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Sony Agrees to Stop Payola 450

Posted by timothy
from the restoring-radio-virginity dept.
dsginter writes "Sony BMG Music just reached agreement with New York Attorney General. Sony spokesman John McKay admitted that the practice was 'wrong and improper' but the company engaged in the activity anyway. They were fined $10 million and have agreed to obstain from the practice in the future. Is this the first step toward getting our airwaves back or is this just a slap on the wrist?"
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Sony Agrees to Stop Payola

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  • by Three Headed Man (765841) <<dieter_chen> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:25AM (#13163618)
    The Recording Industry Association of America will never stop something as profitable as payola without the threat of jail. Period.
    • penalty for 'payola' still include up to 1 year of incarceration according to US laws. there's your threat, then. would have been useful to actually define 'payola' for everyone like me that had to go and look it up on google (surprise! we're not all from english speaking countries).
      • They're still not going to prison. The laws will never have any meaningful enforcement as things stand now. 10 Million is less than a slap on the wrist.
      • by Emil Brink (69213) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:54AM (#13163895) Homepage
        I know I'm being silly, but it was actually explained like this in ... the article:

        A 1960 federal law and related state laws bar record companies from offering undisclosed financial incentives in exchange for airplay. The practice was called "payola," a contraction of "pay" and "Victrola," the old wind-up record player.

        Not being from an English-speaking country myself either, I thought I'd eye the article hoping they would be internally consistent and define the term. They were, and they did. I bet this could be used to try and teach some kind of lesson, but let's not go there. :)
      • Enlighten us then...

        My understanding of the word payola is it's a slang term for wages. Certainly is around here. I *hope* that's not illegal in the US!!!
        • by Gonarat (177568) * on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @09:44AM (#13164490)
          Payola is a term that dates back to the late 1950's when Rock and Roll was just getting started. Back then, AM radio was king, radio stations were independently owned (no Clear Channel), and DJs had a lot of control over what they played, especially at night.

          To keep it simple, what happened is that music labels began offering DJs money to play their songs. Music producers began targeting the AM stations ran high power at night since these "clear channel" (nothing to do with the company) stations could be heard for hundreds, if not thousands of miles at night.

          In the end, the Feds had to step in and put a stop to this practice. Payola, as it was called, was ended around 1960, but the labels found ways around the law through the use of "Indys" and such. The practice has gotten worse since the FCC allowed companies to own many radio stations. Do some googling if you want to learn more -- it is fascinating.
          • by pete6677 (681676) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @10:28AM (#13164822)
            Outlawing payola is much like outlawing the bribing of congressmen, in that it can't really be stopped. Sure, outright cash payments are illegal, but there are many other ways to transfer something of value for the purpose of buying influence or exposure. Record labels can always withhold preferred albums from stations who don't play the junk that they want to be played. The music business is so complex that there is no way anyone can ensure that some sort of favor isn't being done to have a certain song played.

            The only way around this problem is for music fans to get their music from other sources (the internet helps greatly) and payola's influence will be a lot less. At the same time, if people voted more, buying off a congressman would have a lot less effect.

            In both cases, it's up to the people to truly solve the problem, the government can't do it for them.
            • "In both cases, it's up to the people to truly solve the problem, the government can't do it for them."

              But the whole reason for governments to exist (democratic governments, at least) is to solve the problems of the society they govern. That's why they exist. In order to do what they do, they levy taxes. That's why you pay taxes.

              Yes, most governments may be very inefficient, and often corrupt, but what they are in a democracy is the expression of the way a society that society, rightly or wrongly, thinks
      • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @10:52AM (#13165020) Homepage Journal
        The story is in English, the summary is in English, the law is in English, this site is in English, your post is in English. All the players involved, including Google, even Sony (their branch under the gun) are in the USA, where English is the official language, the only language spoken by the vast majority of the population, the only language in common of every resident, excluding those very few who speak only 1 other language.

        You're welcome to talk with us, of course, even in English (which you don't misuse too badly - consider capitalization next time you post). And your fact contribution to the discussion is helpful. But as long as you're going to whine about having to look up a word in a language not your native tongue, why don't you link to the definition you found? After all, we're not all from English speaking countries, and could use the help of a fellow second-linguist. Especially when we prefer to debate the payola, rather than some tangential personal agenda about limited vocabularies.
    • Exactly - they just payola'd the US justice system with $10m, its all calculated risk and marketing expenses to them. I wouldn't be surprised if their legal department had already budgeted for this.
      • by Zordak (123132) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @08:24AM (#13164010) Homepage Journal
        Actually, the legal department is just a variable in the formula in this case (the quality of legal representation goes to probability of getting caught and fined). It's the bean counters that budgeted for this, and if they hadn't, they'd get fired. This is a case of profitable breach. We make $X billion dollars from doing this at the price of a $10M fine. It's obscenely profitable. There's no way this fine will curb the practice.

