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In the music industry, the illegal practice of record companies paying money for the broadcast of records on music radio is called payola, if the song is presented as being part of the normal day's broadcast.

Under United States law, a radio station has always had the ability to play a specific song in exchange for money; however, this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime, and that play of the song should not be reported as a "spin". Some radio stations report spins of the newest and most popular songs to industry publications, which are then published. The number of times the songs are played can influence other stations around the country to play or pass on a particular song. On influential stations (and particularly on television) payola can become so commonplace that it becomes difficult for artists to get their records/videos played without offering some sort of payment. The term gets its name as a take-off of the names of some early record-playing machines, such as Victrola. (These names in their turn stem from pianola, c.1896, the trademark name of a player piano, the ending perhaps abstracted from viola and meant as a diminutive suffix.)

Alan Freed—a disc jockey and early supporter of rock and roll—saw his career and reputation greatly harmed by a payola scandal. Another early disc jockey who was nearly derailed by the payola scandal was Dick Clark, but he avoided trouble by selling his stake in a record company and cooperating with authorities.

The practice was criticized in the chorus of the Dead Kennedys song "Pull My Strings," a parody of the song "My Sharona" sung to a crowd of music industry leaders during a music award ceremony.

The They Might Be Giants song "Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal" is another song about the practice. It is narrated from the point of view of a naïve and inexperienced music artist who has been coerced by a disc jockey into paying for airplay -- the disc jockey then disappears and does not deliver on his promise.

Third-party Loophole

Currently a different form of payola is used by the record industry through the loophole of being able to pay a third party or independent record promoters ("indies"; not to be confused with independent record labels), who will then go and "promote" those songs to radio stations. Offering the radio stations "promotion payments", the independents get the songs that their clients, record companies, want on the playlists of radio stations around the country.

Because of this, a very large majority of DJs are cut out of the song-picking decisions and are instead told what to play and when (for the most part) by music directors and/or "higher ups" at their radio stations.

This new type of payola sidesteps current FCC regulations requiring that, if a song is paid for by the record company, the radio station must state that it was paid for. Using independent intermediaries allows the record company to avoid directly paying the radio station, thus the radio station need not report it as a paid promotion.

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has been prosecuting payola-related crimes in his jurisdiction. His office settled out of court with Sony BMG Music Entertainment in July 2005, Warner Music Group in November 2005 and Universal Music Group in May 2006. The three conglomerates agreed to pay $10, $5 and $12 million respectively for distribution by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to New York State non-profit organizations that will fund music education and appreciation programs throughout the state. EMI remains under investigation. [1] [2]

External links


Peneny, D. K. (January 31, 2005). "Payola." The History of Rock n' Roll.
Cartwright, Robin (August 31, 2004). "What's the story on the radio payola scandal of the 1950s?." The Straight Dope.
McCarthy, Jamie (June 5, 2001). "Payola: Another Brick in the Wall." Slashdot Features.
Boehlert, Eric (March 14, 2001). "Pay for play." Salon.
Dannen, Fredric (1991). Hit Men: Power Brokers & Fast Money Inside the Music Business. New York: Random House. ISBN 0679730613.

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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