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Music News: Sirius and XM Merger Hits The Fan

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In magazines with an active letters from readers section, you can almost count on having one “Cancel my subscription!” entry each issue. The problem usually involves: 1. one of the writers displaying too much political bias (this seems to make some readers especially crazy, particularly in non-political publications), 2. too much profanity in an article (shocking!!) or 3. a perceived slight against a reader’s favorite artist.

I’ve always enjoyed the editor’s response in Stereophile — they seem to have many creative ways saying “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out!” Note that I’ve almost never been sympathetic to these people. As long as the copy is interesting, I don’t have to agree with the content. And too much profanity? C’mon, you’re kidding…right?

But now I’m pissed off. I got in the car this morning, switched on my Sirius radio, and noticed that the little box went into a channel update. No big deal, as that’s happened many times before. Besides, I was there to listen to that last hour or so of Howard Stern.

On the way home though, the gravity of the situation hit me: I couldn’t find my favorite channel — Disorder. Hmmm…maybe I just forgot my preset button? Well, I couldn’t remember the real channel number so I listened to a CD on the way home, making a mental note to check the Sirius website when I got home.

Turns out that the Sirius/XM merger was going to hit more than just the back offices. The new channel lineup has been announced and the devices have been updated. It’s understandable that there would be some fallout from the merger. This is corporate America, after all. But I’m here to tell you, Sirius executive and programming-type people, that you’ve shot yourselves in the foot, if not the heart.

Disorder was the one channel that set you apart, not only from XM, but from all radio. It was a modern throwback to the early days of FM radio, when a DJ could play absolutely anything. Before the merger, I lobbied for friends to chose Sirius, Disorder being one of the high points of their offerings.

Now, you might be wondering how I can be so fixated on a single channel. Well, were else can you hear a segue from the opera of Maria Calas to the seminal punk of The Ramones? From the scorching assault of John Zorn to the blurpy fun of the experimental Fuck Buttons? It was the eclecticism, the lack of a playlist that drew me in. Meg Griffin’s love of new music. Larry Kirwan (of the group Black 47) introduced me to tons of interesting artists. Lou Reed and Hal Wilner’s “New York Shuffle” offered a grab bag of out-there content. David Johansen’s “Mansion of Fun” was similarly erudite.

For years, as FM radio became more and more bland, we made fun of the consultants. The research and the numbers theoretically maximized ratings, while managing to homogenize the “product.” Playlists tighted. DJ’s vanished, replaced by automated stations. This all hit home to me one time when I was visiting my in-laws in central Maine. I had on the FM station I used to listen to back in high school and it happened to be the anniversary of the death of Bob Marley. The DJ made note of it, and mentioned that he wasn’t actually allowed to play any Marley. The closest he could get was Clapton’s version of “I Shot The Sheriff.” Great, huh?

I’m thinking that one of my two subscriptions has to go. I’ll keep the one in the car, as I do like keeping up on the Stern thing. But the radio in the kitchen? What’s the point? Yes, I realize that I’m not giving the entire new lineup a fair shake, but this particular change is a symbolic step in the wrong direction.

Well, the bean-counters have had their day. Again. Disorder is gone. The move feels a lot like what happened with FM. The new channel listing suggests, as a fan of Disorder, I might like “The Loft.” I turned it on this evening and the first tune they were playing was something by Carly Simon. C’mon, you’re kidding…right?

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About Mark Saleski

  • Peter Katzur

    I agree. I have lost my favorites as well. There is now nothing on there that I want. I will be cancelling my subscriptions as well.

  • Brendel

    I think they did a good job picking the best out of both services. I subscribe to both, and as to why I pay for radio? For one thing I can escape those mind-numbing, annoying commercials that seem to drag on and on, as Sirius-XM has NO commercials on the music channels; also, I get a dizzying variety of programming choices, many having name-brand, marquee value converstation, talk and news, and specialty music channels, nearly all of which are quite intersting; also, when I travel out of town in my car (which I do very frequently) I can enjoy the same programming in near-CD quality audio. It’s radio for people who care about quality and choice. The phrase that sums it up for me: You get what you pay for.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i hear an echo!