        As an aside, the next time you sneer in disgust at a greedy tort lawyer (the sneer is very deserved in some cases) and think about calling for sweeping reform of our "broken" tort system, remember that manufacturers do the same thing with product safety. Probability that it will hurt somebody times what it will cost us when it does. If that's less than the savings from making an unsafe product, they make the unsafe product. The reason they don't like lawyers (and especially juries) is because they're an uncontrolled element to the damages variable. Huge jury awards hurt them (and can actually drive changes in unsafe behavior) because they can't accurately budget for them. They have such a love affair with capped awards and forced arbitration because it makes it easier for them to lock down that variable and accurately measure the benefit of hurting people.

    • You are correct, and the fact that 10m USD is a joke to Sony, they could probably afford a 10M a day fine for years on end before they notice a hit to their bottom line.
    • by laurensv (601085) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:06AM (#13163745) Homepage
      Maybe some hope for you, from TFA: Jonathan Adelstein, a Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission, said Spitzer "appears to have found a whole arsenal of smoking guns."
      "We need to investigate each particular instance that Spitzer has uncovered to see if it is a violation of federal law. This is a potentially massive scandal," he said.
      The FCC has power over the nation's radio stations, which are licensed to use public airwaves.

      Maybe if the FCC starts hurting the radios some of them will be less inticed to the practice? Maybe not, becasue look what being a DJ offers:
      In one case, an employee of Sony BMG's Epic label was trying to promote the group Audioslave to a station and asked: "WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET AUDIOSLAVE ON WKSS THIS WEEK?!!? Whatever you can dream up, I can make it happen." In another case in 2004, the promotion department of Sony BMG label Epic Records paid for an extravagant trip to Miami for a Buffalo DJ and three friends in exchange for adding the Franz Ferdinand song "Take Me Out" to the DJ's station's playlist.
      • Maybe if the FCC starts hurting the radios some of them will be less inticed to the practice?

        How? It wasn't the radio stations that were breaking the law, it was Sony. Unfortunately, there's nothing illegal about taking bribes to play songs...only offering bribes to play songs.

        • by S.O.B. (136083) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @09:34AM (#13164426)
          How? It wasn't the radio stations that were breaking the law, it was Sony. Unfortunately, there's nothing illegal about taking bribes to play songs...only offering bribes to play songs.

          I think that's the point the parent and grandparent posts were trying to make. It should also be illegal to take the bribe. It's illegal to bribe a politician and it's also illegal for a politician to take a bribe (at least in Canada it is).

          If there are consequences for both sides than the crime is less likely to happen again. Especially when the radio stations are much smaller and have more to lose (i.e. their broadcast license).
    • by eclectro (227083) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:12AM (#13163759)
      Also, they (and their cohorts) have promised to stop payola numerous times in the past only to find another way to pass the money under the table.

      Also, don't forget the other four titans Universal, EMI and Warner are conspicuosly absent from this article.

      And I find it interesting that the last sentence says that the 10 million is "earmarked for not-for profits" which must be code-speak for "this is a tax write off"
    • by inmate (804874) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:18AM (#13163778) Homepage
      I believe US law treats companies as legal personae, granting them similiar rights to people.
      Should a person break the law, they may well face a jail term.
      For a company, a jail sentence make sense. Who should be incarcerated? The executives?

      Perhaps we need to take a different approach - one which with credible and appropriate consequences.
      I suggest removing all copyrights on songs/artists that benefited from the payola crime.

      The starving artists themselves can claim damages against the company directly.

      • by eclectro (227083) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:32AM (#13163822)
        I suggest removing all copyrights on songs/artists that benefited from the payola crime

        This implies that there is a congress that represents the public interests when it comes to copyright law.

        This, as you know (or should know), simply is not the case.
      • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:39AM (#13163845)
        Unfortunately, in the US, companies are NOT treated with similar rights as people. For exactly the reason you stated above (who do you punish?) corporations are often given MUCH more leeway to vio;ate the law than individuals. The sentence against Bernie Ebbers (Worldcom CEO) two weeks ago was a rare victory for the little guy, but in reality this was a sentence against one man for crimes that were orchestrated and carried out with cooperation and knowlege of hundreds if not thousands of people.

