Our TSE Interview With the One and Only Art Bell

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Q “Hey Art Bell! This is Stan from San Dimas. First time caller, long time listener. Anyway, I wanted to tell you about the time when I was driving home from work and was abducted by aliens…”

A No, I am not Art Bell, and yes, I made that up. But if you ever listened to Art Bell’s old radio show, Coast to Coast AM, you know that this would be a tame call for that one-of-a-kind show.

Like millions of other people (at one time, there were more than 500 stations carrying the show and 15 million listeners), I used to love listening to Art Bell. The mix of Art’s voice, tempo, and smarts combined with great guests, unusual topics, and interesting callers made for too many late nights.

Sadly, Art retired in 2010, Coast to Coast has never been the same, and except for a brief return on Sirius/XM two years ago, he hasn’t been on the airwaves. Nevertheless, at age 70, Art Bell is coming back, only this time I am happy to report, he’s ditched his corporate gig and instead is going to do it on his terms, his way.

alien00Starting July 20, Art returns to the airwaves on his new show, Midnight in the Desert, streaming live over the Internet using the TuneIn app and on the Dark Matter Digital Network; a network he has created with his longtime friend and webmaster Keith Rowland. Here’s how he put it to me recently:

“If there’s anything I learned it’s that I want to do this myself. I had the most fun in my life before my old show was purchased by Clear Channel. Winging it, trying new things – it was a blast. That’s what we are going to be doing with the new show. Lots of new and fun things.”

Art started out on terrestrial radio in the ‘80s with a single station in Las Vegas and grew that into a large syndicate by the mid-90s with his mix of unusual topics and high entertainment. Not surprisingly, a courter came-a-calling and he eventually sold the show to the Clear Channel Network, staying on doing the show for a few more years.

But, like many of us, Art learned the hard way that corporate life was not for him. He went into semi-retirement in 2003 and fully retired in 2010. In 2013 he teamed up with Sirius/XM, but for various reasons that gig only lasted six weeks. But, as he says, “radio is not a job, it’s a way of life. You can’t really ever leave it.”

And so, knowing that he had a two-year hiatus, Art and Keith began to plan for his return again, only this time he was going to be completely in charge of the process and do the show they way he’s envisioned it for some time: live streaming and free over the Internet, with a truly worldwide reach and audience.

“This is going to be great,” he says. And it sure sounds like it. He had spent the last few months building a brand new studio with state-of-the-art equipment. “The sound quality is going to be excellent.” Keith also has new facilities that are going to make the streaming top-notch as well.

You know your new endeavor is on the right track when things start to break your way. That’s what’s happening for Art right now:

  • Music played an important part in his old show – “it sets the mood” – and he needed it to again. But the cost to stream mainstream music is not inexpensive. Suddenly, an affordable solution presented itself. Problem solved.
  • While he planned on having it available only online, to date 20 terrestrial radio stations have already signed on to carry the show. The catch? They have to agree to carry only six minutes of commercials an hour. “Why is that a requirement?” I asked. “Because I want content and more content!” he bellowed happily in that unmistakable voice.

“I’m doing this to have fun. This thing is taking off and I don’t know where it will take me, but it’s going to be a blast. I’m excited about being able to do what I want.”

Spoken like a true entrepreneur.