Howard Stern’s Success

How did this happen?

They’re fighting to be on Howard Stern’s radio program. Today alone, he featured not only Chelsea Handler and Billy Idol, but Bill Murray, the ungettable get.

That’s right. Bill doesn’t even have an agent, he’s elusive, but he wanted to be on Howard’s show.

In an era where content providers are bitching everything’s free, how did Howard Stern not only charge, but build an entire distribution network around him known as Sirius Radio?

1. Longevity

We’re inundated with the work of the barely pubescent and the hype attendant thereto. But they’re never on Stern’s show, because they have nothing to SAY!

The truth is you get wiser as you get older, you learn from experience, and the only people who don’t believe Howard is better than ever are those addicted to scatology with the desire to go back to the high school locker room.

Howard is more comfortable in his skin. He displays his neuroses but is no longer fighting to get ahead, no longer telling us how great he is, how much he’s been slighted, he’s reveling in his success and it shows. He’s the comic book nerd uncomfortable in his skin who stayed in the game long enough to win.

2. Dedication

Howard prepares. Too many interview shows lack this element. And that is what is pushing Howard over the top, his interviews, his show is the go-to place to promote, because his audience is so loyal, and ultimately larger than that of the late night talk shows, despite the latter getting so much press. Howard really wants to know, the audience is eavesdropping, whereas on television the hosts are always playing to the network, always worried about their ratings and their contracts, whereas Howard knows he built Sirius and they don’t want to screw with him.

Letterman did the same on TV, but that was decades ago, and his show was so trendsetting and successful that everybody imitated it, that’s right, everybody on late night is doing Dave’s show, which is ultimately comedy. Dave loves Howard, but Dave can no longer put in the hard work, Dave could triumph once again if he did, if he was just more Dave, embraced his edge, but Dave’s tired. Being at the top of the heap for so long will do that to you, Howard’s just ascended into the stratosphere.

3. Personality

Everybody rubs off the rough edges, they believe if they don’t appeal to everybody, they’re not going to appeal to anybody. But the truth is long term careers are based on being unique, trailblazing in your own world. There’s an excellent article in Monday’s “Los Angeles Times” how Becky G worked with Dr. Luke and ended up sounding just like everybody else, how she lost her edge, and that’s what we’ve got in music, everybody sounds the same, except for those without enough talent. They’re afraid to go their own way, afraid radio won’t play them and the media won’t feature them. But unless you have the confidence to woodshed in the wilderness until you’re appealing to the masses you’ll never become a legend.

4. Embrace The Taboo

Once upon a time it was Butt Bongo and strippers, now Howard has graduated to asking the questions we all want to know and have never even thought of. Like exactly how did David Crosby impregnate Melissa Etheridge’s significant other? There are answers, and Howard elicits them, and what we learn is that so many of these celebrities are just like us, or even crazier than us, like Chelsea Handler peeing on the back of her boyfriend or Jason Biggs peeing upon her, never mind Stern employee Sal having a fascination with the urination fetish. We all have a fetish, you just don’t want to talk about yours, but on the Stern Show there are no limits. And on one hand you feel inadequate, comparing yourself with Chelsea Handler’s globetrotting lifestyle, on the other, the longer people talk the more screwed up you realize they are.

5. Time

Howard’s got hours, and he’ll go as long as you’ve got something interesting to say. This is not the pre-interview world of late night TV, wherein you distill a few stories and then tell them when the lights go on. When you’re done listening to a Stern interview you’re nearly exhausted, you feel tanked up, you’ve got as much information as you can handle in one day. It’s kind of like ending a conversation with a best friend, you’re burnt, for now it’s enough. You can see the clock on television. On Stern there’s enough time to delve into the nitty-gritty, and don’t go on unless you want to.

6. Promotional Power

You might get publicity that you’re hosting SNL, but no one bumps your product more than the Stern Show, which is why Neil Young is coming on to sell his new book. Howard’s fans are loyal, they believe he’s on their team, so they’ll buy what he’s selling, even if it’s the Squatty Potty.

That’s why almost all of these celebs go on these talk shows, to promote their latest projects. You can’t get them otherwise, and it used to be that Howard could not get them at all. But word has gotten out of the power of his show and now everybody is clamoring to come on. Even Robert Downey, Jr. And for those into music, people who never appear on the late night shows, like Joe Perry, who wears his animosity towards Steven Tyler on his sleeve.

7. The Move To Sirius

In retrospect, it was too soon. Before both YouTube and podcasting blew up. It marginalized Stern. And I don’t know how much his move was about money or freedom, but at this late date you have to say Howard was right about the freedom. It’s not that he can use profanity and talk about sex, it’s that he’s not looking over his shoulder for the censor or the FCC, he’s free. But only the hardest core moved over to satellite with him.

But this allowed him to refine his show in relative obscurity. The show today is different from the show yesterday. There’s very little shock, and mostly family information/squabbles, i.e. the personalities and interactions of the staffers, and interviews. It wasn’t that way in 2006, but now Howard knows what it is and has embraced it, he’s found his way, he’s like an old act that took three or four albums to find its voice and hit a groove.

And he garnered attention because of the “America’s Got Talent” connection. A brilliant move, it helped Howard more than the show. The show is worthless, but the brain dead media lemmings had to comment upon his inclusion and then they started trumpeting the gossip Howard broke on his own show and over the last few years, it turns out everyone’s listening to Stern.

That’s right, if you say you can’t afford it, if you say he’s juvenile, the joke’s on you. Because the movers and shakers listen to Howard, more than anything else. More than late night TV, more than the newspaper, more than sports, Stern is the epicenter, he’s the water cooler conversation, when everybody went BuzzFeed, boiling it down to the nugget for the supposedly short attention span public, Howard went deep, because the truth is people have endless time for something great, and Howard is great.

If you want to lunch with the heavyweights, if you want something to say to the celebrity, listen to Stern, it’s your number one outlet.

And all of this success is pissing off the hard core. Because they’re worried Howard is no longer theirs, the same way they questioned Letterman’s changes when he jumped from 12:35 to 11:35. Are you one of them or one of us?

Letterman’s flaw was changing his show for a theoretical audience, betraying those who believed. Howard has not done this. But unlike Dave, Howard is basking in his acceptance, they like him, they really like him. And the show is still good, but average listeners are wondering, have we lost him, to the Hamptons and Palm Beach, never mind to the rich and famous…

But Howard Stern just cannot believe it. How an unaccomplished wannabe broadcaster whose father told him he was incompetent succeeded through hard work and hewing to his own vision, refusing to adjust to others’ input.

That’s what everybody does, adjust. The stars get boob jobs. The comedians tone it down. But Howard has remained himself. With a bit of the aforementioned evolution, but it’s still certainly him, the guy who still wants to see boobies, who can still geek out on a superhero movie.

So he’s the antidote, the complete opposite of our phony culture.

And now everybody wants a piece of what he’s got.

It’s an American story. It warms your heart.

But it’s not easily replicated. Because life is about whittling down your personality, getting along. It takes incredible strength to maintain not only your identity, but your desire.

But the truth is that is exactly what we’re looking for, someone who goes their own way, who appeals to us with honesty in a nation full of duplicity.

Pay attention, because Howard Stern is the number one promotion platform in America, and if you don’t think the media runs on promotion, you’ve never turned on the TV, never mind clicked on the radio.

And yes, Howard is working in that antiquated medium. Proving once again, to paraphrase that old sage, it’s not about the medium but the MESSAGE!

Becky G: Another female caught in pop’s cookie-cutter vortex


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