        Using this same logic companies every day spew out unfathomable amounts of illegal toxins. If they are caught, they pay a fine, (which they have already budgeted for) ratchet back their emissions, wait for a little while until the EPA gets off their backs, then resume their polluting. A factory farm here in Ohio (Buckeye Egg Farm) [greenlink.org] did this for over ten years amidst hundreds of complaints and clear violations of environmental laws before they were finally ordered to shut down operations. An individual in the US could not knowingly violate the law, all the while reaping huge profits, only to be told to stop after 10 years of activity. Corporations are given too much criminal protection.
      • I believe US law treats companies as legal personae, granting them similiar rights to people.

        That would be a gross oversimplification of the matter. Only people have rights, but people have those rights while acting through a corporation, just like they do while acting as individuals.

      • I've always been for the revocation of a corporate charter for any serious crimes. Those that involve the death or disablility of a person or repeated, flagrant violations of the law should meet with serious consequences.

        As a poster in another thread mentioned, $10 million is chump change for Sony. Now something like $1 billion will get them to change their ways. If you could save $1,000 for your business by dumping all your trash into a river, and the fine is only $100, it is simply good business to ig
      • If you "remove" the copyright, then there are no rights for the artist, and no damages. Maybe revoking the contract with the artist and having the copyright revert to the artist. Who will then just sign up with some other promotional company who will continue to pay the radio stations for airplay.

        This works the same way with retail stores. You want your product in the store? Expect to pay a "slotting fee" (bribe) of $50,000 or $100,000 for a large retailer. Just starting out and don't have that much?

    • Couple of surprises here:

      * First that paying a DJ to play a song is illegal.
      (I always thought that was going on anyway how else can you account for the terrible music on the radio...)

      * The general mood on slashdot that somehow this should be a jailable offense.
      O no they're forcing us to listen to Britney, jail the bastards!

      * That Record companies are willing to spend money to have people listen to their artists for free and also willing to spend money to prevent people from listening to their artists fo
  • FYI... (Score:4, Informative)

    by gellenburg (61212) <george@ellenburg.org> on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:27AM (#13163621) Homepage Journal
    It's "abstain".
    • Re:FYI... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Xtifr (1323) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:53AM (#13163708) Homepage
      What are you talking about? "Obstain" is a perfectly cromulent word! :)

      Actually, it may even be a more appropriate word in this case. If "obstain" is to "obstinance" as "abstain" is to "abstinence", well, I'm pretty sure the record industry will dig their heels in and keep paying out that ol' payola. It's been going on non-stop for half a century, and previous busts did little or nothing to halt the process. Sony may have agreed to abstain, but I betcha they'll actually obstain!
  • Worth it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Linus Torvaalds (876626) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:32AM (#13163639)

    They were fined $10 million and have agreed to obstain from the practice in the future. Is this the first step toward getting our airwaves back or is this just a slap on the wrist?"

    With music industry profits of billions each year, I'm sure they made much more than $10m from doing so. They'll carry on with the payola until it stops being profitable for them to do it.

    Don't forget it's not just direct profits that payola causes. Payola is a large factor in preventing independent musicians from getting adequate airplay, so it actually supresses the competition and reinforces the RIAA cartel's position. That alone has to be worth way more than $10m.

    • Re:Worth it? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by antic (29198) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:47AM (#13163686)
      Also, the penalty is tiny given that the label was using "a more formalized, more corporatized structure" to bribe DJs and "employees sought to conceal some payments by using fictitious contest winners to document the transactions" -- they were really going out of their way to achieve this. It wasn't just one renegade, it appears to be more of a company policy to break the law. Sony are interested in "defining a new, higher standard in radio promotion" -- why would anyone trust them?
    • Re:Worth it? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PeteDotNu (689884) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:57AM (#13163720) Homepage
      If we're looking for methods that would actually work, I think that the DJs who were accepting these bribes should be forced into retirement.