  • http://somethingelsemusic.blogspot.com/ Pico

    Busted!

    Brendel/Lassiter, at least change few words around so it appears halfway authentic ;-)

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    You have Sirius, Mark? I’m surprised you weren’t an XM subscriber, which seemed to be aimed at the more non-commercial music listeners. I’d love it, too, were it not for the horrific sound quality of satellite radio. Not to sound elitist, but I seriously can’t listen to it. It’s just . . . nasty sounding. “Near-CD quality.” Brendel, at least you are a funny shill.

    Anyway, my wife had much the same reaction, only on the XM end, yesterday. She was PISSED. Gone was nearly all the music she loved, replaced by a bunch of very commercial, very overplayed stuff you could hear on any terrestrial radio, for free, I might remind you. This is just one of those stunningly stupid moves that makes me wonder who the execs think their audience is. From what I gather, I think the expectation among most users, both Sirius and XM, was that the XM programming was going to take over. Guess not! They are clearly going to alienate much of the XM listeners. I would expect there will be a mass XM-odus over the next few months if things don’t change. I think it’s a little rash to dump it immediately and not wait to see if there’s a change in the coming weeks or months, but if there’s nothing good after that? Dump away!

    But, please, everyone, do call/write and complain. They need to know that people are unhappy for SPECIFIC reasons. If they don’t hear reasons why, they’ll just see it as knee-jerk reactions to change, in general, and dismiss it. It could spell bad, bad things for satellite radio in general.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    yes. remember tom, i picked it because stern had gone over there (and despite what the yammerers may say, he’s pretty interesting without the fcc breathing down his neck).

    when i first started checking out the music, there was a modern jazz channel (can’t remember the name)…but that disappears a long while ago. there’s a traditional jazz channel that has way too many repeats on it. honestly, there shouldn’t be a reason to repeat something over a 24 hr period. heck, a week for that matter!

    and yeah, i’ll have to figure out who to send mail to.

  • David Shepard

    Without Disorder Sirius is worthless

  • Matt in Nyack

    You’re right on the money, Mark, Sirius Disorder was one of a kind, and my wife and I are literally sick over this loss. It wasn’t just a radio station for us, it was “part of our family,” as my wife put it. If there is any silver lining – Vin Scelsa immediately replied to my wife’s e-mail this morning as follows:

    “Dear Brooke,

    Alas, Disorder is no more, a victim of the merger of Sirius and XM. I will continue to do Idiot’s Delight starting next week (11/19) on The Loft 29, live Wed-Thurs Noon to 2, with 4-hour replays Friday and Sunday nights, same as it ever was. The Loft is an XM channel that will now be heard on both systems.) It is my understanding that the Dave Marsh, David Johansen and Lou Reed shows will also move to The Loft. Meg is now on Spectrum 18, 7 days a week, Noon to 6. It appears that everyone else on Disorder has been dismissed (although it is hoped that Larry Kirwin’s Celtic Crush will surface somewhere else).

    This all happened to us as unexpectedly and speedily as it happened to you. We Disorderlies are all very sad … in fact, we find ourselves grieving along with our listeners. As you probably know, Disorder was Meg Griffin’s baby; she was the soul of the channel. She created a wonderful oasis for us all and deserves our heartfelt tribute.

    I thank you for your continued support and enthusiasm for Idiot’s Delight. Rest assured that I will continue to exert complete autonomy over the form and content of my show, as I always have. The show will rave on in true disorderly fashion, albeit at a new home.

    Peace,
    Vin Scelsa”

    So, there we have it – a ray of sunshine in the darkness. Why the hell didn’t they combine The Loft and Coffeehouse and leave our Disorder alone :’-(

  • David

    I fully agree with all the comments about Disorder. This is one of the saddest days in all of radio for me. All the great FM stations are long gone and satellite radio was a great breath of fresh air and programming.

    To have the best station swept away is a shock.

    I can tell you this, The Loft’s listeners are not going to like the Scelsa and Johansen shows.

  • Briz in Minneapolis

    I own a quilt and bead shop in the middle of IOWA. DISORDER was the OFFICIAL shop music, each day, every day.

