
In an attempt to lure me back, they continually sent me special offers, each one cheaper than the one before. After another few months had passed, I finally decided to give them another try when I received a deal for six months at $25.
Right about this same time, Google announced their Play Music All Access service, which is very similar to services like Spotify and Rdio. They had an “early adopter” special pricing of $7.99/month for life (vs. the standard $9.99).
I jumped at the Google service to lock in the discount, and I immediately fell in love with it. Their song selection blew away Pandora and iHeartRadio, and they offered unlimited skipping.
When commuting to and from work, I started going back and forth between Google Play Music All Access and XM. It turned out to not be much of a contest. The Google streaming service just gave me a far superior listening experience. I ended up barely listening to XM the last couple months I had it.
When my cheap XM subscription ran out, I called and canceled it. They tried throwing more offers at me, but I politely declined. (Maybe if they were willing to throw in the NFL channel, I might have taken them up on their last $4 per month offer…but they didn’t. Their loss.)
As far as streaming and my mobile data limit, I set aside my fears and gave it a try. As it turns out, streaming my music has yet to push me past my data limit. In the rare event that it does lead to an overage, I’ll get charged $10 for another gigabyte, which is still cheaper than the $15/month fee for XM. So I get a way better music selection with Google’s $8 service. Throw in short spurts of Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Spotify’s free radio service, and I’ve got many options that are better than their satellite-delivered, commercial counterpart.
In the end, XM Radio just could not compete with the streaming services. I now get better music selection, the ability to listen to exactly the songs I want, and radio stations that allow me to skip songs I don’t like. And I get it for half the price of XM.
There’s just no contest.
Note: SiriusXM, XM Radio, and the SiriusXM logo are trademarks of Sirius XM Radio Inc.