Thanks to the Young Members Committee at the National Press Club, I have just now returned from a grandly generous tour of the XM facility here in Washington, D.C.
Yes, it takes a lot to keep me in the city after work, and even more to venture to Northeast. Pretty much a chance to peek behind the curtain, yeh, that’s what it takes.
The facility itself is very cool, though not as cool as you’d think. It is much wide open spaces, high ceilings and big open rooms, lobby mood lighting and a big screen TV in the lobby shows you an episode of Artist Confidential goin’ on. They took us upstairs, where the elevator opens up immediately facing a huge glass-walled room that you immediately recognize as mission controlcomplete with a big Captain Kirk chair, a dozen computers, and EQ indicators.
Interestingly enough, the EQ indicators were numbered. Assuming that each one represented a station, I counted more than 212 indicators, all a blazing, although XM offers only 160 channels. Veddy intedesting.
We walked to the right toward an enormous hallway. The XM building was originally built to house a printing press, so there are big, wide open spaces everywhere. They’ve made good use of the wall space with enormous photographs of musical icons, Jimi, Johnny Cash, Tina Turner. They started with a nice little reception with Cosi sammiches provided by the Young Members Committee. I got to speak with one of the muckity-mucks, I think his name was Steve Wasserman? (Yes, I was an EXCELLENT news reporter.) He heads XM’s news and talk division. Somebody asked the inevitable question about what are the differences between XM and the Eh-Eh-Eh. He did make one point that seemed beyond the realm of PR Blah-Blah-Blah. XM, he said, programs each channel as if it were a local station, with full autonomy given to each program director. Sirius, he said, seems to see itself more as a giant jukebox.
I was gushing, of course, being such a satellite radio freak that I have subscriptions to both and might someday consider a third for reasons only I can understand. I did tell him what I thought, that I do tend to prefer XM programming (I wouldn’t need the Sirius subscription if XM had just gotten Howard Stern), that XM programming seems up and down the dial to have a more authentic, more public radio aesthetic to it.
Anyway, the tour of the facility was very cool. The place was abuzz, even at 7 p.m. We walked through the News and Sports area, which reminds me of a big newsroom. We toured through the music production rooms, each one named after a big music producerthere’s an Alan Parsons room, a Quincy Jones room, a Ray Charles room. We walked through “Talk Alley,” anchored by the studio where the Bob Edwards Show is produced. Unfortunately, Bob’s is a morning show, so we didn’t get to see that smooth character at work. The NASCAR boys across the way were hard at work, tho.
I asked about hardware. I hadn’t heard of it yet, but apparently XM will soon be releasing its answer to Sirius’ S-50. It is the Pioneer Inno, a portable that will play live satellite radio and MP3s and WMAs, and will record 50 hours. (It will cost you $399.)
Anyway, it was a very cool tour. I don’t know what else to tell ya.