Well, here we go again…
Art Bell has quit “Dark Matter,” the SiriusXM program he’s hosted four-nights a week since its Sept. 16 launch. Bell made the announcement yesterday on Facebook, before either deactivating or deleting the account hours later.
At this point, I’d guess any hardcore Bell fan figured he’d bow out at some point, for one reason or another, but after just six weeks?
Since launching “Dark Matter” in mid-September, Bell has often acknowledged problems that some listeners have had when trying to listen to the live show via the service’s web player (via either the SiriusXM website or app). Bell closed his Oct. 31 “Spooky Matter” Halloween broadcast by proposing an idea that SiriusXM allow him to stream his show live for free via ArtBell.com. With SiriusXM refusing to agree to such an idea, Bell felt the health of the show was greatly compromised. Thursday’s Halloween show turned out to be his last.
According to SiriusBuzz.com, many of those having problems with the SiriusXM online stream were sampling the service during a free 30 day trial (apparently, such problems also existed for some paying subscribers). Unable to get the online stream to work consistently, many of them went away when it came time to pay for the service, reducing the number of potential listeners and callers to Bell’s program. Bell was also unhappy that SiriusXM is unavailable outside the U.S. and Canada.
I reckon Bell has a fair reason to be upset, though I have to wonder what percentage of users were having problems with the SirusXM player, and if that amount really was impacting the quality of his program.
Bell’s sudden decision to quit seems rather kneejerkish. I’ve always had the sense that Bell lives his live in a constant state of fear (think back to his infamous Y2K fear-mongering), leaving him prone to making rash decisions that often come across as overboard or extreme in hindsight. During the government shutdown, Bell insisted he would move his family back to the Philippines if the U.S. went into default, citing massive anarchy if the poor and elderly were to no longer receive their benefits.
Since launching “Dark Matter,” Bell has voiced frustration over the fact the SirusXM online stream times out after either 90 minutes or two hours of idleness — which isn’t unusual with any online streaming service (is it really that unreasonable to stop the player and hit the play button again during a commercial, people?). When Bell mentioned it the first few times, I didn’t think much of it, assuming that even Bell would understand that’s just the way it is. But when he kept mentioning it, almost night after night, and going as far as to request that Sirius do something about it, I began to think Bell may not be in the right frame of mind when it invovles 21st century technology.
Are the SiriusXM subscribers who listen to Howard Stern voicing the same complaints at the same level of Bell fans, or was Bell simply making too much out of a non-issue?
Prior to the launch of “Dark Matter,” Bell repeatedly insisted via Facebook or in interviews that his return was not prompted by money — though Bell was and is within his rights to make as much money as possible for working. With the SiriusXM venture now a failed one, would Bell be willing to come back on his own merits, via his website ArtBell.com, or some other online-only venture?
While Bell previously seemed to be somewhat content in retirement, it certainly sounded like he was having real fun while hosting “Dark Matter.” One could hope that after having that much fun, he is willing to explore other opportunities at a comeback, unless of course, he’s bound under a no-compete by Sirius.
Even if Bell were to attempt some type of online-only show, the stickler that he is would probably find faults with that route t00. Considering his hatred for cell phones, would Bell be interested in doing an online show where people listening in their vehicles (i.e. truck drivers) would have to listen via the cell phone? Would the older segment of Bell’s audience be able to master listening to an online-only show or figure out how to hook their phone to their car radio? How many emails from angry and confused listeners would Bell be able to handle before he calls quits on that show too?
I began my subscription to SiriusXM (online-only option) in late June (not knowing Bell was planning a return), and while I have had minimal issues when attempting to work the SiriusXM app via my phone or tablet, those problems have not resembled anything close to what others have appareling been having.
Considering how mysterious and vague Bell often comes across, my next logical thought would be that the ArtBell.com website will eventually vanish without a trace (just like his Facebook). At this moment, his website is still up and a message has been added.
We are sorry that Dark Matter on SiriusXM has come to an abrupt end. We’ll examine our options and may be able to return in a different format and medium.
In the mean time, ArtBell.com will still operate as long as financially possible, hoping for a workable solution to bring Art back to you, soon. Keep checking back here often.
Since this does appear to be a rash decision by Bell, the possibility exists that he could change his mind once cooler heads prevail. While I do not expect Sirius to ever allow free streaming to happen on ArtBell.com, perhaps, a renewed pledge to fix the streaming issue or offer another alternative could prompt Bell to give it another try. I wouldn’t count on this happening, but considering Bell’s track record of changing his mind after thinking things through, it’s at least worth a mention.
I’ve enjoyed his “Dark Matter” shows, even though I’m not a believer of the paranormal. His show made for great radio theater, and no one is better than Bell. We were fortunate to have had him for the last month and a half. While I do hope he attempts another comeback, I’m not holding out hope.
Bell is within his rights to do what he wishes. However, this latest chapter only reinforces the notion that Bell is a notorious show quitter, if not a “serial retiree.”What a ride…
For further thoughts about Bell and SiriusXM, I’ll direct you to the BellGab.com message board, a highly popular and active community of Art Bell fans. Specifically, I’m linking to a thread discussing Bell’s departure, showing how some of his most loyal fans are reacting. It’s also worth noting that while there is an abundance of anger, the frustration and disappointment is warranted.
UPDATE: Though several hours old, here is Bell’s official statement to DreadCentral.com. Much of what Bell stated was recapped in the linked SiriusBuzz.com story above.