      I know that it's an absurd over-reaction, but if no-one is willing to accept the bribe, then there will be no bribe.
      • Re:Worth it? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by I_M_Noman (653982)
        I think that the DJs who were accepting these bribes should be forced into retirement.
        It wasn't the DJs this time, but rather the stations' Program Directors and Music Directors. Besides, there aren't very many actual DJs left, are there? And the ones who are there probably don't have the power to deviate from the playlist, at least on the stations that would play this crap. Somehow I don't see Pete Fornatale or Vin Scelsa falling for this.
    • Perhaps this will open Sony up to lawsuits from independent labels. Thats basically the main goal here I would hope.
    • And yet they wonder why the music industry isn't growning the way it used to -- because the music they make is crap and they have to manufacture hits and stars, bribing their way onto the airwaves if need be.

      No, thanks. They can keep swimming in the tarpits.
    • "Against a clear backdrop of what is right and what is wrong - what is legal and what is illegal - it is as important now as ever to encourage our fans do the right thing" - Cary Sherman, President of the RIAA Perhaps a good way would be to lead by example....
  • by gunpowda (825571) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:33AM (#13163641)
    Is this the first step toward getting our airwaves back or is this just a slap on the wrist?

    A Salon feature [salon.com] from earlier this year offers some more information on the practice, and a tentative answer to the question posed in this summary:

    "...radio playlists are unlikely to improve anytime soon. While [promoters] are often seen as dubious, they did have a knack for getting new acts their break on FM radio...station programmers may soon become even less adventurous in choosing which songs get tapped for rotation on FM stations' heavily guarded playlists.

    The indie promotion fallout could be especially tough on smaller, independently owned record labels...The short-term effect is not good for independent music."

    • by b0r0din (304712) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:27AM (#13163802)
      I would argue that there really is no such thing as independant music being played on most stations. 'Indie promotion' is just another buzzword that makes it sound like it's creative and underground, which is far from the truth. Indie promotion is another word for payola. That's all it is. If there are a few indie promoters that can get some unknown band on the radio, they are very few and far between.

      And as far as station programmers choosing playlists, well I don't know enough about it to make a conclusion, but given the fact that where I live Clear channel owns both 'classic rock' stations and they both play pretty much the same playlist, I doubt the station managers have any control on what Clear Channel wants played. At any specific time I can turn on a Clear Channel station and be guaranteed to hear one of 3 AC/DC songs (who knew they only put out three songs?) or some old Aerosmith song.

      The music industry is stagnating right now. MTV has been useless for several years now, choosing to focus on reality television rather than music videos or innovative sound. Mom and pop radio stations have been bought out by the one or two monopolies left in broadcasting.

      And anyone that can tell me Lil' Jon is a musician with a straight face deserves a frickin Oscar. It's almost as if two music executives sat in a room together and made a bet that they could make millions off of a bum with no talent just from pure marketing hype alone.

      I think if there's anything that can make a big difference, it's a media-centered site like Apple's iTunes that has things like music videos, sampling, playlists, online radio stations. I can listen to more new bands in a week through iTunes than I ever heard introduced as a new band on a radio, in all the years I've been alive.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        And anyone that can tell me Lil' Jon is a musician with a straight face deserves a frickin Oscar.

        YEEEAAAHHHHHHHH!!!
      • The music industry is stagnating right now. MTV has been useless for several years now, choosing to focus on reality television rather than music videos or innovative sound. Mom and pop radio stations have been bought out by the one or two monopolies left in broadcasting.

        The same thing has been said about music since at least the days of Elvis, and I'm guessing there have been discussions like this since there were room for musicians and critics.

        Erm. . . I had a revelation halfway through the post. You


      • The answer you are looking for is - 89.3 The current [publicradio.org] by Minnesota Public radio. CD quality [publicradio.org] aacPlus no less. Yummy.

        Sera

    • This is the same in other industries, noticeably the computer games industry. I noticed in TFA :
      "including outright bribes of cash and electronics to radio stations and paying for contest giveaways for listeners"
      This is the same for many big gaming websites, they are happy to run a competition to win prizes of your game, they require 30 free copies of the game plus payment of X thousand dollars. This isn't even a secret, I've got emails from marketing people outlining the rate card to be featured as a compe
  • by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:33AM (#13163642) Homepage Journal
    Companies in the recording industry depend heavily on airplay for their artists. It boosts sales by encouraging listeners to buy their music and helps them climb the charts, which are based on airplay.
    Spitzer said Sony BMG's efforts to win more airplay took many forms, including outright bribes of cash and electronics to radio stations and paying for contest giveaways for listeners. In other cases, he said, Sony BMG used middlemen known as independent promoters to funnel cash to radio stations.

