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Music Media

Payola: Another Brick in the Wall 232

We're living in the era where bands are prepackaged for our convenience, and then the packaging itself is repackaged as a serial documercial and sandwiched between paid ads. The kids whose billions pay for this machine are not only fully aware it's a sham, they embrace the cynicism and still manage to enjoy the show. So I'm guessing nobody will be stunned to learn that, a week ago, the L.A. Times uncovered documents showing that record labels are still buying radio airplay, at some stations, the same quasi-legal way they've been buying it for twenty years. But it's an interesting story, and it's as good a launching point as any for thinking about the next twenty years. ("Payola" is the first of three Slashdot features on music distribution. Parts two and three run tomorrow and Thursday.)

Pink Floyd's The Wall set the standard for amazing stage shows. It was the kind of thing that makes me wish I'd lived in L.A. or New York in 1980 (and been out of grade school, I guess). In February 1980, they played five sold-out L.A. shows, inflatable pig, airplane and all, the epicenter of cool. The double album was number one and would stay there for four months.

But although you can hear "Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two" played on L.A. oldie stations today, at the time, you wouldn't have heard it on any station in the city. Total blackout. The record labels used a network (creatively called The Network) through which they exerted control over which songs got on the air.

But in 1980, The Network was in revolt.

To understand why it even existed, we have to go back to Alan Freed's Rock and Roll Show in 1960. One of the first rock'n'roll DJs, Freed was busted in 1960 for taking $2,500 in bribes to play records. He claimed the money was just a thank-you with no influence, but he still went down. He only paid a small fine, but his career was ruined and he died soon after.

As a result of the scandal, Congress passed a law against "payola" in 1960. We'll get into fine ethical distinctions later, but basically a radio station that secretly takes money to spin a song is guilty of payola.

Note that just coming out and admitting a spin was bought is perfectly legal: if that Limp Bizkit play was paid for, just say so and your station is home-free.

Break the law and you might be fined up to $10,000. Payola is a misdemeanor. Theoretically, someone might spend up to a year in jail, but according to Hit Men , published in 1990, nobody has ever spent a single day behind bars.

There have been convictions, yes. Last year, after the L.A. Times turned up some evidence, Clear Channel Communications paid an $8,000 fine for promoting a Bryan Adams single and billing his label. The bill, by way of comparison, was for $237,000.

Clear Channel did well over $1 billion in revenue last quarter and has almost $50 billion in assets. "During the first quarter of 2001, we acquired 126 radio stations in 36 markets...."

But convictions are few and far between, partly because of the layers created between the labels and the stations. Post-Freed, a niche job was created to, essentially, be the go-between from the labels to the radio stations.

The job title is "independent promoter."

The promoters work for the labels. Each week, they talk to the program directors of radio stations in their region, and try to convince the stations' program directors [PDs] to add the labels' songs to the playlist.

And competition is fierce. There are only about 30 slots that get heavily played on any given station, and most of them carry songs over week-to-week. Ten new songs in a week would be heavy turnover; usually it's much fewer, and all the labels are fighting for those slots.

The question is how the promoters "convince" the program directors. By building a relationship with each PD, based on trust and knowledge of each station's market? Or by bribes, paid in dollars or some other currency?

The Network, a small cabal of promoters working together, became famous in the early 1980s for making or breaking songs, depending on how well they were paid. That's where "Another Brick in the Wall" comes into the story. After years of lean revenue, combined with rising costs in fees paid to the Network, CBS experimented with cutting them off.

And CBS got burned. The hit single from the number-one album in the country, in a market of three million, was blacked out. While the band was playing sold-out shows, not one of the city's four big Top-40 stations would play the 45.

Shortly after Pink Floyd's last show, the promoters were rehired, and within hours the song was back on the radio (top of the charts for weeks). It was pretty clear who owned the air.

How much money was CBS trying to save? Here's a quote from 1983, which I find amusing because the speaker is John Gotti's second-in-command -- a mob underboss who can appreciate a good racket when he sees it:

"That kid in California came in to see me, said ... they give him fifty thousand to a hundred thousand to push a record. The company, they pay you, just to make a record on the air, you know..."

A lot of money. This explains why CBS wanted to try it again, testing the promoters the next year as well. In early 1981, the company's labels boycotted them entirely. In retaliation, The Network targeted "Turn Me Loose," the first single by the new band Loverboy. After breaking into the Billboard charts with a star, it rose quickly, but peaked only at number 37 before falling off the bottom.

The next target was The Who's "You Better You Bet." Its appearance was even more promising, appearing at number 63 with a superstar. But it peaked at 18 and fell off the charts quickly.

CBS was convinced. Its boycott began to crack, and within months it ended.

By 1986 the abuses had grown serious enough to merit an investigative report by NBC. Calling the indie system "The New Payola," they uncovered evidence of The Network bribing DJs with cash and cocaine, and threatening them with violence. Senator Al Gore launched a Senate probe. And the RIAA quickly issued a short statement announcing that they would not tolerate illegal activity, but denying any wrongdoing (and reminding everyone that they had done Live Aid the year before).

In reality, the labels were glad for the coverage. It gave them the chance they needed to take the promoters down a few pegs, saving them all a great deal of money. In a few weeks, all the labels had joined in a boycott. Nobody knows real dollar amounts, but The Network's income, probably measured in the tens of millions, dropped drastically.

And since 1986, things have been different. But are we right back now where we started? The president of RCA Records claimed in 1987 that his industry had paid $50 to $60 million a year to the promoters. Last week's L.A. Times story (go read it) claims it's now a "$100-million-a-year trade."

We've come a long way since Alan Freed and his twenty five hundred bucks.

I talked last week with Woody Houston, a PD for the market leader Top-40 station in my hometown. (Disclosure: the company that owns his station competes with Clear Channel.)

