December 14, 2005

Bob Dylan versus Howard Stern.

Can XM beat Sirius with Bob Dylan to counter Howard Stern? I have XM myself and love it, and in fact, it's already way ahead of Sirius with twice as many subscribers. But it's worth noting that a one-hour weekly show with Bob Dylan is not at all equivalent to what Howard Stern has been signed on to do for Sirius. Stern brings a long history of success as a radio performer, has contracted to remain at Sirius for 5 years, and will do hours of programming a day. Dylan is just experimenting with something new and probably very low-key. He's only going to be on once a week. And we haven't heard that he's committed for any length of time (though you will have to make a commitment to listen to XM or Sirius, when you choose your radio and subscribe to a service).
The hiring of Mr. Dylan underscores a key component of the two rivals' similar strategies. Each is trying to draw new consumers with a blend of programming that attracts a broad audience - like major-league sports events - and talent that appeals to smaller but extremely devoted segments of fans, as is the case with the arrangement with Mr. Dylan....

Mr. Dylan's move also comes as an array of other stars are signing on to use satellite radio to maintain a link to their fans - at least those who subscribe - and broaden their reach by creating programming beyond their own songs. Eminem and Jimmy Buffett have offered their brand names to designated channels on Sirius; XM has tapped Snoop Dogg to produce programming on one of its rap channels, the Rhyme.
Dylan's is the first one I'm going to make a point of listening to. I kind of like this strategy of catering to "extremely devoted segments" of listeners. It's something satellite radio, with all those channels, should be good at doing. In a sense, Bob Dylan really does beat Howard Stern. That is the programming strategy represented by Bob Dylan beats the programming strategy represented by Howard Stern. Unlike broadcast radio, satellite radio doesn't need a dominant radio personality to hold the listeners in one place for hours. We've already bought the radio and the subscription, and one company owns all the many channels. The ideal strategy is to have lots of channels serving lots of distinct niches and impressing the customers with all the cool stops along the spectrum. Endear yourself to me before I buy my next radio.

UPDATE: Minor Tweaks imagines how Dylan-the-DJ will sound. Feel free to write your own Dylan-the-DJ scripts, here in the comments or on your own blogs and email me and tell me about it -- using my last name followed by @wisc.edu -- so I can give you some front page links.

11 comments:

reader_iam said...

It's a familiar strategy, as well: Think college radio, at least of the classic type, arranged in diverse blocks (as opposed to channels or streams) and drawing highly specific and devoted listeners.

Ah, college radio! I'm so nostalgic for the days I was involved in that endeavour. Good times, good times.

Maybe we'll have to look into XML. We've not bothered with sat radio so far, but it is getting more intriguing to me.

CCMCornell said...

On the topic of XM vs. Sirius, Stern vs. ?, the Opie-and-Anthony shock jock show has been on XM for a while after being cancelled for crossing the line in a sex-in-public game that involved St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC. Apparently, they lost their previous job in Boston for an April Fool's Day joke that involved announcing that the mayor died.

Before coming to Ithaca and losing all contact with the outside world, I used to listen to O-n-A on the afternoon drive. They seemed more innovative, younger and livelier. Stern seemed very tired, bitter and formulaic (though, he wrote the formulas.) Stern and O-n-A were pseudo-rivals - same genre, but different timeslots (morning drive vs. afternoon drive) and, since they shared the same parent company - CBS - they couldn't even mention each other by name.

They've since gone from extra subscription premium on XM (like HBO on cable) to regular lineup, I believe. I don't know if they're still good, but give them a listen if you like that kind of thing.

Relatedly, a good friend of mine submitted offensive song parodies to O-n-A and some were accepted and played. He's now got his own Internet radio show - I haven't listened to it yet, but I'm sure it's not PC.

me said...

A college friend of my brothers started XM, so I am familiar with its history. Both have spent a ton of cash. However, both seem to still have plenty of reserves, and good backing. Unlike VHS and Beta, there is room for both. Stern will be big for Sirius, but at a big price tag.

Mark Daniels said...

Dylan may surprise me. I can't see him being a very compelling interview show host.

I remember when, back in the mid-70s, Mary Travers had a radio talk show. (It was awful!) Dylan probably consented to be on it because Peter, Paul, and Mary covered his stuff in the early-60s, giving him a wider audience.

But the interview was bizarre! Travers was sort of show-bizzy in her approach to the whole thing. Dylan would give clipped responses or, as is his favorite thing to do, respond to her questions with questions. You could tell she was utterly deflated by the experience. Of course, through the years, one of Dylan's specialties has been making other people feel uncomfortable, something I think he does deliberately and which a talk show host really shouldn't do.