    So if a regular Joe spreads the word about a new song and induces many thousands of random people listen to it for free it's theft, but if a radio DJ does the exact same thing he gets paid? Riiight.

    Maybe Sony should just have those "independent promoters" run eDonkey clients instead. It'd be much cheaper.

    • "So if a regular Joe spreads the word about a new song and induces many thousands of random people listen to it for free it's theft, but if a radio DJ does the exact same thing he gets paid? Riiight."

      The goal of record companies is, sadly, to make money. If I've already procured an MP3 of a song from Joe, I don't need to buy it -- I already have it. The record company (and the artist) make nothing. What, I'm going to voluntarily buy a copy of the album I've pirated, or go see the band in concert? No

      • What, I'm going to voluntarily buy a copy of the album I've pirated, or go see the band in concert? Not bloody likely.

        Speak for yourself. Just about everyone has internet access nowadays. Surely everyone in their early teens knows how to download an MP3 by now. According to the RIAA lawsuits even cats,grannies, and dead people can do it, it's so easy. Yet I don't see any starving artists out there. I'm still waiting for record labels to declare massive losses because they can't sell a single album. Re
      • by BackInIraq (862952) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @08:35AM (#13164079)
        What, I'm going to voluntarily buy a copy of the album I've pirated, or go see the band in concert? Not bloody likely.

        Piracy hurts album sales, no doubt about it...though the effect is not as direct as the record companies would have you think. In the golden days of Napster, many people were buying CD's they had "sampled" online. Some, like myself and several of my friends, actually bought more music, because we had the opportunity to, from the comfort of our homes, listen to a huge variety of music that we might otherwise not have heard.

        I am not, however, trying to argue that P2P doesn't hurt album sales as you said...it does.

        But concert attendance? Not a chance. Most people who go see a concert already own the band's CD's. Downloading an album in MP3 is no subsitute for a live show...even downloading a FLAC of an entire concert set is not a substitute for being there. You'd have a hard time convincing most people that illegal downloading hurts ticket sales...and you'd have a relatively easy time showing that it might help ticket sales. People go see the bands because they heard, and liked, the albums...it doesn't matter if they heard it in legal or illegal form.

        From what I understand, the order goes like this: radio airplay is just an advertisement for the album (to the record company), and the album is just an advertisement for the concert (to the band).
    • Maybe Sony should just have those "independent promoters" run eDonkey clients instead. It'd be much cheaper.

      Cheaper than what..? Paying shills to call up radio stations with fake requests [mtv.com], and then suggesting that "the same couple of girls" should be getting drunk, or going to clubs, or getting in a hot tub before calling the radio stations?

      If you didn't think the music industry was evil, think again.

  • Good gesture... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Strokke (772031) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:34AM (#13163644)
    It's a good gesture to try to stop the corrupt radio business, but it will have very little effect. The corruption runs rampant, from low level DJ's to nationally syndicated shows, however unfortunately most is unknown.

    The bottom line is that having steady radio play is the key to selling albums, and when the the vast fortune of the music industry is at stake, dishonesty is inevitable. A VERY high percentage of Americans discover new music by hearing it on the radio, and a small fine (10 million? Ensuring that their arists get radio play has got to be worth at least 10x that) will do little to discourage the big labels.
  • $10m fine? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:37AM (#13163656) Homepage
    Makes me wonder how much they paid the Attorney General to keep the fine that low.
  • Wow, a whole 10 million dollars, huh? I'm sure that'll teach them. Oh, and I'm sure this only applies to radio stations in NY, right? (off to RTFA now)
  • by sien (35268) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:38AM (#13163662) Homepage
    US TV, films etc are pretty good, but other than NPR American free to air Radio is beyond hope. Having one channel own almost all the stations is effective death.

    Payola, while unpleasant, is nothing to people who are carefully creating radio to only be sports, 80s hits and right wing shock jocks.

    But, fortunately, there is satelite with some variety but above all else the internet.

    Australian radio, in contrast to US radio, is vibrant, brilliant and is a good industrial subsidy for the Australian music industry (ever wonder where INXS, Midnight Oil and many others got their start?).

    If you want to check it out over the net check out JJJ [abc.net.au], RRR [rrr.org.au], 3PBS [pbsfm.org.au] and enjoy some streaming quality alternative interesting radio for a change.

    • by ciroknight (601098) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:56AM (#13163717)
      I often wondered why Podcasting took off, and on the way home, I had to ride with a friend who happened to have a radio in his car (my Jeep explicitly doesn't, for a vast number of reasons).

