Checking out SiriusXM's streaming MySXM feature

I've had SiriusXM radio in my car for almost a year now. It wasn't something I sought out; the vehicle came with the radio pre-installed and a trial offer. Great marketing on their part; by the time the trial offer expired I was hooked and signed up for a subscription.

These days I telecommute so I don't get as much use out of the service. At the same time I'm always sitting at my PC skipping around the various music streaming services looking for one that I like...and failing. When I'm working I want to put something on and just forget about it. I don't want to have to find a new playlist every hour or skip an awful song that is making my ears bleed.

I was vaguely aware that SiriusXM offered an 'online' version of their service but considering how much the in-car subscription was, it irked me that they didn't include the streaming stuff for free. But more and more I've been craving my favorite Sirius stations (Classic Vinyl in particular — it's channel 26, try it!) so I decided to give it a shot.

Boy am I glad I did! Turns out sometime in the past few months SiriusXM has added a new 'MySXM' feature to their online streaming service. This lets you customize stations to dial them in to better meet your preferences.

For example, many streaming services have stations broken down by era. SiriusXM is no different, with channels like "50's on 5," "60's on 6," and "70's on 7." But the 70's were a divisive time in music and noise that people sometimes mistook for music, like disco. (No...I'm not the least bit biased!) So when I tune into the "70's on 7" channel I pop up the MySXM feature then the settings for it. There are 3 sliders: Popularity (with "More Variety" on one end and "Top Hits" on the other), Style (with "Soul/Disco" on one end and "Rock" on the other) and Era (with "Early '70-'74" on one end and "Late '75-'79) on the other. I cranked Style all the way over to Rock and Era one tic over towards Early (I left Popularity centered). Now when I tune into "70's on 7" I get Creedence Clearwater Revival and Rolling Stones instead of Donna Summer and The Village People.

As a bonus, using MySXM strips out the DJ and other talk. You get music and nothing but music. If you ever get tired of your tailored experience, you can just hit the "Go to Live" button and get the same experience you'd get in the car. MySXM isn't available there yet; only on the web player and mobile apps.

So now the bad news. First, not every channel has the MySXM feature (but all the ones I hit in a day did). A bigger issue is that SiriusXM streaming is on the expensive side. If you don't have an existing subscription and just want the streaming service, it's something like $15/month (there's a 1 week free trial available). If you do have a satellite radio subscription (for your car or a stand-alone SiriusXM device) you can add streaming for about $3.50/month. I'm being vague because there are different deals depending on how long you subscribe for and, I suspect, what tier service you're currently subscribed to. I have XM Select for the car and I paid $16.43 to add streaming from yesterday until the middle of August (when my XM Select subscription expires).

I've only been using MySXM for a day so far, so don't consider this a definitive recommendation but I was impressed enough to subscribe (I first created a trial subscription under a separate email account) so that I could start setting up my preferences and favorite channels. If you're someone who has a bunch of playlists or you don't mind fiddling with other streaming services then you might not find much here to convince you to switch. But if you just want to turn on some music in the morning and have quality tunes streamed to your desk all day long with no input, check out a 7 day trial. And if you do, come back and tell me what you think!

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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