Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Howard Stern's Sirius Radio Show: Worth the Money?

My Experience with a Radio Show that Costs Me 50 Cents a Day

By Phil Dotree

At the time I'm writing this article, it's been about a year or so since the King of All Media Howard Stern said goodbye to terrestrial radio and gave Sirius Satellite Radio enough of a jump in users to justify his $500 million price tag. Predictably, not all of his old fans have made the jump, but with over 4 million subscribers and growing, Sirius has done a complete reversal on rival XM, which was punishing Sirius until Stern's arrival.

I bought a Sirius radio for the music; as a musician, I travel a lot, and as great as iPods are, I like to hear music I haven't heard before and satellite radio seemed like a great vessel for that.

Stern played some role, not because I was a fan (I wasn't) but because I knew his influence was going to throw favor to Sirius's side, and a new, expensive XM radio might not be such a great investment.

I thought for a while that I wouldn't even listen to Howard; his show wasn't entertaining on terrestrial radio, and the added draw of curse words wasn't exactly drawing me to the show

One day, though, I was driving alone and I was bored. It was late. I listen to talk radio when I'm up late, and while I was scanning past some of the talk channels, I saw Howard 100, which was replaying that day's show. I figured, what the hell? I'd give it a few minutes.

Since then, I've listened to the show daily, sometimes for the entire four hour span. I can't get enough of it. It's the best radio show I've ever heard.

Whether it's Artie Lange talking about his heroine addiction, an old woman talking about her first sexual gratification at the age of 83, or an angry wack-packer flipping out over a few dollars, it's all great, and it's all uncensored.

Under the scrutiny of the FCC, the bits had been stale, dull, and safe, and Stern's endless complaining about the system that was beating him down got old, especially with the huge commercial breaks that still plague free radio.

On satellite, though, it's like hanging out with friends; where there were stoic plugs for products and repeated warnings to “keep it clean for the radio!”, there's now comfort and fun. Yeah, it's dirtier—the first time I tuned in, an act was being performed involving a glass eye that I don't even want to describe on Associated Content—but Howard, Robin, Artie, and everyone else are saying what they want to say when they want to say it, and that's the difference.

There are six minutes of commercials an hour, so there's a flow to the show for once, and the best part of Stern is out there; it feels honest, organic, and free.

Censorship never really worked for Stern; his critics claimed that the lack of the FCC on satellite radio would give him nothing to rail against, and the show would suffer, but Howard Stern's not about rebelling, it's about fart and sex jokes when you're trying to get to work in the morning. It's about one liners, angry midgets, porn stars, and dysfunctional relationships we can all laugh at. It's entertainment, nothing deep or too serious, and the lack of censorship makes it shine. It was as if the old show was the Sopranos as shown by TBS, and the new show is like the HBO version we're all used to. If you haven't heard Stern without censorship, you don't know what you're missing.

The only time I turn the show off? Once a week when they replay old episodes from terrestrial radio. The show that took over the world a decade ago is better than ever, and it far surpasses its old self in its new form.