Woody has seen examples of corruption, but nothing like some of the abuses of the 1980s -- maybe because we're not in a big city. He's had promoters offer to pay his way to conferences, but he's turned them down. Company policy is to fire anyone who takes such an offer, even though that's pretty small-time compared to some of what's been documented.

I described the L.A. Times story to him, and asked him to try to clarify where the line gets drawn, ethically:

"If Clear Channel is using those dollars for promotional support -- let's say Interscope wanted to put $2500 behind Smashmouth -- if they're buying T-shirts that have my call letters on the front, I don't see a problem.

"There's a fine line between buying airplay and promotion. If they're taking the thousand dollars that they got for 25 spins and not using it to support the record, that's wrong. If they just give the money away on the air, that's wrong -- that's the ethics of it."

When the system works, it does its job. You may or may not like the results -- Top-40 can't please everybody of course -- but the radio airwaves are a limited public medium that should be accountable to its listeners and advertisers, not the companies that make the product. Radio stations' PDs compete by doing their research, making the judgement calls they get paid to make, and seeing their Arbitron ratings, and advertising rates, rise or fall accordingly.

When it doesn't work, it's -- well -- it's a Wall, a barrier of moneyed inertia between new artists who want to be heard and the audience who wants to hear them.

Music has been an industry for the last hundred years, so we've never known what it might be like to strip out some of those barriers. In the next two installments, I'll throw out some ideas to kick around.

Tomorrow: part two, a look back at music distribution technology of the last 200 years.

(I mentioned Hit Men earlier. Most of my sources for the industry's history come from this 1990 book by Fredric Dannen. Its research is thorough, heavy on names, dates and places; Dannen talked to just about everybody and had a good nose for what was credible. Highly recommended if this subject interests you. He's got another book that looks good, too, with an inside story on the Hong Kong film industry.)

Update, 10:45 AM EDT: Salon ran a story on payola today too, a good one. Deja vu to 1980/81, but this time, Destiny's Child's label is not even trying to boycott the promoters, they're just scaling back how much they're paying them -- even this is considered risky.

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Payola: Another Brick in the Wall

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    The result of the original payola scandal was that power was taken from individuals (DJ's) and given to corporate (station management). DJ's lost control of their playlists. The station managers were higher up, harder to bribe, less likely to be corrupt.

    Now we've got corporate payola. It's an institution. It's powerful, centralized corruption, ie the inevitable consequence of civilization itself. The obvious solution is to return control to the individuals.

    The greatest promoter of diverse radio we've ever had was Lorenzo W. Milam, the Harold Hill and Johnny Appleseed of community radio. He has long since declared the battle lost and moved on. What we used to do doesn't happen any more. The media companies have total control of America. Luckily, so far, they have only used their power to make money.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This was on the front page of the LA Times a few days ago and presents the record industry in a much better light: 508.html [].

    Why didn't this make slashdot?? It is just as newsworthy as this topic, perhaps more so because it shows a side to the industry than I and many others probably have never seen. And before you cry "bias" remember that the LA Times is one of the most liberal, anti-corporate papers in the nation.

    Slashdot: News for nerds, stuff that matters?? Please. I'm almost embarassed to be a nerd. All nerds aren't socialists. And some nerds can even understand the concept of opportunity cost.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here are some thoughts from an actual record executive.

    [ The "Story" wasn't just garnered from "Hit Men." It's the Cliff Notes version. Don't represent a condensed version of someone else's writing as a story. ]

    The music industry does, indeed, work on a pay-for-play basis. Just like everything else in this country.

    When you go to a supermarket, do you think what food is where is a coincidence? Those companies pay for shelf space. And prime (eye-level) shelf space is a premium.

    I've dolled out payola to DJs myself. Did you know that many DJs don't get a salary? They have to raise the money themselves from advertising and other sources. They pay the station to be there. Think the station cares where it comes from?

    Meanwhile, we sit in meetings, deciding what acts we will promote and how. Usually, we pick just a few--the rest get shelved. Besides, the American public is too stupid to pay attention to more than three things, anyway. This includes you. Don't think it doesn't.

    There's a lot more to this than just record companies paying station managers. It's artists paying station managers. It's station managers paying labels. It's labels paying distributors. It's Distributors threatening retail stores. It's artists kissing the asses of retail chains. And you are right in the middle of it, kissing everyone's ass.

    Take a look at your CD shelf. Oh, that's right. You don't feel you should have to pay for music. Look at your MP3s. I'm sure they're all unsigned bands no one's ever heard of. No? Then shut up.

    And those unsigned bands you think have that much integrity? Watch what happens when I walk to up them waving a contract and a pile of money. Forget the money -- just the contract. Watch as all their ideals melt away in a signature.

    But no -- they'd never do that. Except that's ever band that's ever been signed, idiot.

    If you are serious about music, then someone has to pay for it. I know many of how you have this bullshit ideal that artists should work for the love their art and all that crap. You know real artists talk about? Because I used to sit in endless meetings with them, listening to their ensless whining (or their managers, who sometimes forbig their artists to speak)? Money. They want money. And I don't blame them. You do, too.

    Yes, it's a shitty industry. That's part of the reason I got out of the position I was in. But if you think there's a great facade around this business you're right -- the one is the deamworld is you.

    If you want something different, you need to do something. Stop watching MTV. Don't buy music from any record labels (yes, the small ones can be just as bad -- trust me). Only buy it direct from the artist. And yes, you have to buy it if the artist has not decided to give it away. Perhaps many of you are still in college or younger, and have never had to support yourself. Try it.

    But you can't stop there. You have to discard the whole corporate culture that goes along with industry-mandated cool. Thing you're above that? Think again. You're simply a different market -- a different genre. I love all the idiots you lambast the "boy bands" as the domain of phillistines. Then put on the new Tool CD. It's the same fucking thing, you moron. THINK.