    I banned big hair bands and country while I was there at least. Meg, Larry, Vin, David and the others were so great to listen to. I feel like I’ve lost friends.

    This channel was the one channel I could listen to while sewing samples for the store. The whole staff is in mourning, (except the farmgirl, but we made her listen anyway).

    Customers loved the channel and would often ask where it came from, which channel, so we were advertising for Sirius too. I wrote them and quoted Mark Saleski’s article (hope that’s OK, Mark). Hope they will change their minds, the fools that they are.

    I have not found any reference to Megs, Vin’s, Davids, or Larry’s station on the Sirius website.

    I learned so much about new music and would relish in the old when Vin would sneak in some old ‘LOVE’ songs, Jefferson Airplane, Leonard Cohen, along with so many others. Wow, I played that music incessently when I was 14-15, driving my parents wild…

    I just bought speakers so I could listen to Disorder at home in Mpls.

    COMPLAIN TO SIRIUS OVER AND OVER!!

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    Well, to soften the blow, remember, you now get Oprah and her “friends” network. You can learn all about being your “best you” or whatever. That’s got to ease the transition, right?

    I was looking at the XMFan forums and they’re complaining about the song repeats – someone mentioned hearing the same U2 song twice in a 30 minute time span! WTF? This is exactly why people went to satellite, to escape that kind of repetitive monotony.

    My brother-in-law was upset that some online XM stations also got cut in this transition. He’s missing his online-only hard-core prog station bad, I guess.

    One interesting/funny thing I’ve notice, as a sort-of outsider, both sides are complaining that the other’s had too much talk. “XM has too much talk,” “Sirius has too much talk.” I’m wondering if they both had similar levels of talk before, but now that they’re combined, the Sirius-XM heads decided to add in a bunch of talk during the confusion and let users blame the “invading channel” on the rise in talk-time.

    I found it especially scummy that XM, at least, didn’t bother to alert its users that this change was coming until AFTER it happened. My wife got an email last night letting her know that they would be changing the lineup. Nice. Nothing like waiting until after the fact to prepare your users.

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i never really heard all that much talk. the stations i listen to other than Disorder were the grateful dead channel, jam on, and a few others. i didn’t mind the announcing done on Disorder because they were talking about new, interesting music.

    i did have problems with repeats, which is why i stopped listening to the jazz channel.

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i have yet to send them an email. did pop over to the site and couldn’t find a good contact email to use.

  • Murray ATL

    I too am very disappointed to hear that Sirius Disorder has fallen by the wayside. I am a big listener of the Mansion of Fun and other programs as it introduced me to artists and sounds that I had never heard of ( though I’m hardly a musical erudite). Since I just renewed last month I will wait and hear what happens, but it was much easier to tune to just one station – Disorder. I appreciate the work and enthusiasm of all the Disorder DJs and I hope they will let us know on this blog (like Vince Scelsa has done) their whereabouts — since Sirius just basically pulled the plug without telling us squat.

  • http://www.clearcrisp.com Eric

    In a world with iPods “on shuffle” all around us, the free-form thing shouldn’t be so hard for the beancounters to grasp.

    Heck, I go hang out at a national Internet cafe chain called “It’s a Grind” and they have 3,000-song CDs that “shuffle” among blues, jazz and rock in a “watered down” Disorder sort of way. It’s decent for a mainstream public kind of place.

    Call it free-form where the beancounters can “get it.”

    Of course, there’s always Vin Scelsa’s alma-mater, WFMU.org. When they go down, you know we’re living in the end times.

    I logged my complaint with Sirius and got the autoresponder acknowledgment so far.

    A Friday without the Mansion of Fun is cold. Way cold.

  • dave

    Great article Mark.

    I have created a Facebook group for people who want Sirius XM to bring back Disorder.

    I encourage all of you to join. We need Sirius to understand their mistake and bring back Disorder.

  • Steve G

    No more DISORDER?
    Already miss Meg, David Johansen and Larry Kirwin. Loved the ‘No Genre” format.
    Heard the XMers had Fine Tuning – lost that too.
    This has turned into modern FM without the commercials.
    Oh well …..

