No-Brand Nudo

What if Sirius XM had Existed When Records Sold Like Hotcakes?

What might it have been like if Sirius XM existed back in the 1980s or 1990s, decades when musical artists seemed to carry more weight in people’s minds? 

Sirius is an astounding all-in-one radio station. There are times, in fact, when I think it might be one of the best things to ever happen to music. The choices on the platform feel unlimited and seem to grow every time I check in. 

But then I think of the records, tapes, and CDs I used to purchase, hunks of plastic I’d get to know better than my friends, song by song, inner sleeve by inner sleeve. It was fun seeing the pictures, memorizing the band members’ names, reading the lyrics they wrote, and discovering the talented producers. 

The way I venture into music on Sirius feels way less grounded: jazz one evening, Radio Margaritaville in the morning, Outlaw Country while working from home. Those wide ranges of sound are all okay, but it sometimes feels a little fly-by-night.  

But Sirius has its wonders and can’t be dismissed. The other day on the platform I listened to an “80s on 8 from the Vaults” concert featuring the band Berlin, a group I didn’t know was still working. The intimate show took place on July 28, 2022, and it felt as much like a backstage pass as it did a performance. The lead singer, Terri Nunn, was personable and fun to listen to between songs. Sirius has lots of concerts like this.

Along with the obscure, Sirius has plenty of the well-known: U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam. These guys were huge in the ‘90s, and people like myself would have killed to hear their personalized radio channels back then. If Sirius had existed thirty years ago, would it have lionized these rock bands even more? Or would it have watered them down?

Today, does Sirius water down music in general by providing so many options? Certainly many have accused Spotify of that.

I don’t know why I have such a hard time reconciling the popularity of these artists from decades back with their Sirius XM channels now. It was great getting to know Anthony Kiedis through some Rolling Stone or Spin issue in 1992, but nowadays we can learn just as much about him in other ways, and in a more spontaneous manner, as he introduces songs on Sirius. Can you imagine, as an RHCP fan, hearing him play DJ during the band’s ‘80s and ‘90 heyday? 

Entertainment has evolved, I know. Books, music, TV shows, impressive digital images, all splattered and available everywhere through subscriptions or for free. I’m not knocking Sirius – it’s an awesome platform, the current result of the digital music revolution.

But I can’t help but wonder how much different it may have been when my favorite bands back in the day, bands I practically lived for, also had their own Sirius stations to accompany the high-selling records.

Photo by Sal Nudo


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