    [ End of rant. You know I'm not giving my name. ]
  • During Slashdot's last discussion [] on (satellite) radio, one thread mentioned [] that DC's WWDC ("DC 101") and WHFS ("HFS") are owned by the same company.. But, from what I can tell, WWDC is owned by Clear Channel, while WHFS is owned by Infinity Broadcasting -- what gives?

    Alex Bischoff
  • BBC Radio is excellent, I only listen to Radio 1,3,4 and 5 but I've never had any problems with the content on any of them. Sara Cox is annoying, but I'd be annoying if I had to get up at 4 in the morning.

    John Peel is worth the license fee on his own.


  • I think that many people percieve the music business to be a competition, one where, ideally, the best music wins and the not so great doesn't. Well, it obvoiusly doesn't work that way, I am sorry to say. So much for captialism!

    This is just another nail in the coffin of today's music business. As alternate routes for music become available, and can be secured by the equivalent of a GPL, then the music business will either change or die off.

  • "Advertising" means "Independent Promotion".

    "Independent Promotion" means (and I quote/paraphrase from the words OF an independent promoter as reported IN 'Hit Men' which I own and have read with great interest), "Well, I understand you're wondering why you pay me so much money to get a record played. And you're wondering, is it really true that I can get a record played. But the question you need to be asking yourself is, can I STOP a record from being played?"

    Did you think the music business was fair? That is where the money goes. The RIAA actually _is_ feeling the pinch, but this is because it's under the gun of independent promotion and has to pay protection money to get anything played on radio. That's the way it's been for decades, that's the way it is. That's also the reason indie internet musicians won't ever get on radio (and I think we shouldn't bother even trying- waste of energy).

    At no point are we talking real advertising here. It's advertising the way Mob shakedowns are 'insurance'. Sure it's organised crime, your point?

    Oh, and your figure for artist pay seems _very_ high- you're not counting the accounting tricks that get played (I can detail them if you like) and you're not counting recouping. In practice, artists don't get paid, they just get the label to take them into the studio without charging them directly and up-front. Even that's on the decline.

  • I don't think anything like a GPL is necessary, not directly. Copyright means someone writing music owns it, and the big labels make sure that this is not compromised.

    The only remaining concern is: if unsigned artists own the music they write (which they do), how do they get it played? And this is where the attention needs to be: internet access to unsigned musicians is a threat to the big labels because it could bleed off potential sales of Britney etc. Expect concerted efforts to eat up or destroy the internet services that offer music hosting ( is already done for- it is sold to Universal, and the contract has been changed under the artists' noses to a very dangerous one). Anything publically held is at risk: anything linked to the Big Five (like Farmclub) is like a 'honey trap', a snare for the unwary or stupid. It really is "take stuff off the market" land out there.

    Yet, at the same time, the musicians are still out there, many with technical resources as good as what the majors use these days- and some of the internet sites are still there too. BeSonic is still there. Ampcast is not only still there, it's just gone live with its own CD order-fulfillment service. Some of these places (like Ampcast) are built on the mission of being an alternative rather than seizing the market: Ampcast's mission statement is all about being a useful indie alternative to the major labels, it's very informed of the cartel-like conditions that exist. More importantly, if Ampcast _did_ get taken over somehow (dunno how, it's not publically held and I'm not sure if it's even a corporation or holds stock), its contract continues to allow artists to bail out taking their music with them and taking the rights back- unlike, where the place keeps a right to your stuff forever even if you bail.

    The main thing is to keep the alternate routes alive. I feel the existing industry will go beyond the letter and spirit of the law in attempts to destroy even poorly-resourced, unpromoted indie musicians: for instance, I could imagine mp3s being made illegal through manipulating and paying off the government, and a new format decreed where you have to pay $60,000 to get one of the 12 licenses for generating the encrypted whatever-it-is. This is of course a shocking, extreme suggestion, but the point is that IT WOULD WORK as much as anything would (i.e. sort of...). Only the geekiest musicians would have the savvy or connections to be able to generate that format themselves through stolen encoders- and here's the BIG point- in doing so they would be BREAKING THE LAW! If the only public format is NOT a public format, you can't seek a public audience for your content unless you are legally allowed to generate the media.

    That is the REAL killer: people burning bootleg CDs would be perfectly safe, but musicians with a legitimate reason to generate the format using their own content could be legally blocked from entering the market on the grounds of DMCA violation, illegal use of methods to circumvent copyright violation. It's the TOOLS that would land them in jail, their music would remain harmless and they'd have a right to it, but they would no longer have a right to put out their own media in the cartel-owned popular format.

    Let's see to it that this never happens- continue to demand and support the original CD Audio (Red Book) format, because it is permissible to generate that without paying a controlling authority- and dare I say it, support mp3 despite Fraunhofer and the KNOWN legal problems with mp3. Something tells me Fraunhofer have their hands full with the problem of keeping their format relevant. Proposed alternatives could be much, much worse. Ideally we could switch to Ogg Vorbis: remains to be seen whether this can be practical. I hope so, mp3 is booby-trapped in a way that Red Book is not.

  • Boy, do you have _that_ right! It's a good example of what happens. Now where's that -1 Offtopic? Surely comment about the mechanics of HOW THIS CAME ABOUT is far from the desired topic of bitching about the RIAA ;)
  • They said that?? They're lying. The usual advance is more like $2000. In some cases the record industry, seeing a new genre that might pose a threat to their cash cows (for instance, 'noise'- what I'm about to say is from an insider and is factual information), will send A&R reps out with contracts and 'sign' a lot of acts, at $2000 advances, with NO PROVISION FOR EVER RELEASING A RECORD. I am not making this up and it's not hypothetical- it happened in the 'industrial/noise' genre. A company signed a bunch of bands to contracts that didn't include actually releasing a record, to take them off the market and make sure nobody else had them. $2000 a pop, guaranteed zero sales, no record was EVER intended.

    _Nobody_ gets $750,000. Hell, damned few get $75,000, including independent promo (bribes and payola).

    I think I know where they got that. They took the _total_ payola they spent, which for the top few acts totals more than half their revenue... and divided it by their total number of acts to make it seem that they GAVE ARTISTS ADVANCES like that.

    Lies, crap, bullshit, nonsense, deliberate deception, trickery, hype, more lies. Bullshit. Don't ever take these people at their word or believe what they seem to be suggesting.

    In other words, what else is new?

  • 90% of listeners are crap ;)

    Think about it...

  • Well... I feel bad for you then, if you buy CDs through traditional channels- because that is precisely where your money goes. Strange or not, that's the truth. It may help to remember that the independent promoters are not really part of the record companies- they're extorting the record companies. However, the result's the same.

    If this really bothers you, don't buy CDs through conventional channels. Buy indie, or buy used, or download stuff using p2p methods, because when you buy from music stores or major (or subsidiary) labels, your money's keeping this game going. These promoters and this extortion's taking place over the money _you_ give the business, and the record companies are more or less resigned to the idea that they'll just pay up and jack up the retail cost to you, to cover for it.

  • Actually, that's not all that shocking an idea really. For me it's my excuse for artistic integrity. When I take advantage of my musical listening and composing background, I tend to veer wildly in the direction of dissonant, edgy melodies or near-impossible polyrhythms or both at once. Nothing is as much fun as putting together some rhythm that doesn't occur in nature and that you can't dance to ;) except that such things _do_ occur in nature... but they are not 'musical'.

    To be specific, they sure as hell are not Top 40.

    But if 90% of listeners are 'crap', that's a relative judgement, only relevant from one particular perspective. If I use my perspective, it means 90% of listeners do not have the training to identify weird 'wrong' notes and strange polyrhythms- or, more importantly, the experimentalism to enjoy listening to stuff their brain can't immediately recognize.

    If you took Britney Spears' perspective, 90% of listeners are crap... because 90% of listeners will tire of her formula eventually! How crappy to be faithless and disloyal like that ;) nobody is exempt from the 90% rule...

    And if you go back into radio, and wind up being very manipulative and playing 100% payola garbage, 90% of your listeners will see through it and listen to you with a sort of cynical attitude that tends to deflate your attempts to be The Soundtrack To Their Life (in the tradition of old Motown). Crap! *G*

  • YEAH! Slashdot is the perfect fucking forum for corroboration!!


  • by Alan Shutko ( 5101 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @05:23AM (#175878) Homepage
    It's even worse than this article presents... promoters will bill labels even is station managers decide to play the song on their own.

    Check Pay for play [] and Fighting pay-for-play [].
  • "I'm curious as to how you (or anyone else who would care to comment) separate the wheat from the chaff."

    Once upon a time, this function was actually performed by radio station music directors and program directors (when allowed to by owners and general managers). If you think the stuff you heard on the air was bad, you should hear the other 90% that showed up in the mail every week that we had to sort through. It's amazing how many people think they've got any business making a record.

  • I'm not sure, but that may be quite insightful. I've gotta think about it a lot more. One thing for sure, if I ever go back into radio, that's gonna be lurking there in the back of my mind just waiting to come to the surface at all the worst times.
  • Your restaurant analogy fails because as many other restaurants (whether selling Evian exclusively or not) as capitalists are willing to risk money on can be opened in the same geographical area as the first one, but once all the radio station licenses for a particular area have been allocated by the FCC you can't put another one on the air in that same area. So even if all the stations in your area are playing the same old -insert records you hate most here-, you can't start up another station to offer an alternative because you can't get a license; they're all already taken.
  • Speaking of electronic tip jars, check out last Thursday's Cringely [] and the one from the week before that [].
  • The part that the RIAA doesn't tell you is that every time you play a particular recording, it's like a free advertisement for that recording.
    ( At least until you play it so bleeping much that everybody's too sick of it to even consider buying their own copy, but that's a different rant.)
    Granted airplay (or clubplay) will probably boost sales of -insert group of the week here- more than an old Streisand album cut, but Babs (or more accurately her label) might still pick up another shekel or two because of the exposure.
    This is a holdover from when records needed radio worse than the other way around.
    Now the record companies figure they're in a strong enough position (partly as a result of being part of mega-conglomerates that can stuff the songs they want to plug into whatever their TV and movie divisions are filming that week, or onto one of their cable channels) to demand payment for everything short of walking into the record shop to browse.
  • That's not that abnormal in the music industry. Hell, ASCAP goes after Irish pubs that play almost entirely traditional music and almost no modern stuff at all, and hit them with a site-license that acts as if the pub is playing all ASCAP covered music all the time.

    A pub may have an artist on stage, playing his own all-original self-written material, and ASCAP is getting paid for it to happen, whereby they turn around and give all the money to the #1 pop artist of the week (or actually that artists' writers or other copyright holders).

    "The history of the music industry is a history of exploitation and theft." -- Robert Fripp
    You know, you gotta get up real early if you want to get outta bed... (Groucho Marx)

  • So, I'm from Dallas. And The Toadies? Well, they're from Fort Worth. But it's all basically the Dallas "metroplex" anyway.

    I care a lot about the local music scene. I run a tiny little record label. I help my friends in bands out all the time.

    Recently, a college station here did a "fest" with The Toadies headlining. I went to help out one of the "lesser" bands playing n the bill, and to see another band I'm good friends with.

    The first band on the main stage (where Toadies would later play) that I came to see was Little Grizzly []. The show was at a bad venue (cool looking, the Ridglea Theater, but bad) and it wasn't there best show, but dear God, the heckling from those Toadies fans. It's almost as if they'd never heard the college station or anything.

