Monday, July 25, 2005


it's been a dirty secret in the music industry for years that practically the only way to get music on corporate radio stations these days is bribe someone. in the business it's known as independent promotion, or by the more scandalous name payola. sometimes they bribe the radio djs, but more often, i think, they bribe the program manager for the station. the practice was supposedly done away with decades ago, the last time someone investigated the practice, but it never really went away; it just transmogrified into a new form.

new york attorney general eliot spitzer has been on the case, investigating these illegal practices, and his first victim has fallen: sony has agreed to stop its payola practices:

"This agreement is a model for breaking the pervasive influence of bribes in the industry," Mr. Spitzer said in a statement. "Contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees."

Sony BMG, which represents Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Lopez, among dozens of others, admitted to the misconduct in a statement. "Sony BMG acknowledges that various employees pursued some radio promotion practices on behalf of the company that were wrong and improper, and apologizes for such conduct," the company said. "SONY BMG looks forward to defining a new, higher standard in radio promotion."

It also suggested that such practices were common in the industry, even though state and federal laws bar record labels from paying radio stations for air time. "Such direct and indirect forms of what has been described generically as "payola" for spins has continued to be an unfortunately prevalent aspect of radio promotion," the statement said.
The attorney general said that the enticements took several forms. Station programmers received bribes like computer laptops and vacation packages, or the label sponsored contests for a station's listeners. In other cases, Sony BMG paid some of a station's day-to-day expenses, or it hired middlemen known as independent promoters to make illegal payments to radio stations. Some Sony BMG employees also tried to hide payments to station employees by recording them as prizes to non-existent contest winners, the attorney general said.

spitzer's not stopping there, either. he's well on his way to prosecuting the other major labels if they don't also opt to settle.

it's the end of the day so i don't have much time for my own analysis... and as loathe as i am to link to foxnews, this column has some interesting additional details.

No comments: