Pay0la

Sony Agrees to $10M ‘Payola’ Settlement
07.25.2005, 11:41 AM

One of the nation’s biggest music companies, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, agreed Monday to pay $10 million and to stop paying radio station employees to feature its artists to settle an investigation by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

The agreement resulted from Spitzer’s investigation of suspected “pay for play” practices in the music industry.

…Spitzer said Sony BMG has agreed to hire a compliance officer to monitor promotion practices and to issue a statement acknowledging “improper conduct” and pledging higher standards. (Story.)

Okay, I’m glad a big label took a boot to the nards. No question about that. But the more I ponder it, the more I think I have a question that needs answering.

(Note: this is an American government and economics question, not an artistic one.)

Q: If payola laws didn’t already exist, can you imagine any way they would ever be passed today? If you were making the case in our current political/economic environment, how would you argue against it?

I’ve been thinking about this, and if it weren’t illegal already, payola would be accepted, standard industry practice, structured as strategic partner/channel marketing. Lots of talk about “synergies.” In a zillion years nobody would be able to lobby their way past the immense amounts of corporate money that would line up against such legislation.

But maybe I’m missing something.

By the way, Spitzer went on to say this, and the part I have boldfaced I thought was really funny: “Our investigation shows that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for air play based on artistic merit and popularity, air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees.”

[Note: Unfortunately, The Stills did not pay me for the “Now Playing” mention in this entry. Bands interested in paying me for mentions please hit the comment link and leave a callback.]

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2 comments

  1. Sam , I’ll comment on the article at a later date… but that picture you used just freaked me right out. You look sinister. Scary. Stick with your ferocious terrier please. At least he doesn’t scare me as much.

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