    After their set, some little kid in front of me who was heckling the band finally pissed me off to the point that I said something about it. He said, "Who's the loser? I came to see a NATIONAL band, and you came to see a LOCAL band."

    You can't argue with logic like that, folks.

    Luckily, Legendary Crystal Chandelier []'s set went more smoothly, since it was upstairs.

    The fact is, people don't really care as much about music as some of us do. Hell, most Slashdotters obviously don't... they're too busy decrying the RIAA for "making" them buy "$17 CDs" with "only one or two good songs on them".

    The fact that people want to be told what to listen to is sad. The fact that the ability to tell them what to listen to is for sale is both expected and yet very depressing.

    Yes, really, go see a local band. And not some fucking Adidas rock bullshit... ie something that doesn't sound like Limp Bizkit. Think a little.

    If anyone cares, feel free to email me - I can tip you off to 20 great bands from Dallas, some of whom tour around the country (and no, Flickerstick doesn't count).

  • Might as well waste the karma.

    Dude, please tell me you're being sarcastic. Otherwise, you're a fucking idiot.
  • Tomato. Potato.
  • I have lived in the Atlanta area since just before the Olympics. It is one of the fastest growing radio markets and the one that all the advertisers and promotors want. I can't tell you how many times I have turned on the three big stations and heard the same song within five minutes of each other. These are stations that supposedly have different audiences (rock, top 40, and generation-X) but they all play the same damn music! When I travel out of town I hear different music, good music. Why is this not being played in Atlanta? My guess is payola. It has gotten a little better lately, we have two new stations that allow you to listen to slightly different music during the non-peak hours. Other times it is the same old prepackaged crap that somebody on a committee somewhere thinks I need to hear over and over again.

    This first segment was interesting, I hope the other two are just as good. The more people that think about this, the more likely it is to change the system.
  • > And the recording industry wonders why sites like Napster sprung up?

    That's a point that has been totally ignored in the Napster/file sharing debate. Why would a hundred-odd-million people *want* to steal so much intellectual property, as the lables claim? Are we a nation of thieves, seperated from total lawlessness and anarchy only by locks and fences? I don't think so.

    I believe that Napster could not have happened were it not for industry abuses of the consumer. Remember when vinyl records were $10US? And than CD's came out, and the price was $20US, with the excuse being that it was so much more expensive to make a CD... But the truth is that digital reduced the cost of every step of album production, manufacturing, and distribution. It costs less to record on digital, mastering is cheaper and easier, pressing is cheaper (vinyl was close to $1US/copy back in the '70s, CD's are far below that today.) CD's cost less to warehouse and ship, and you can fit more per square foot of shop space at retail. Yet CD's still list for $20US, and the labels still pay only half the royalty rate to the artists! (And yes, most recording contracts still only pay for 90% of the records, allowing 10% for damages because, you know, lacquer records are fragile!)

    One can argue all day about the right and the wrong of file sharing (and I'm purposely NOT addressing the right and wrong, whether it's theft or not, blah blah blah) but I cannot imagine much more that the Majors could have done to prepare the market for the emergence of technologies such as Napster.
  • > Some big corporation has an arrangement to manage those racks.

    In the record industry those guys are called "Rack Jobbers". They would lease rack space in stores, and fill them with product. Of course, a label or distributer could pay the rack jobber to make sure his product got some of the (probably limited) shelf space. Or, more likely, he could pay to make sure someone else's product did *not* get shelf space.

    Once apon a time, this was the way a large percentage of records were sold, at least here in the US, especially in rural America. Over time, smaller "mom-and-pop" retail outfits gave way to large chain stores, and the chain stores now run their own racks, and have the power to make a CD available to large segments of the population overnight. Think about Wal-Mart. Wal-mart is perhaps the largest record retailer in the United States. In rural America, your local Wal-Mart might be the ONLY record retailer available. And if they only carry what you see on MTV and VH1 and TNN, well, then that's the only music that exists (as far as the consumer knows!)
  • $19.95 list, about $10-12 to the retailer, so $14US is a common discount price. In the Vinyl days, the "standard" royalty was 10% of suggested retail, less holdbacks (10% for breakage, etc.) record club stock (the artist doesn't get payed for sales through "record clubs") promotional copies, etc. The standard royalty for CD's is 5%. Britney, of course, gets a higher percentage. The IRS (of all people) has a good quicky overview of the money side here in evil pdf format []
  • >Some please tell me what is music advertising? I hear no advertising; I see no advertising...

    That would be the Payola. And "Teen Beat" magazine, too...

    One of the big changes after the Indy promoter scandal of the '80's is that much of the money now comes from the artists "tour support" package, which is a recoupable expense. What that means is, Independant promoters are still getting money, but the money comes out of the band's royalties. So now it's more like 1% materials, 0% artist pay, 0% publishing fee (if the band wrote the song, it's subject to recoupment) etc...
  • C'mon is there anyone out there under the age of 35 that DID NOT know this was the way radio stations/record labels operate ?? It is the corporate way and we've grown up with it. That does not make it right but when someone looks suprised by things like this I begin to understand the generation X attitude. Old people are naive and stupid some times.
  • And then think for your self. I scarcely remember ever having read such a pile of boohoo, woe is me, look how rough we have it, cry baby bullshit.

    What ever deal they have struck with 'artists' it was of their own making. Sorry, but record labels crying over how hard they have it smacks of so much irony I'm still looking for the cast iron pan they must have used. It is an interesting read, I will grant you that, but an objective analysis of the record industries 'situation' it is not.

    Like most things, I expect the truth lies somewhere between the stories of the two different sides. Pardon me, but I have got to get back to downloading MP3's.
  • ... so you won't have to register.

    Logs Link Payments With Radio Airplay

    Music: Independent promoters' lists show the date a station airs a song and the amount paid by the artist's record label.

    For 40 years, federal law has prohibited broadcasters from accepting money or anything of value in exchange for playing songs on the radio without disclosing the practice to listeners.

