Category Archives: radio classics

Art Bell, Again

Yes. Again. Seriously. I don’t believe it, but then again, yeah, I do. Because he’s done it before.

This past week legendary radio host Art Bell quit his radio show. Again. The current incarnation, “Dark Matter,” broadcast on satellite radio by Sirius XM, is over. Bell cited technical concerns, as well as a small audience. In other words, it was hard.

And it’s not like he hasn’t done it before either. He’s quit before, or left under mysterious, sometimes highly suspect, circumstances, with little advance warning, or concern for his audience – no matter how big or small. As a matter of fact, he may well be more remembered for his vanishing acts than his radio act when history is done with him. He quits so often, it’s almost an industry joke.

The way he has left, and the reasons he’s given, all indicate one thing. Art Bell was doing this show for himself – not his audience, his fans, his loyal listeners. This was about him, not us. We would have listened without guests, without callers, and without a clear signal. Surely I’m not the only one who listened years ago with crappy reception from an AM station two cities ago, am I? It was hard for him. Again. So he quit.

Yeah, I’m angry, but that doesn’t dispel the man’s talent as a broadcaster, talk radio host, and interviewer. I would rather listen to bad Art Bell reruns than the best George Noory interview on Coast to Coast AM. At least Art would study up on his guest, ask intelligent questions, and not nap during the interview.

But now, not only is Art gone, but Coast to Coast AM has left Sirius XM as well. I am forced to rethink my satellite radio subscription once again. I love Opie & Anthony and Radio Classics, EW Radio, and I’m digging the sadly temporary David Bowie station, but really the only time I have dependably to listen is late at night, the former realm of Art and Coast.

Art has left me high and dry once again. I should have seen it coming. I hope Sirius XM saw it coming, and wrote that contract appropriately. I hope the quitter pays. Thanks, Art, for six weeks at least.

The Price of Satellite Radio

I love my satellite radio. I love it so much that I rarely listen to terrestrial radio any more. Maybe some WXPN and maybe some NJ 101.5 FM, but let’s face it, my favorite terrestrial programs like Coast to Coast AM and some of the NPR stuff are all on satellite now. Not much reason to turn on the old fashioned radio any more.

Just got a notice from XM (yeah, they merged with Sirius, but they’ll always be XM to me) that my subscription rates are going up. The reasons cited are as follows:

”Music royalty rights were established by the U.S. Congress as part of the Copyright Act. This Act requires payment of copyright music royalties to recording artists, musicians and recording companies who hold copyrights in sound recordings.

“These royalties have recently increased dramatically, principally as a result of a decision made by the Copyright Royalty Board, which is designated by the Library of Congress to set royalty rates for sound recordings. Beginning on July 29, 2009, a “U.S. Music Royalty Fee” of $1.98/month* for primary subscriptions and $.97/month* for multi-receiver subscriptions will be effective upon your next renewal. This fee will be used directly to offset increased payments from XM to the recording industry.”

Now really, that’s fine. As a writer, I’m not someone who’s ever going to begrudge anyone royalties, that’s just how things work, and furthermore should work. I don’t have a real problem with the price hike, as long as my favorite stuff remains on the XM. What irked me was what I found when I went to the XM website and took a survey.

The survey was about my listening preferences, but seemed to mention little of what I actually listen to on XM. I stopped finding Howard Stern funny some time before he left terrestrial radio, so that’s not for me. I can count on one hand the number of times in three years I’ve listened to any of the nearly hundred sports channels, and Oprah barely amuses me even when she’s on TV. The big guns don’t interest me.

Most of what I listen to is talk radio. I’m addicted to Coast to Coast AM, which while occupying nearly eleven hours of programming per day, was not mentioned by the survey. Opie and Anthony get a brief mention, probably because they bitch on air about Sirius’ prejudice mercilessly. But nowhere did I see other things I listen to faithfully like the old time radio shows on Radio Classics and the wonderful audiobook variety at Book Radio. All there was in the survey was the rather vague description of ‘talk entertainment.’ That covers a lot of ground, and a lot of stuff I really don’t like. How can this survey really tell them anything?

The XM world has been getting smaller and smaller since the Sirius merge – mostly because it was more of a takeover than a merge. The mega-powered Sirius, with the ratings powerhouse (apparently) Stern behind it appeared to change everything on the XM dial as if they and they alone were calling the shots. We lost truly entertaining music stations in favor of the inferior Sirius versions of them.

My point is that for the price increase, how about some verification we’ll keep the programming we enjoy? How about it, XM? Sorry, I mean, how about it, Sirius?

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