  • Veronica

    Amen. I feel cheated. We won back our country only to lose our Disorder. THe Loft sucks, plain and simple. Good thing I made Mansion of Fun tapes because if you live long enough on this planet you know that all good things always do come to an end…a needless end in this case. I am so pissed and I really do feel like cancelling my subscription. I guess when you are a monopoly of mediocrity you can do anything you want. Bring back DISORDER. Thanks for the writing. We all feel the same way. Pay to be pained.

  • Matt

    Ah, kindred souls, all of you. Disorder was frankly the only reason I was keeping Sirius. I will now cancel. Pandora can scratch my itch for eclectic music, but where will I get my David J. philosophy fix?

  • Wormtown Disorder

    I got an email direct from Larry relating to Celtic Crush. He said spread the word that it will return on the Spectrum soon. Keen an eye on the Sirius web site. But he did say he was “a bit devastated” with the end of Disorder. As am I.

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    interesting wormtown, i had larry’s email because i had a short conversation with him about a month ago. so i sent him an email about this and i got a freaking autoresponder email shortly afterward.

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    Complaints need to go to Sirius Customer Care. How effective it is, I can’t say, since it is just a link and they can ignore that kind of input, but I think they’ll be watching at least the amount of dissatisfied input.

    Lots of unhappy Disorder listeners out there, Mark. You are not alone. Maybe if enough speak up it’ll come back?

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    XM users need to complain here.

  • Wormtown Disorder

    Mark, I believe all emails will get auto response but he does get them.

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    the auto response is a new thing wormtown, as i had an un-mediated discussion with him a month or so ago.

  • Hexagonal

    Hi — I’m with you on Disorder. Here’s the text of the message I sent.

    —————-

    I can live with the station changes, but it’s very frustrating to me to have stations I like taken away. In fact the best predictor of what stations get the axe may be my presets: only 18 The Spectrum is left from my original faves: Boombox is gone; the world music station The Globe is gone; the folk station Folk Town is gone; and the softer rock station The Bridge keeps getting hijacked for single-band tie-ins. I’ll have to listen to XMU to see if it does for me what Left of Center did, and if the new Chill is as trance-y as the old one.

    The real blow to me is loosing Sirius Disorder. I spent over half my music time in the car on that station. I’m a two-radio subscriber, and I’m *incredibly* pissed off and upset about Sirius Disorder getting the axe. I’m in shock.

    Getting rid of Disorder may have saved the company some pennies — I’m sure those DJ’s added up — but I hate Sirius now. I deeply, sincerely hate the company. — Not you, you’re just doing your job, but the folks in charge. Of all the stations to cut! Disorder really stood out, and I know you know that.

    If there’s any way you can work to get Disorder back, my heartfelt thanks go out to you — but I’ve worked at a large media company before, and I know that’ll never happen. So, give Meg a hug for me, and pass along my disgust at the “deciders” you work for. Bastards.

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    here’s an article where they mention that the fans of Disorder have been the loudest.

    i’m planning on writing something up on this soon.

  • Paul Agostino

    I wrote this letter to Sirius’ head of programming and its biggest star.

    Howard Stern and Scott Greenstein,

    So much for the revolution, huh?

    Overnight, Sirius went from “the new direction in radio” to Robot-World, with its pigeon-hole music stations.

    And with no warning. “Here it is,” the company said; “Eat it and like it.”

    I write to you, Howard, because I listened to your moral indignation about the blocked merger for over a year. I believed you when you said the merger would be better for subscribers. It has not been. If you don’t believe me, look at all the complaints that are piling up on the internet. Scott Greenstein, I hope someone can pass this letter along to you, since this is the only place I can hope to get my words to you.

    I (for instance) want free-form, eclectic radio as an option. Meg Griffin’s Sirius Disorder was a beautiful station where human DJs and their tastes still lived. Judging from the complaints I’ve read on the internet, many others feel the same way. But for some reason, the suits in charge of the merger killed the channel.

    They have given us something called “The Loft,” which is to Sirius Disorder what those ridiculous “morning zoos” are to the Howard Stern show.