    But internal documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times indicate that several independent promoters keep detailed logs--called "banks"--listing the date a station airs a song followed by a dollar amount collected from the artist's label. The stations that add the most songs over the course of a year build the biggest banks and consequently earn the largest fees.

    Like a bank account, there are debits and credits, deposits and withdrawals. The promoter makes "deposits" when the right songs are played and "withdrawals" for the station to receive payment in the form of cash, travel and tickets to events.

    The documents show that each of the five major record companies--Vivendi Universal, Sony, Bertelsmann, AOL Time Warner and EMI Group--paid fees to an independent promoter associated with a Portland, Ore., radio station that played songs produced by their labels. Officials for these record companies declined to be interviewed.

    Experts say the newly disclosed bank data could threaten the licenses of numerous stations.

    "This document destroys the notion that the new payola is any different from the old payola," said Peter Hart, an analyst for the New York-based media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

    "What you have here is a smoking gun. This document confirms suspicions that critics have long had about potential tit-for-tat arrangements between independent promoters and radio stations. An appropriate government investigation could blow this whole industry wide open."

    Federal agents already are deep in a four-year probe of corruption in the radio business. Five executives from Latin music labels and radio stations have pleaded guilty to payola-related tax offenses. And last year, Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio conglomerate, was fined for a payola violation involving a promotion that guaranteed airplay of a song by pop singer Bryan Adams in exchange for a series of free performances at concerts sponsored by its station.

    Officials at the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department declined to comment on their investigations and on the bank arrangements. Music Promotion Process Revealed

    The world of music promotion and influence peddling is a murky one that is usually kept out of public view. Independent promoters dodge the tit-for-tat rules of payola by paying broadcasters annual fees they say are not tied to airplay of specific songs.

    Practitioners of this $100-million-a-year trade--largely hidden under layers of arms-length alliances and thick legal opinions--seek to determine the songs that will reach the airwaves and climb the music industry charts.

    The newly obtained documents detail exactly how the process works, who is paid and how much, and how radio stations, promoters and the world's largest record companies say they keep their arrangements one step inside the law.

    The documents include a sales pitch to prospective clients by Michele Clark Promotion, a Calabasas-based firm, that outlines a "sample bank." The company denies that such pacts cross the line into illegality.

    "We aren't doing anything wrong here," Michele Clark said in an interview. "The support I get from labels has no effect whatsoever on the musical decisions of the program directors at my stations."

    Besides, Clark said, the practice is widespread throughout the industry. "I didn't invent this thing. It's standard operating procedure in the promotion business. Every [independent promoter] in nearly every format uses it."

    She added: "Every indie keeps internal accountings of what stations are worth. You base the value of a station on what you are able to bill on their behalf. Obviously, the more a radio format helps sell records, the higher the stakes will be for the labels--and the higher the budgets paid by indies to the stations involved."

    Clark's firm caters to stations in the album adult alternative, or AAA, format--quiet rock music that accounts for only a sliver of U.S. music sales. The money funneled into AAA station banks is a pittance compared with what music conglomerates throw around in the industry's biggest radio formats, such as top 40, alternative and rock.

    Indeed, record labels pay independent promoters as much as $4,000 per song to influence airplay at the nation's biggest broadcast outlets. And many labels have exclusive deals with promoters who operate under the same bank formula, promotion and label executives say.

    Clark provides broadcasters with annual fees as high as $120,000 to defray expenses for contest giveaways, vacation fly-aways, concerts, conventions and other promotions, the documents show. The labels pay her about $1,000 per song that gets added to a playlist.

    According to one document, Clark earned about $50,000 last year for songs added to the playlist at Portland, Ore.'s KINK-FM, a division of Viacom-owned Infinity Broadcasting. The bank lists every time KINK aired a song followed by a specific dollar amount and the name of the label Clark billed for the play time.

    For example, after KINK added a song by Fiona Apple on Jan. 17, Sony's 550 label paid Clark $1,000, the bank says. Vivendi Universal's Mercury label paid Clark $1,000 on Feb. 14 after KINK added a song by Kim Richey. Bertelsmann's Windham Hill label, EMI Group's Capitol label and AOL Time Warner's Giant label each paid about the same fee for songs by Janis Ian, Shivaree and Steely Dan, according to the bank.

    Another document, titled "non-money stuff," shows a list of songs played by KINK and a corresponding list of products or services, including concert tickets and a promise that certain acts might appear later at a station benefit. 'We Don't Do Anything Illegal or Unethical'

    Clark and the station management deny that the paperwork is an accounting of songs aired in exchange for payment of products or services.

    "The document you have in your hand is typical of the kind of paperwork most independents use for their private bookkeeping," KINK Program Director Dennis Constantine said in an interview. "I don't know how it got out. But we don't do anything illegal or unethical here. No matter what the companies pay [Clark] or what she writes in that bank, it has absolutely no bearing on how we program this station."

    Clark's bank includes a running tally of withdrawals for Clark-financed contest prizes given to KINK listeners. In addition, Clark deducted nearly $3,000 for registration fees, plane tickets and hotel accommodations for two KINK employees to attend trade conventions.

    Clark said it is common practice for independent producers to "sponsor" radio station employees at trade conventions and cover the costs of their expenses. Constantine agreed, but said attorneys for Viacom have recently issued a policy forbidding KINK employees from taking money for trade show junkets. In a recent interview, Viacom Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin said the corporation will not tolerate questionable promotion tactics at Infinity stations.

    Clark is not the only promoter pitching easy-listening broadcasters with bank proposals. The Times reviewed a similar arrangement from one of Clark's competitors in the AAA format, Los Angeles-based Harry Levy. Levy declined to comment.

