Did Art Bell leave Sirius? That was the fast moving question moving through the web and my inbox this week. Sadly, as you now know, the answer is yes. Art and company sighted dropped calls and the unreliable nature of the Sirius infrastructure as key reasons for leaving. in a quote from Bell he said…“but they’ve fallen off because of that reason, a very difficult reason — 1001 error and many others. It’s kind of a systemic problem. We do have a monstrous vehicle audience, of course. However, for a caller-driven show like this one, speaking only to people on cell phones in moving vehicles is somewhat difficult.”
Art suggested that Sirius allow free streaming to his listeners until his base had time to build. Sirius didn’t go for it and in an apparent mutual agreement, Art departed his much anticipated show just 6 weeks into a 3 year deal. Bell listed several shows as having similar problems such as Howard Stern and The Opie and Anthony Show. In a reference to Bell’s comments, Opie and Anthony said that call ins were a problem for their show as well but added that Bell should have given his show “Dark Matter” more time to establish a base. I agree.
I was one of the 20 guests that Art had on the short lived show and as someone who views Art as a broadcast icon as well as an icon in the small tight knit group of those that delve into all things strange, I was ecstatic to appear on the 4 hour episode. I can say that there were problems with the live call ins and during the Q and A session of the program I was only getting to respond to about half of the calls that were coming in. It was problematic but manageable. I suspected that call in quality and reliability was a problem because I noticed that most callers took the answer to their questions ‘off line’. But, did Art give Sirius enough time and was this the only reason he left the show?
Some have speculated that Art was having problems getting guests because Coast to Coast (Art’s former gig and chief competitor) was giving guests the ultimatum of appearing on either Coast to Coast or Dark Matter with Art Bell. I don’t believe that theory has any basis of truth. I was the first guest to be at the center of the ‘scheduling conflict’ controversy as I appeared on Coast to Coast October 15th and Art Bell’s Dark Matter October 16th. Coast to Coast did not give me an ultimatum and Art and I discussed my upcoming projects 701, Lights Over Leary; completely different topics than I had discussed on Coast to Coast. To further strengthen my belief that the guest pool was not being limited by ultimatums, Graham Hancock ( a very in demand guest) was slated to be on Art’s show the day it was announced that he was leaving Sirius. Although the guest pool I come from is relatively small, I do not believe this was one of the reasons primarily because NO ONE I know that comes from this pool of guests (many of them I know personally), would turn down Art Bell.
Art is a notorious perfectionist and I know he genuinely cares about his listeners experience. I agree that perhaps Art should have given the show more of a chance but I don’t think any of us know the full details of what took place behind the scenes. I have seen some pretty nasty comments on forums and message boards accusing Art of betraying his listening audience for leaving so abruptly. Some called for Art to refund the money they had spent to subscribe to Sirius just to catch his show. Most of these people claimed to be long time fans. As a long time fan myself and as disappointed as I am that Art has departed, let me ask you other longtime ‘fans’ a question? Does someone only out for money leave after only 6 weeks? No, of course not. Especially when one of the key points of contention was Art’s push for free subscriptions for a period of time. If you really feel that Art owes you a refund for what you spent to hear him on Sirius, also consider sending him a check for the decades of free entertainment he has given you OR, understand that when you deal with a guy like Art Bell, much like the topics on his show, is not a quick study and answers are elusive and full of mystery.
One last thought…Art posted that Dark Matter would no longer be on Sirius…not that it was finished forever. So, before you count him out….stay tuned. You may be surprised at what the Old Master has up his sleeve.