They say you've got to pay your dues as a musician. Maybe that's why nobody is expecting XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:XMSR) to turn a profit when it reports its third-quarter results later this week.

The leading provider of satellite radio may or may not make your ears bleed, but its income statement knows all about bleeding. The company has posted a loss of greater than a buck a share for each of the past eight quarters.

Investors are into XM and rival Sirius (NASDAQ:SIRI) more for the potential of tomorrow. Last week, XM announced that it had lapped the million-subscriber mark. With so many early adopters in less than two years paying roughly $10 a month for 101 channels of digital-quality radio programming, it's easy to get excited.

Sirius got a late start and is only closing in on 150,000 subscribers; however, the potential market is generous enough to be carved into two slices -- at least. Both have turned to car makers like Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM), and DaimlerChrysler (NYSE:DCX) to grow their subscribers, but the market is still trying to figure out at what point the companies will become profitable.

Even then, you can't just plug $9.95 or $12.95 into a monthly subscriber model and subtract the acquisition costs. You've seen your cable television bill creep up over the years. Premium services will materialize. New programming options will follow. Sponsors and revenue-enhancing opportunities will chase the growing audience.

Risks? There are plenty. The market may prove to be limited. Maintenance may be a bear. Patience isn't much of a virtue as losses run steep. But satellite radio wants to be heard. We will hear what XM has to say this week.