    Most of the nation's top promoters keep bank tallies, including Bill McGathy, whose New York-based promotion firm rules the rock radio format. Internal records show that McGathy logs fees collected from labels for added songs as well as for the value of concert appearances at station events brokered by his firm.

    McGathy declined to comment for this story.

    Privately, some independent promoters brag about their ability to influence programming, label sources say. But they sing a different tune in their contracts, furnishing stations with language steeped in anti-payola warnings drafted by former FCC attorneys.

    Those contracts specify that independent promoters are free to pitch specific songs to broadcasters, but the broadcasters are not obligated to add any song to their playlists. All radio stations need to do in exchange for an annual fee is give promoters advance notice of which songs they plan to add to their weekly playlist. The promoters in turn bill the labels for each song that gets added.

    Record executives have long operated under the premise that independent promoters have the power to influence the success of certain songs, either by getting them added to a station's playlist or by keeping them off the air.

    The bank disclosure comes at a time when Clear Channel, which controls 1,200 radio stations, is considering bids for an exclusive $20-million contract from several promoters, including Cincinnati-based Tri-State Promotions and Chicago-based Jeff McClusky Promotions.

    Cumulus Media, a Chicago-based broadcast group that owns 210 radio stations, already has negotiated a $1-million pact with McClusky, whose firm has nearly 100 stations across the nation tied up in exclusive deals.

    Clark and other independent promoters interviewed for this story contend that every promotion pact--regardless of its size or format--is calculated on the same bank principle.

    "When an indie promises a station a $40,000 annual budget, that number doesn't come out of thin air," Clark said. "The station has got to be worth something to the record companies."

    The accounting log, or "bank," of Michele Clark Promotion shows record label payments to her for artists' songs played on the radio and payments she made for station promotions and expenses.


  • Airwaves are a limited resource, that's true; but so is land. We don't have a problem with people owning land.

    And technology can allow sharing of airwaves far more readily than sharing of land.

    The REAL reason the government interferes in this is because we've let them, and we've bought their bullshit excuse for maintaining the power.

  • The government stepped in because the Network was not only an illegal monopoly (cartel would be the correct term, I think), it's "business practices" (extortion, threats of violence, and other criminal behavior) made it more or less just a profitable subset of organized crime.

    I'm aware of that, I used to be in the radio biz.

    The problem, however, is that those things were already illegal. Making a perfectly legitimate activity illegal on the theory that it will discourage an illegitimate activity is contrary to our entire system of government, or at least the one we profess to have.

    This is exactly the sort of power that we let the government have that makes them think they can also do things like outlaw internet porn (because kids could conceivably access it) or outlaw guns (because criminals could conceivably get them) or restrict free speech (because you could conceivably pirate a DVD.)

    We can't be against it in one instance and gung-ho for it in another, just because the latter has been around for a long time. Every time you don't oppose your government grabbing more power, you lose more freedom. We've already got measurably less freedom than we had right before we kicked the British out.

  • The ONLY problem with your argument is the fact that the radio spectrum is a limited resource, owned by the public and placed under the stewardship of the FCC (that is, the government).

    Water is a limited resource, but it's perfectly legal for Evian to give a restaurant a discount (essentially the same as paying them to serve the product) in return for only serving their water.

    Land is a limited resource, but it's perfectly legal for Disney to charge you $35 to walk through the front door.

    People are a limited resource (at any given moment) but it's perfectly legal for FedEx to pay me $x to administrate only their Unix systems.

    TV uses the SAME limited resource as radio, but it's perfectly legal to pay a network to let you air your program. Happens all the time.

    In fact, it's perfectly legal to pay a radio station to play your music, as long as it contains an advertisement. It could be a 3-minute piece of music with 5 seconds of ad, but that's legal; it's only illegal if you take the advertisement out.

    Does that strike you as logical?

  • You can TRY to get a TV network to play what you pay them for...I bet you'll be unsuccessful.

    Why would I be unsuccessful, when thousands of other advertisers succeed daily? Or did you think those ads ran for free?

    TV frequencies ARE regulated. It is required that certain bands be set aside for things like PBS. You're arguing that radio should not be regulated, by saying it's like TV, which is easily as regulated as radio. This doesn't make sense.

    I agree, if that was what I was saying, it wouldn't make sense. But you set that straw man up just so you could say "this doesn't make sense".

    What I am arguing is that ONE SPECIFIC LAW makes no sense. That law happens to only apply to radio, BTW, not TV.

    Oh; and humans only occupy a tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

  • by Syberghost ( 10557 ) <syberghost@sybergho[ ]com ['st.' in gap]> on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @06:33AM (#175900) Homepage
    Instead of everybody jumping on the "it's illegal so it must be bad" bandwagon, how about we take a step back and ask:

    WHY is it illegal?

    Is there really a compelling government interest in making sure that one company doesn't pay another company to perform a service? I mean, if the radio station is playing music people don't want to hear, we'll stop listening, right?

    Does it really matter so much that it ought to be enforced at gunpoint?

  • I realize this is besides the point, but I really can't let this slide:
    Pink Floyd's The Wall set the standard for amazing stage shows. It was the kind of thing that makes me wish I'd lived in L.A. or New York in 1980 (and been out of grade school, I guess). In February 1980, they played five sold-out L.A. shows, inflatable pig, airplane and all, the epicenter of cool. The double album was number one and would stay there for four months.
    In my opinion, "The Wall" show was a really tedious event. I have to give them credit for trying to do *something* with the arena rock form (which has is one of the stupidist inventions of American culture, and I realize there's a lot of competition), but what they did just wasn't that interesting. A dorky puppet 20 stories high is just an expensive form of dorky puppet. Having an army of stage hands assemble a "wall" between the band and the audience is a cute concept, but the thing about concepts like this is that it only takes a couple of sentences to describe them, they get a lot less interesting if you actually have to watch them play out for a couple of hours.