      Anyways, I listened to the top 40 station in the region, and let's just say, I was not impressed. He then switched the radio to his iPod and listened to the a science news cast and a indie-top-40, and, the easest way to put it; I'm never listening to the radio again.
      • Ra-di-o? What is this .. ra-di-o you speak of?

        Seriously, I had an old 1984 Volvo, and it only picked up college radio stations if you drove by the college. Now I have a new car, and it's got a CD changer. I haven't turned the radio on once -- traffic news is useless in New Jersey anyhow. (Of course there's traffic, it's 5pm on a friday afternoon going to the beach!)
    • Australian radio, in contrast to US radio, is vibrant, brilliant and is a good industrial subsidy for the Australian music industry (ever wonder where INXS, Midnight Oil and many others got their start?).

      Not to be too rude, but those aren't great examples. Could you pick something from this decade? Or ever the one before it?

    • by donscarletti (569232) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:55AM (#13163897)
      Yes, Australian radio is absolutely brilliant. We have the always balanced and insightful John Laws and Alan Jones to bring enlightenment to us, we have the infinitely tallented Kyle and Jackie-O bringing us culture over the Austereo network who's stations in every capital city always play an ecclectic and always fresh selection of artistic music written by Australia and the World's most tallented musicians.

      Granted, I've never been to North America but I find it a little tricky to swallow that anyone could have music that makes our crappy radio sound "vibrant and brilliant". Sure, JJJ has integrity (as do all the ABC stations) but that's because it's federally funded explicitly to stop kids from becoming as much of idiots as they would have been if they turned on Nova instead. Australian radio sucks, and sucks hard.

  • by SimianOverlord (727643) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:40AM (#13163668) Homepage Journal
    ..some music is so poor, yet so successful. Take, just off the top of my head, a Madonna track that was released for the Bond movie "Die Another Day". It was A list on the radio and got played at least once every 3 hours, and it was utterly appalling. Like, so bad I couldn't understand why anyone would listen to it, never mind buy it.

    I mean, music criticism is difficult because someone somewhere is going to see something in a track you might detest, but I'm pretty confident that 99% of the people who heard that track would think it was rubbish. But still it got on air, a lot.

    DJ's these days are totally shackled by the system, I think they have very little freedom on large stations to play music they actually like. It used to be that an "Indie" DJ played music they liked, and if they were actually a good DJ with discerning taste and access to a lot of new stuff, it was like a filtering process to find stuff old and new you would like. But listen to any commercial station and the music is essentially interchangeable, at least here in the UK.

    Anyway, talking of music that's overhyped and overpromoted, just read "most of modern R'n'B". The genre, with too few exceptions, requires little to no talent compared to too much arrogance and attitude. Recipe for success: a few hooks, some mediocre rapping and an effects/whore-heavy video. If it wasn't pushed so much, it wouldn't be popular.
  • by el_womble (779715) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:43AM (#13163674) Homepage
    Individual likes music. Buys music. Distributes it to friends and family. Gets caught by the RIAA and gets slapped with a criminal record.

    Record company hates music, loves advertisments. Gets given music. Gives it away for free over an unencrypted medium to anyone who cares to listen. Gets given a huge 'bribe' by record company to keep doing this and the record company is a criminal.

    I know this is an over simplification, but this really is nuts.
    • "I know this is an over simplification, but this really is nuts."

      You're not the first person to be confused by this. The first step to understanding it is to remember that, unfortunately, most artists and record companies are for-profit entities and need to make sales -- it's not just about publicity. Publicity is the means to the end.

      Piracy is, generally speaking, a substitute for buying music.

      Radio airplay is, generally speaking, an inducement to buy music.

      • It just seems to me that this is all backwards. Selling CDs is just one way an artist can make money from they're music. If we imagine a world where the ability to transfer music is fast, free and easy - making the sale of CDs unnecessary (its easy if you try ;) ) are there other ways that recording companies can continue to make money?
        • Selling music to music radio, music television and dance clubs. Some people see a way to induce people to by CDs others see a market in its own right. This is the way it sh
    • I believe that the RIAA and it's members wants one thing above all else: TO RETAIN CONTROL OF THE US MUSIC BUSINESS. Enforcing copyright is just one of the tools that is used to control the music business. People distributing songs using P2P is not under the RIAA's control so the RIAA does everything that it can to stop it.
  • by ichin4 (878990) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:55AM (#13163714)

    Why exactly should this be illegal?

