If satellite radio is to succeed, promoters will have to convince the general public that it should pay for the privilege of listening in–something that up to now has been free. They must also make satellite radio content so compelling that people don't hold off for something better. Indeed, many of satellite radio's perks–static-free sound, specialty playlists and broader selections–are already available. Some current and future choices:
Along with the bewildering array of music available online through streaming services and radio programs (check out web-radio.com), there are ways to make listening even more personalized. Yahoo's free LAUNCHcast service, for example, allows users to rate songs that then influence music recommendations; it even lets you ban an artist or song from your own customized station. (Say goodbye to Celine Dion.) Sound quality is a little poor, but the stations are free, and the sound should improve as bandwidth increases.
Digital Cable Radio
These channels come free with most digital channel packages or satellite television services. In Canada, Galaxie and Max Trax are available through Rogers and Shaw, among others. Combined, the two services offer 40 channels of commercial-free music, from French children's music to the latest in house.
It won't be long before traditional radio stations offer digital-quality sound. Clear Channel in the U.S. recently announced it is converting 200 stations to digital, and, in December, seven of the largest U.S. radio-station groups banded together to push digital delivery. The disadvantages? Commercials, annoying DJs and new expensive receivers are required–but you get local traffic updates.
The iPod Culture
Teens are tuning out radio altogether in favour of iPods, MP3 players and computers, where they control the playlists. Don't expect the demise of Napster-like clones to slow down digital file-sharing.
Using your cellphone as a radio is coming; likewise, don't be surprised if satellite radio providers add telephone features to their mobile units. Already available are MP3-capable cellphones such as the Motorola E1 ROKR with iTunes software. You can listen to up to 100 songs through stereo headphones, or out loud on the phone's speakers. Rock on!