SiriusXM’s artist channels are an exercise in male privilege: review

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On January 27, at the height of the Joe Rogan-Spotify rumble — which precipitated Neil Young’s exit from the streaming service — SiriusXM gleefully announced that its dedicated Young channel was returning. The publicity stunt appeared to accomplish what it intended: to show that the 14-year-old broadcaster, with some 425 channels to its name, would support the music and musicians on which it has built its platform. But it also served as a stark reminder that so-called “artist channels” gave little space to female artists.

Let’s take a look at the current lineup of SiriusXM stations. Starting at the top (channel 1), you have Pitbull’s “Globalization” channel at #13, The Beatles at 18, Bob Marley at 19, E Street Radio at 20, followed by Pearl Jam Radio (22), the channel Grateful Dead (23), Jimmy Buffet’s Radio Margaritaville (24), Phish (29), Dave Matthews Band (30), Tom Petty (31), U2 (32), Ozzy Osbourne (38), LL Cool J’s Rock the Bells ( 43), Eminem’s Shade 45 (45), Diplo’s Revolution (52), the channels of Garth Brooks (55) and Willie Nelson (59), Siriusly Sinatra (70) and Elvis Radio (75).

Foo Fighters, Bon Jovi, Steve Aoki, and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello can be found further down the dial or as online-only stations. Where does the first female music channel appear? The Aretha Franklin channel, launched in limited airing last week, is coming to channel 504.

None of the male channels are undeserved, but a thorough search of all the varied music categories the satellite radio and audio streaming platform has to offer and you will find channels like Queens of Hip-Hop, Queens of Pop , Women of Country Music and Women of Rock. These are SiriusXM’s female-centric music channels, which are gender-based. In 2021, Alicia Keys, ABBA, Halsey and Aretha Franklin had limited-engagement channels on SiriusXM, the last of which just resumed, but there are no full-time music channels that have a female artist at the helm.

Even the online channel dedicated to female comedians is a slap in the face for women. Although it’s titled “She’s so funny”, her artwork reads “She’s NOT funny” with “SO” scrawled above the middle word. Cue the facepalm emoji.

SiriusXM

Of course, the list of women who could easily commandeer a dedicated channel is endless. For starters, how about Madonna (who had a limited station in 2019 during the “Madame X” cycle), Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Cher, Carole King, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, Tina Turner, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Alanis Morrissette, Lauryn Hill, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Fleetwood Mac, ABBA, The Go-Go’s, Spice Girls, and so on.

Admittedly, there aren’t many male artists of this century with their own SiriusXM channels, but the 2000s belong to female artists and they really dominate. In fact, SiriusXM has been at the forefront of supporting many of these women and putting them into regular rotation, including but not limited to: Billie Eilish, Halsey (who had a limited channel earlier this year), Girl in Red, CHVRCHES, Japanese Breakfast and Lana del Rey. Where are their chains? Or how about Adele, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna or Nicki Minaj?

SiriusXM is a big champion in country music and prides itself on having been instrumental in breaking female artists into this space like Elle King, Maren Morris and Ashley McBryde. Her channel “The Highway,” which focuses on new country music, is a big supporter of female artists in the genre (it was recently announced that singer Kellie Pickler will host lunchtimes on the station). But while Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam have their own channels, Dolly Parton’s channel is sorely lacking, as is Shania Twain’s, not to mention all of the female country music artists today.

In the electronic dance category, for every Diplo, Steve Aoki, and Armin Van Buuren, there’s a Peggy Gou, a Maya Jane Coles, a Tokimonsta, an Alison Wonderland, a Nicole Moudaber, or a Nina Kraviz who could easily handle their own chain. When Rida Naser, one of the hosts of flagship electronic and dance channel BPM hosted the virtual festival EMPOWERED with an all-star, all-female lineup in December 2020, it was very well received.

An artist-run channel is like having your own radio station. SiriusXM offers a multitude of music categories ranging from pop and rock to country and jazz. It offers decade-based programming and mood-based programming like party and workout. It gets granular with categories like BBQ and family. Within those buckets are an array of channels, running 24/7 with various shows. An artist channel can belong to more than one category. LL Cool J’s Rock the Bells channel, for example, is in the hip hop category as well as the 80s decade and the 90s decade. Many categories don’t have artist-led channels at all. .

There is no prescriptive approach for a channel. An artist-run channel will certainly play that artist’s music, but not exclusively. The artist and his teams are heavily involved in the curation of their channel. They work closely with SiriusXM program directors to create content that is both streamlined for the artist and representative of what they would like their channel to present. On the U2 X-Radio channel, for example, shows such as Adam Clayton’s Playlist, Bono Calling, Close to The Edge, Elevation, Gavin Friday Presents, Guest DJs Play U2, Jenny Huston on U2 X-Radio, Phil Taggart on U2 X-Radio, The Rocky O’Riordan Show and a 30th anniversary broadcast of “Achtung Baby”.