    If a DJ accepts a direct payment when his employment contract forbids it, that's breach of contract.

    If a radio station advertises that they don't accept payola, but they do, that's fraud.

    But if a radio station wants to make a strait-up pay-for-play deal with a record producer, why should the government care? If it really bothers listeners, a competitor can lure those listeners away by promising not to.

    There is the really lame argument that the airwaves are a public trust, but that just means the government was dumb enough not to auction them to the highest bidder.

    There is the only slightly less lame argument that music should compete on quality alone. But if the listeners don't care, and somebody has to be the popular band, why not the one that pays the most money?

    • The problem is that is illegal, per the federal "payola laws"

      http://www.history-of-rock.com/payola.htm [history-of-rock.com]

      The laws are there to give independent labels, that aren't flush with cash, a chance vs. the large labels
    • by niktemadur (793971) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:42AM (#13163859)
      Why exactly should this be illegal?

      That's an interesting question. Here's my two cents: The concept of collusion between two separate industries to manipulate the marketplace to their benefit.
      Sony Bertelsmann bumps the competition out of the way, and the radio industry gets to line its' pockets by the simple action of excluding independent record companies, filling their playlist with Sony Bertelsmann acts.

      Imagine this: Microsoft buys out all nationwide software retailers so that there's only Windows apps in their shelves. No Linux, no OSX, no nothing, only Windows. Sure, you can get your Linux apps through the Internet, or by driving to a mom-and-pop store across town. But it's still an unfair competitive edge, brought about by Microsoft's humongous resources that will only get bigger in this manner, and so it spirals ever deeper.

      The law, in theory, is there to protect the small guy from the bloated business monster with resources to burn in the pursuit of absolute control over everything.
      Inevitably, after a corporation grows to a certain bloated size, it seeks power for power's sake, which historically has proven to be detrimental to society at large. They might think they are playing a clever game of chess on a grand scale, but they are actually waging warfare against a community that does not have the resources to fight back. Just look at Wal-Mart. And what did Akio Morita say back in the day? "Business is warfare".

      Personally, I believe a basic mechanism to keep civilization running smoothly is to avoid allowing too much to accumulate in too few hands, and radio is no exception.

      I can think of many other arguments of why something like payola is wrong, but these are my thoughts on why it should be and remain illegal.
    • Why exactly should this be illegal?

      Because, your declaration that it's "lame" notwithstanding, there are a limited number of available channels in a given market. Given that, it's not unreasonable to insist that channel owners refrain from committing a fraud against their audience. They exist to serve the public; not the other way around.

      Put it another way: we don't allow people to sell placebos as headache remedies. Ending up with a headache isn't the worst thing in the world, although it might di

    • There is the really lame argument that the airwaves are a public trust, but that just means the government was dumb enough not to auction them to the highest bidder.

      Exactly. That's the first step toward getting our airwaves back. Get rid of the government interference, and treat it like any other real property. Auction it off, let people use it for whatever they want (hint, it probably won't be free any more), and collect a property tax once a year based on the value of the portion of the spectrum.

      Su

  • And to think they do this just to get airplay. Imagine what they're paying to the politicians themselves. They don't care. They know it's wrong and illegal and they just don't care. Money has corrupted every level of government it seems except for the NY Attorney General. Good on ya' Mr. Spitzer.
    • Spitzer is the only AG that does Jack in this country. His record speaks for itself. Most AGs are just using it as a stepping stone to run for governor. Like ours here in Ohio, Jim Petro.
  • by putko (753330)
    I was trying to figure out why payola bothers Americans.

    I don't think it is simply that radio stations are using a public resource -- if all radio was private (ala Sirius or XM), I think folks _would_ mind a bit if stuff was getting paid because the company was getting stuff in return. But I think they'd mind less, because they'd figure that Sirius can do with its spectrum what it wishes, because they've paid for it.

    I think what bothers folks is the fact that it is done in an underhanded, secretive fashio
    • by jonadab (583620)
      > I was trying to figure out why payola bothers Americans.

      It bothers people who would like to listen to the radio, because they're frustrated with the level of (ostensible) quality of the music played on most of the available stations. Those of us who gave up on radio decades ago don't care so much.
    • by Alien Being (18488) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @08:34AM (#13164070)
      "Imagine if they said, "this next Madonna song was sponsored by EMI."

      That would make the music show a defacto advertisement. People would tune out in droves. By hiding the money, they can make an ad seem like a music show.