    Can you imagine how you’d feel if they pulled the plug on The Howard Stern Show, you complained, and received a computer-generated response telling you that Opie and Anthony should fill that particular listening void for you—“and thanks for writing; were you aware of all the exciting options for subscribers, sign up now for etc., etc., etc…?”

    That is what is happening to us who loved Sirius Disorder, a station that introduced us to great new music, old music we’d never heard, and consistently surprised us. DJ-ing was an art on that station, and both the DJs and the music had personality. Now it’s back to music directors and demographics as satellite radio charts a path back to the dark ages.

    No more bullshit, huh Howard? Sounds a lot like the same old bullshit to me.

    Somebody do something.

  • Eric L Terlizzi

    I agree, Disorder was probably on 50 % of the time my Sirius was on which was pretty much 24/7. What I don’t get is why they have 3 or 4 stations playing virtually indistinguishable playlists(how many “softrock” stations do they have?) yet they take the one absolutely unique and irreplaceable station and trash it. I had an inkling they might drop it with the way they have moved it around 24-32-70-33. I’m deeply sad. I gave “The Loft” a good listen and it ain’t no Disorder. RIP

  • Naomi

    I was equally surprised to see the new line-up from XM the other day. I loved Fine Tuning, which played everything. People would ask what I was listening to when in my office. It sounds like the Sirius channel was a lot like Fine Tuning.

    I don’t think The Loft is anything like what any of you are discribing. Why would they choose not to get rid of either The Loft or Coffeehouse? They sound alike to me.

    I do listen to The Loft, and have been introduced to a lot of artists I wouldn’t have heard, though I co-host The Acoustic Edge in St. Louis, and get lots of CD service. The interview shows are very good, and Jerry Rubino does a great job choosing music for their new music program.

    It’s the dumbing down to make money syndrome. Let’s hope some of the comments make a difference.

  • Bonny Dunn

    I’m very upset about the new sirius line up – -my favourite music is pretty much all gone!! Sirius had4-5 music of dance music–now down to 2!! Then there was Backspin–old school rap that–while I didn’t listen to it a lot it was great when I did. What really upset me was losing Sirius Disorder – – that was the best group of ecclectric and different music–reminded me of an NPR radio station we used to have when I lived in Dallas–a music station that played a little world music, new alternative/indie stuff–Disorder was truly a one of a kind radio station–sirus suggestion is to try out the Loft and Spectrum–those stations are no where near Disorder!! I was really looking forward to the merge because I thought the hype was that there would be more options and the consumer would win–turns out there’s more options for sports and rock but that’s about it–

    I had an xm receiver for a while and there were several channels on XM I was looking forward to being able to listen to on Sirius but I didn’t expect to have to give up the stations I liked on Sirius for those channels–well now that there’s the merge – -the channel I was most looking forward to hearing from XM, UPOP is not on the line-up either – -this whole new line up has really upset me – -I do still have a few channels to listen to – -but I hate that my choices of the music I like have significantly decreased–

    I’m glad to know there are others out there who feel similarly — keep sending emails to Sirius too–maybe they’ll hear us!!

  • Bob C.

    Like everyone else, I’m disappointed about not being able to hear Meg and Larry. I lived for their shows! I immediately sent Sirius some “feedback” expressing my displeasure and just got an email back saying, “Robert, while SIRIUS Disorder was retired from our programming, fans can hear eclectic music from artists such as Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and Tom Waits on The Loft Ch. 29, which also includes shows from Lou Reed and Vin Scelsa. At this time we no longer have Celtic Crush. As far as The Black 47 being moving to a new home, we have no information on that either.” Fortunately, I did a google search and just found this article saying it will return.
    Hopefully this article is more accurate than the statement from Sirius!

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    great, so they dribble bits and pieces of the features across a few channels. sorry, i’m not convinced. and as much as i like Meg, it was the Mansion of Fun show that absolutely killed.