Back to that Travers show interview: Travers also made the mistake of sort of equating herself to Dylan, something that the egomaniac from Hibbing doesn't care for very much. Dylan was talking, at one point, about his poetry and Travers started telling him about hers. Dylan just asked, "You write poetry?" Travers blubbered about her writing and Dylan listened in complete silence, leaving her swinging in the valley of dead air.

When Travers said that she enjoyed his then-new release, 'Blood on the Tracks," Dylan said, "I don't know how you can love something that has that much pain in it." Travers said that well, maybe, love was the wrong word; she enjoyed it. How, Dylan wondered, could she have enjoyed it?

I imagine that both of them were relieved at the end of the thing.

But you never can tell: Dylan could turn out to be a regular Johnny Carson. Scaduto tells about a routine of Bill Cosby's that Dylan turned into one of his talking-Woody Guthrie-style songs, back when both were performing in the Village. Evidently, Dylan did a credible job.

Of course, Dylan doesn't have to yuck it up as a talk show host. But I don't think that doing his combination of Rimbaud, Greta Garbo, and homeless person is likely to translate well into talk show interviewer.

But, I've been wrong many times before.

Mark Daniels

Meade said...

Don't miss RightWingBob's take.

Hamsun56 said...

There is good chance that this could be very worthwhile. Dylan has an encyclopedic knowledge of American popular music and can be very articulate and poetic when talking about music that moves him. Some of the best portions of Chronicles were of him describing other muscians.

The article said that Dylan will be doing this in intimate settings, like his home, hotels and tour bus. So I don't think there will be much mumbling as he tends to do that when uncomfortable. (Notice the difference between the 60 minutes interview and the interviews done in the Scorcese documentary)

My guess is that he will do it for a limited time until he tires of it. Hopefully he leave behind a bounty of musical insights before moving on.

Hamsun56 said...

There is good chance that this could be very worthwhile. Dylan has an encyclopedic knowledge of American popular music and can be very articulate and poetic when talking about music that moves him. Some of the best portions of Chronicles were of him describing other muscians.

The article said that Dylan will be doing this in intimate settings, like his home, hotels and tour bus. So I don't think there will be much mumbling as he tends to do that when uncomfortable. (Notice the difference between the 60 minutes interview and the interviews done in the Scorcese documentary)

My guess is that he will do it for a limited time until he tires of it. Hopefully he leave behind a bounty of musical insights before moving on.

Hamsun56 said...

Oops, sorry about the double posting

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Finn Kristiansen said...

There is an interview with Stern in a recent New York Magazine (available online).

I seriously think Sirius (ha!) has blown it by offering Stern $500 million over five years, and I hope that money is contingent on bringing in the subscribers.

I've listened to Stern since I was about 13, so he has been around a long time and can be entertaining, even smart. (Although, sometimes, in listening to him talk, he can be ill informed as well). But his show over the years always kind of leaves a bit of dirt, of sludge, in the ears, and of course he has not been the same since leaving his wife. For a while now he has seemed pampered, old and tired.

In the New York piece, he seems to feel like he will now be free to do his best work, which includes having people bet on the size of someone's toilet activities (or something like that).

It almost reminds me of how Prince, once free to create music in any form, lacked the discipline to smartly edit himself and my gut feeling is that sometimes close corporate supervision helps some artists from masturbatory (and dull)creative efforts.

(And isn't the most boring porn, always solo masturabation scenes? I mean, I'm just saaayin).

I think Stern, given free reign, will produce the type of material that will lead to major stockholder and cultural backlash (assuming the company is publically traded). Also, the amount of programming he will have to create for two channels, I think, will more than overwhelm him.

I would be buying long term put options on Sirius (variation on selling short). Or, long term call options on XM.

Angelique said...

What is Bob thinking??? Why would a genius like Bob Dylan want to even breath the same air as a Maniacal, Sado-Masicistic, germ filled, slime sucking, Nob-goblin like Howard freak show central, After birth of a lesbian cluster hump Stern. What happened Bob? Where is a slow train coming?don't let me change my heart? keep you set apart.From all the plans they do pursue???? Oops have you fell from grace, or do you really think you can convert his scum sucking audiance? I hope it's the later and not the first.
I still would rather look at a picture of Bob or chair dance to his tunes then to lower myself to Howard all of the above Stern.