      Listeners don't like being lied to, and given that the airwaves belong to them, they have a right to honesty.

      Honest artists and producers don't like it because it's anticompetetive. Implicit in the deal that "you will play *our* music more" is the undeniable fact that "you will play *their* music less".

      What amazes me, is that they've been getting away with the "new payola" for so long now. I think it's fair to say that the reason "popular" music sucks so bad is that most of it doesn't become popular on its own merit. Its popularity is engineered in boardrooms.
  • While the labels share some of the blame, the radio stations allow and encourage the corrupt practices of the so-called independent promoters. If the radio station plays a record from your label, the independent promoter sends you an invoice. If you don't pay, forget about future airplay of your label's artists. The independent promoter is the middleman in extorting cash and other products/services from the record label. Basically, it old-style payola with the addition of a middleman to launder the money, a
  • Run those corporate leeches out on a rail.

    God I love that guy. He's as close to a knight in shining armor that we'll find in his position.
  • RIAA-RICO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gurutc (613652) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:24AM (#13163794)
    Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act... If the recording industry and the radio industry knowingly collude to perpetuate payola, how is it not covered by this act which has some real teeth?
  • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:24AM (#13163795)
    I don't understand this. I thought that the record companies were supposed to be the shining beacons of morality! What with all their protecting the rights of the innocent and defenseless artists, they'd HAVE to be completely upright businessmen.

    I guess the moral is that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

    Meanwhile, I'm going to start downloading music again. :)
  • Hmm. NY. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by E-Sabbath (42104)
    I wonder if this is why the NY hard rock station, 92.3 WXRK, changed formats and has ditched nearly all music produced since '95 from the playlist.

    Currently, NY is completely without a modern rock station, leaving only pop Z-100 to play anything new.
  • Wow! (Score:5, Informative)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:49AM (#13163885)
    Some of the memo's are pretty revealing. FSN has a story on some of it. "We ordered a laptop for Donnie Michaels at WFLY in Albany. He has since moved to WHYI in Miami. We need to change the shipping address." One Sony memo from 2002: "Can you work with Donnie to see what kind of digital camera he wants us to order?" Looks like Rush was right: "glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity, yeah!"
  • I mean, the record companies want to sell albums, the record companies pay radio station to air adverts for the albums... but if they pay them to broadcast free samples from the album, that's suddenly wrong?

    I never figured out why radio stations had to pay record companies for the right to broadcast advertising material for them. The recording industry's greatest ever scam was reversing the advertising model to such an extent that if they are caught actually paying for their ads to be broadcast, it's seen
  • by brainburger (792239) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @08:27AM (#13164025)
    It's funny that the music industry will actually pay out money sneakily to get airplay via the radio and tv, to boost sales, but for some reason airplay via p2p services can only damage their sales.
    Of course p2p could result in the listeners having a permanent copy, but so can radio and tv.
    - And then there are all the streamripping and peercasting options to grey-out the difference even more.
    • It's funny that the music industry will actually pay out money sneakily to get airplay via the radio and tv, to boost sales, but for some reason airplay via p2p services can only damage their sales.

      It's because P2P services are uncontrolled, so they don't focus the "promotion" on the commodity acts from which the Big 5 make the most money. (or, alternatively, P2P exposes the filler material surrounding the one presumably palattable track on a given release) So P2P does damage sales, but by exposing the

  • NY AG (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dolphineus53 (765914) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @08:36AM (#13164083)
    Payola is nothing new. Anyone who is surprised that this is going on was just unaware that the practice has been around as long as radio.

    My big question is this ... when is New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer running for a bigger office? He seems to have a knack for getting headlines with high profile cases that get everyone all fired up.

    From http://www.nynewsday.com/news/nationworld/nation/w ire/sns-ap-clinton-2006,0,1068438.story?coll=sns-a p-nation-headlines [nynewsday.com]
    the poll showed state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer continuing to hold a double-digit lead over the three-term governor in a possible matchup for the 2006 gubernatorial campaign.
  • by geekee (591277) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @01:54PM (#13167513)
    If I ran a radio station, I'd make people pay me to play their music. They sell songs to people who like them because they heard them on the radio. Why should I pay them to play the songs on the radio, to help them make money? I'd pick music that fit the format, of course, to keep listeners happy, but then only those who paid would get airplay. Then there would be no need to waste listener's time playing commercials. Why should it be illegal for me to do this? What happened to freedom in this country?

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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