  • sam mento

    Glad to see that I was not the only one. I miss disorder it was the best thing going my radio was always on. Mansion of fun was great i love the replays Vin Scelsa bench mark in radio broadcast,the kennedys ,larry kirwan,meg what the heck were they thinking. Man I’m ready to pull the plug I have 2 subscriptions was going to get a 3rd . Life is not the same bring back sirius disorder now,combine the coffe house and the loft. I listened to the loft I thought I was stuck in an elevator in hell hope this is short lived or sirius xm will be

  • KDM

    I am a four-year Sirius subscriber, and spent 75% of my time listening to Disorder. I feel like some thug broke into my house and stole one of my most precious possessions, then left a cheery note telling me that I have enough other stuff, just be happy and get over it. I’ve tried the new lineup, but every channel is so niche-programmed that I can’t stay there more than fifteen minutes. A big part of my life is gone and I’m heartbroken. Sirius, please bring back my friends and their fabulous tastes in music or I’m going back to my iPod. But where will I discover new artists and be exposed to great music of the past I never knew existed?

  • Mark

    This is from a Rolling Stone blog:

    The company claims that the programming decisions were largely not made with financial considerations in mind, and that the haters are outnumbered by the silent majority of happy listeners. “There are people who didn’t like the Beatles or Elvis when they came out,” says Sirius’ Greenstein. “There were de minimis complaints, I mean minor. The ones that did complain were loud and had a lot of time on their hands to do it.” Presumably because they weren’t listening to the radio.

    I have three jobs and I love Sirius Disorder, but that little email I sent as a three radio subscriber suddenly renders me out of touch and a slacker!! How arrogant and insulting! Way to go Sirius, you just insulted one of your strongest advocates and supporters.

  • liz and pat

    Just like old radio. I was amazed at how great Disorder was. 40 years ago FM was the greatest thing, for us in LA it was KMET. Disorder brought that back.
    I had the radio on all day, every day. I kept saying “this is the answer!” Instantly gone. Talk about angry!! We have gone back to FM and lucky for us a new station that is playing vinyl!
    If I can’t find Kirwin, Ryan and Scelsa, I’m done with Sirius.

    We are subscribers. That means we PAY for the entertainment. I’m stressing the point because after all this IS a business. If you have been looking around at corporate failures, the most common factors are bad judgement by administration. Those who receive a salary, at least in part, from the subscribers. The subscribers are unhappy with the removal of product.
    O.K. so the result of the situation is going to be loss of income
    and this is all about the business of radio? Come on. What’s the real reason?
    The real loss is the great music and DJ’s that came together to form one of the most unique and wonderful “products” that any radio has seen in decades. Corporate destruction of the arts. One more time, we see a bad decision. Lets hope Meg can pull it back together somewhere else. For the good of the music. Or, just maybe someone will say “we made a mistake” and put disorder back together.

  • http://voiceofthelistener.com Dave Onkels

    IMPORTANT: If you have not already done so, please take 2 minutes to visit a site I pulled together to voice our concerns as listeners (and paying customers of Sirius and XM). The sole purpose of this site is to aggregate our comments and send a single package to the Sirius XM board of directors.

  • http://www.DeathByEmail.com Roger

    I mourn the loss of XM FineTuning. It was eclectic as well. It sounds like I would have loved Disorder. But, I won’t get the chance.

    From an XMer perspective, it seems like the new combined service is very celebrity focused. Everything has a name of a person … Howard, Martha, E-Street, etc. I also get outraged when I hear DJ’s talking over the music. (I understand that commercial radio did this to get in more commercials. Why does subscription radio do this?)

    I want the focus to be back on the music. It is the music that matters.

  • Jane O’C

    I am so disappointed that Disorder is not on the air. I loved, loved, loved Larry Kirwan’s Celtic Crush, and listened on Sat. mornings and made a point to catch it again on Tuesday evenings. Please put this great show back on. Meg Griffin’s choices in music were also outstanding, and nothing you’ve put up with this merger even comes close to touching the niche’s and genre’s that these two pro’s got us all hooked on. Bring back the best, please!!!!

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    news i received from Larry Kirwan:

    Celtic Crush will return this coming Sunday, Nov. 23rd between 9am and noon ET on Spectrum Ch. 18. For those who listen through XM, Celtic Crush can be heard at the same time on Spectrum, Ch. 45.

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