Aside from “full, deep, long-term artist involvement,” according to SiriusXM, there are no set requirements for an artist-led channel. Still, the male performers who run the channels have some things in common. Among these are: a large fan base, a deep catalog of music and longevity.

But many female artists share these touchpoints. Madonna, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Tina Turner, Shania Twain and many other prolific female artists have each sold millions of albums. The newest of these artists has been around for at least 15 years. The most experienced artists have been active for more than four decades. The majority of these women have social media followings in the double- and triple-digit millions (Grande’s Instagram followers number 294 million; Rihanna’s Twitter following alone tops 104 million) . There are fans who would most definitely tune into their channels.

“We are aware of the issue you have raised and we are in fact working to feature full-time channels led by female artists and will continue to engage with major and iconic artists in the development of SiriusXM channels throughout the year,” said a SiriusXM spokesperson. who notes that the company has many women hosting shows on its music and chat channels, including podcasts. To wit: 43% of daily hosts on the platform’s music-centric channels are women, according to data provided by SiriusXM, and several women host music-centric talk shows on the Volume channel. Among them: Lyndsey Parker on Volume West, “Call Me” with Lisa Robinson and Lori Majewski who hosts “Fierce: Women in Music,” co-hosts Volume’s daily “Feedback” show, and hosts and hosts the specialty show “ Lust for Lists”. .”

But what about listening? Of its 35 million subscribers and reach of 150 million listeners — the highest of any audio streaming service — the company shares that its gender split is 50/50 female and male. He notes that even SiriusXM star personality Howard Stern has a well-researched and devoted female following. His interviews reflect this, as he has sat with many high-profile women such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Silverman, Miley Cyrus and Billie Eilish, in recent years.

“Overall, we strive to maintain a mix of male and female voices on our platforms that reflects a balanced male/female audience,” a SiriusXM representative said.

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SiriusXM

Yet there are staggering anomalies. If one looked at the rollouts of two high-profile releases, Foo Fighters’ “Medicine at Midnight” in March 2021 and Adele’s “30” in November of that year, you’d find that SiriusXM threw more of its muscle behind the first even if the audience of this group is, in terms of consumption, smaller in comparison.

For “30”, SiriusXM hosted an interview with Adele conducted by John Mayer on the high profile channel Hits 1. The talk attracted media attention and various album cuts from the album were aired on multiple channels. as soon as they have been made available, during peak viewing hours.

To promote “Medicine at Midnight”, Sirius XM launched a dedicated two-month channel for the band, the content-rich Foo Fighters Radio, beginning a month before the album’s release. The day “Medicine” was released, the band took over three stations on Sirius-owned Pandora and hosted a “Backstage with the Foo Fighters” segment. [CK?]. Elsewhere on the network, SiriusXM did a lot of publicity for the channel, and frontman Dave Grohl was a guest on Howard Stern. Alongside their Stern appearance, the band performed a concert, Foo Fighters LIVE from SiriusXM Garage, after which the album was played in its entirety at midnight upon its release.

Considering Adele’s social media is more than seven times that of the Foo Fighters and she has the biggest album of the year, a feat accomplished in less than two months, there’s no doubt that she is the most outstanding artist. Yet that’s not how it’s presented on SiriusXM.

Admittedly, Adele’s campaign for “30”, guided by her management and her label, has been very selective and it is unlikely that she will commit to the level of a Foo Fighters, even if it were to be offered to her. . For its part, SiriusXM attributes Adele’s participation in the platform to “timing, availability and other strategic reasons.”

According to SiriusXM, artists booked for studio and virtual appearances are 53% male and 47% female. These include HAIM, Brittany Howard, Alessia Cara, Lizzo, Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and Dua Lipa. But for SiriusXM’s Small Stage series, where top performers perform in intimate venues, only a handful of female performers participated. Among them: Alicia Keys, Brandi Carlile, HER and the Go-Go’s. These female artists make up about 20% of the acts featured in the series. And none of them have their own channel on the platform.

Is it possible that a forward-thinking, forward-thinking platform like SiriusXM would embrace the outdated boys’ club mentality historically attributed to terrestrial radio in its programming? Considering how much of its staff has roots in old-school radio, it’s not that surprising.

SiriusXM’s newly appointed CEO, Jennifer C. Witz, who has been with the company for more than 18 years, is the first woman to hold the title. Other women executives occupying important positions represent on average 32% of the members of the board of directors and the management team combined. Now, if only that same percentage applied to female-run artist channels, that would be a step in the right direction.

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