Sirius XM Cuts Go Beyond Bluegrass

Chris JonesSirius XM management’s decision to cancel most shifts for acclaimed Bluegrass Junction DJ Chris Jones is part of a broader plan to eliminate hosts from some of its music channels.

In addition to ending Jones’ weekday shifts, the satellite radio giant took DJs off the air on oldies channels that play music from the 1950s and the 1990s.

Sirius XM officials have not publicly commented on any of the moves and have, so far, not returned calls from Bluegrass Today. But the timing of the cutbacks – as Liberty Media negotiates to buy the 47 percent of Sirius XM stock it does not already own – suggests the company is trying to trim expenses.

The company issued a tepid quarterly update to investors before today’s opening bell of the stock market, noting strong revenue growth and an uptick in long-term subscribers, but earnings of just a penny per share for the last three months of 2013. Analysts were forecasting two cents per share.

Dozens of angry subscribers praised Jones and blasted the company on Bluegrass Junction’s Facebook page and about 200 offered support on Jones’ personal page. Those numbers are likely to grow as the word spreads about his downsized schedule. His only regular shifts will be Saturdays and his weekly edition of Truegrass.

His last regular weekday shift was Monday, although he was on the air Tuesday morning, filling in for Kyle Cantrell, who was ill. Jones bid farewell to his weekday listeners, but didn’t dwell on the change or talk about its causes. But in a Facebook post on Monday, he made it clear the decision wasn’t his.

Today he posted this follow-up: “The support of friends, fans and listeners in the last 24 hours has been extremely touching. Thank you all.”

The changes leave Cantrell and Joey Black as the only regularly scheduled hosts on weekdays. Pre-programmed music with no chatter from DJs will be played at other times. Black’s weekday show will now start at 5:00 p.m. instead of at midday.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, songwriter and upright bass player. He has spent much of his career as a wire service political reporter, including nearly 14 years with The Associated Press and a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and has recently retired as senior editor for Kiplinger Washington Editors.

  • John Wallace

    Maybe Chris leaned a little more to the traditional side of our music and that didn’t set too well with some.

    • Buddy Woodward

      With all due respect, poppycock. This is part of a general culture of putting corporate profit first in this country. The workers always feel the pinch first, especially if their jobs can be automated or outsourced. Despite profit loss or stagnation, I’ll bet the top executives didn’t see any cut in their salaries. It’s a damn shame, Chris is a great DJ.

  • Dick Bowden

    Keep after this story. Glad to see it’s not “just” the bluegrass channel taking the brunt. We don’t need more computerized music. Hosts give it meaning. Some hosts, anyway…

  • Bill Foster

    Need more funds for Mr. Stern!

  • I am afraid it is the way of the world. Who is going to win computers or people. This is just the start of a long trend cutting folks out of work in so many phases of the work place. I sure am glad I play banjo and my job is secure. The middle class is taking a beating from corporate America trying to trim costs so profits for them are high. I loved Chris’s show by the way, traditional grass will be replaced by contemporary soon enough. Chris will be missed for sure…

  • JOHN TROUT

    The move away from hosted shows, turns S/XM into a juke box, which is good for those of us who do a hosted show.
    However in Chris’ case it is bad for Bluegrass. Chris and Ned are by far the most knowledgeable and informative DJs presenting Bluegrass on S/XM. Joey and Kyle have learned on the job an it is obvious that they read most of their chatter from one-sheets. But Kyle is a big name, has-bin Country DJ and Joey makes ALL of the content choices from New York City.
    So the listeners lose, and Bluegrass loses.

  • kenneth schroeder

    I will for sure cancel my Sirius XM subscription now that we know who is responsible for this stupid decision. Not that the loss of my one cancelation will make any difference to them, but if more subscribers out there follow, perhaps it may create a small or even larger impact on these morons.
    To Chris you will be sorely missed. Your knowledge and personality have made a great impact on Bluegrass music and it’s followers. I’m sure I speak not only for myself, but for a great many more of your faithful fans. It is a sad time for Bluegrass music. Some will forget quickly and others not so much. As for myself I will never forget. We saw what happened to classic country music and I believe that the powers to be are trying to do the same to classic Bluegrass. We can only pray they don’t succeed.

  • David Morris

    A couple of comments, based on my reporting. First, I don’t think this is part of a move to downplay or eliminate traditional bluegrass. If that was the goal, the powers-that-be would have deep-sixed Truegrass at the same time that they cut Chris’ shifts. Second, one reader suggested that Joey Black makes all of the content decisions from New York. Fact is the programming decisions for the unhosted hours are made by the program director, Kyle Cantrell. These decisions to cut shifts were made above his pay grade. I’ll have more to say about this in an article that will be posted on Thursday. Finally, I respectfully disagree with the criticisms of Kyle made here and elsewhere on the Internet. He’s a professional broadcaster who has done a lot for bluegrass music.

  • kenneth schroeder

    I respectfully disagree with David about the powers to be doing what they did to classic music. They’re not going to try and do it all at once. I’m 76 years old and lived through the transition. It began slowly and just kept snowballing until country is not true country anymore. I can only hope this first move in Bluegrass does not grow as I have witnessed in the past.

  • kenneth schroeder

    I just read your comments in the “View by writer” sector where you wrote that Ned’s Banjo Sunday has been scraped also. Just kind of goes to prove my point even more. How come you didn’t mention it in this venue.
    By the way, what happened to your article that was supposed to appear Thursday which I believe is today. I implore anyone with any interest to click on David Morris and read what he wrote on this subject. Very interesting to say the least. Unfortunately non of this will ever be read for how many people go back several days to read comments

  • David Morris

    Hi Kenneth,

    Whether you read the article by using the View by Writer function or visting the Bluegrass Today home page, you see the same articles. The article that I said I would post Thursday is the same article you refer to, about Ned having his shifts reduced, too. You can still find it on the Bluegrass Today home page.

  • kenneth schroeder

    David
    If you would refer to your page you will see my apology for my misunderstanding about there being a home page. It appears to be much more for me to learn about this site.

  • David Morris

    No apology needed, Kenneth. By the way, one of my favorite features on the home page or other pages you click on is “Latest Viewer Comments.” Recent comments pop up there, no matter how old the original story is. So people interested in that story can stay up to date with what’s being said.

    Thanks for making BluegrassToday.com part of your day.