When we bought our new Subaru Outback last summer we decided to get Sirius/XM radio. Mostly because we love our oldies–music from the 1960s and also from our earlier childhood in the 1950s. How nice to be able to listen (mostly) without the intrusive patter of DJs and the noisy chatter of advertising.
Once in a while I’d tune in to the music of the 1940s on Channel 4 because 40s on 4 reminded me of my mother. She was a huge Sinatra fan and loved Big Bands as well. Her cousins lived in Brooklyn and danced so well they competed in the annual Harvest Moon Ball. I used to love to hear her stories about those days.
A few weeks ago I hit Channel 4 in the car and got –Billy Joel.
The channel devoted to the Big Band sound other 1940s music had been hijacked to make room for several months of Billy Joel interviews and music.
Oh, subscribers could stream the 1940s music channel on their smartphone or computer, but that would require a separate subscription. Most people subscribe to satellite radio to listen in their cars, not on their phones or computers.
Sirius/XM has been largely silent on the subject, too, mostly ignoring the campaign of tweets, Facebook comments and other expressions of dismay from their subscribers.
My father would have been 95 this year, my mother 89. Both are gone now and so are so many of their generation. So Sirius/XM took a gamble that hijacking the ’40s music channel wouldn’t be more than a blip in their business and would be outweighed by the benefits of three months of Billy Joel.
“That’ll be us, one day,” M said, as we talked about it. “Our music will be just as expendable in the not too distant future. In fact, you can expect that the audience for doo wop and other 1950s music will be next on the chopping block.”
In today’s modern world, this is how we know we are old: when the cultural evidence that we existed starts to be archived.
I hope I’ll be getting in my car for decades to come–two, at least–and I don’t want to hit XM5 or XM6 and find that the soundtrack to my life has been co-opted for a Kanye West channel. Or worse: a Justin Bieber feature.
But it’s inevitable, just as aging is inevitable.
Our generation is old now.
“But I don’t FEEL old!” I want to cry out. “I have youthful attitudes! I have no grey hair! I like hip hop and contemporary alternative music, too!”