Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Underground and Indie Radio on Virgin America Airlines

En route to Seattle this weekend I had the pleasure of flying Virgin America for the very first time and I'm in love for so many reasons, not the least of which has to do with the music and radio choices. Each seat has its own video screen full of in-flight entertainment options known as RED, that include TV, movies, music videos, radio, and over 3000 mp3s that you can craft into customized playlists. You can also order decent food from your seat, play open-source games (and eventually submit your own using linux), and flirt with people on the plane by using a chat feature.

I counted 19 radio stations, including a number that are focused on obscure, independent music including alternative and indie (EDGE), underground (DEEP), Mandarin pop (M POP), Cantonese pop (C POP), Korean Pop (K POP) and Japanese pop (J POP). I'm not sure how they program these stations, but it struck me as very enlightened for Virgin to include an underground station, which featured music from a variety of genres including free jazz, experimental electronics, rock, pop, Asian pop, and classical. It sounded like a really great college radio station that I would listen to. The one downside is that they don't include track listings for the radio stations, so definitely a bummer for music junkies like me. I didn't hear any DJs when I tuned it, so I'm not sure if the stations are music-only or if they have DJs back announcing tracks at some point.

In addition to the radio stations, you can listen to thousands of mp3s and create playlists including the likes of Kraftwerk, !!!, Nina Simone, Sun Ra, Arvo Part, Magnetic Fields, Johnny Cash and Paris Hilton (sooo bad!). According to their website you can even take a playlist with you off the plane, but I didn't try out that feature.

Virgin was so cool that I'm actually looking forward to booking another flight soon, something I never thought I'd say in these days of heightened security and lessened customer service.

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