    To my ear, I thought the best music of the show was the stuff they played immediately after the wall was assembled, when you couldn't actually see the band. I later found out that they weren't actually bothering to play when they were out of sight of the audience: live performance at its finest.

    There's nothing wrong with the general themes of The Wall album, (freedom/alienation) and in my opinion it had a few good tracks on it, but overall I thought the handling was fairly trite and adolescent.

    If you're going to feel bad about missing out on something from that period, how about being in New York to see Talking Heads play at a small club like CBGBs? I got to see the Ramones play in a small place out on Long Island around then, (and they were completely shown-up by their warmup band, the "A"s, an act that no one has heard of these days). Probably the best show that I remember from around then: Patti Smith and Richard Hell on a double bill at the briefly lived "CBGB's Second Avenue".

    (Oh, and I'm pretty sure that the inflatable pig was used on the Animals tour only, which I thankfully did not attend, since that was possibly their worst album...)

  • Sure, I could find good independent music on the internet too, if I had the time to wade through lots of crap. Thus my question: how do you find good independent music without wading through lots of crap? Admittedly, having to wade through some crap is inevitable, as each person's definition of "crap" varies with taste. I'd like to listen to more independent music, but I don't have the time to listen to twenty bands I don't like in order to find one I do.
    Obviously, the way wade through all the crap quickly is to use some filters that you trust.

    A lot of college radiostations are (still?) broadcast on the internet. Many of them are really independant: the DJs are largely free to follow their own interests. All you have to do is find one adventurous DJ whose taste you trust, and you've got a pipeline feeding you with more good, new stuff than you can possibly deal with.

    (The station I'm involved with is KZSU [], the Stanford radio station, but I'd need to know more about what kind of music you're after before I could recommend a particular show on the air.)

    Another thing you can do is find a site/zine/magazine that you can more or less trust. Most of the slick glossies are pretty clearly sold-out to the crap machine, but even so I can think of things like The Wire [] (note, not "-ed"). This is a UK based magazine that in my opinion does a great job of covering interesting music almost without regard to genre (e.g. some recent issues have focused on Sigur Ros, Talvin Singh, and John Cale).

    Another move of course, is to look for news groups and mailing lists that talk about stuff you're interested in. Just drop in and say "I like *Foo*, where do I find more?" (Though you need to be prepared to be flamed if you ask about "Nine Inch Nails" on or "Marilyn Manson" on alt.gothic).

  • If I remember right, there's a decent college radio station in Nebraska that you can tune-in to when driving along route 80. (It's a pretty weird experience really, driving along through a wasteland of garbage radio signals, and to suddenly hit something cool in Nebraska.)

    I don't know what part of the state you're in, maybe you can't hear it where you are... but remember that it's a good rule of thumb when scanning the airwaves in the united states to start at the bottom of the dial (or "left of the dial", as the Replacements put it before they became replaceable). With few exceptions, the only interesting radio in the states are the faint noncommercial signals below 92FM or so...

    (The main exception seems to be the Pacifica stations: they've been around long enough that they've got frequencies in random places out of this ghetto.)

  • Last year, after the L.A. Times turned up some evidence, Clear Channel Communications paid an $8,000 fine for promoting a Bryan Adams single and billing his label.

    Those utter bastards! Why can't they just let poor Bryan die a natural death, like he should have at the end of the eighties?

  • The music industry pays and/or 'promotes' radio stations to spread the word about their artists, with the full knowledge that anyone with good bandwidth--I mean--reception, could record the song at near-CD quality? And sometimes they give radio stations free CDs and shirts to give away--for promotion??

    I smell a Napster counter-suit, howabout you?
  • I haven't watched TV in about a year, except for occasional glimpses while my couch-potato brother is glued to it and parents ask me to get him to do something. I don't miss it at all.
    Ditto radio, except on the rare occasions that friend's CD/MP3 player is broken and we're in the car...silent drive bad. And even then, we go through considerable hassle (we've even extended the antenna on the car, for chrissakes) to try to pull SOMETHING decent out of the general crud out there
    I also haven't eaten in a fast-food restaurant in months (not just the usual 'big-corps-bad' mentality, I'm opposed to their labor practices).
    And I'm probably what you'd call a 'kid' (I'm 16).
    It's really not that hard to do this...just don't watch/listen to anything that offends your intelligence. :)
  • Oh, I am.
    Family decided to watch TV with dinner tonight...I watched for about two minutes and then picked up my plate and ate in the other room.
    It just disgusted me how low the programming was aimed.
  • Why not make news media non-profit? As is, most stations don't make much on advertising. If they were made non-profit, they would not have any incentive to continue their behavior. In fact, the large networks might even have fewer ads shown or heard, because there is no incentive to make a profit.

    mind21_98 - []
    "Ask not if the article is utter BS, but what BS can be exposed in said article."

  • More like multi-billion.

    If you have for-profit media, you're gonna have corruption and a generally biased viewpoint when it comes to news, etc. If media was non-profit, those things may still exist, but to a lesser extent. Bias would be less evident and the media would try harder to be objective when it comes to reporting stories. Heck, they might even play better music in the process.

    mind21_98 - []
    "Ask not if the article is utter BS, but what BS can be exposed in said article."

  • by Cujo ( 19106 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @05:42AM (#175918) Homepage Journal

    Of course they're corrupt. The moral bankruptcy of the mainstream music industry is only too well documented.

    I say that it doesn't matter. What's really corrupt is slickly packaged, trite, utterly empty rubbish that passes for music. There's no law against that, and there shouldn't be.

    The music industry are scavengers, cleaning up on second handers who don't want to listen to music they like so much as music they are told that other people like. That they ruthlessly exploit musicians is another topic.

    My suggestion is that if you don't like what you hear on the radio, turn it off, and support the small labels trying to change the way the business operates; e.g. Chris Cutler's Recommended Records, John Zorn's Tzadik [], or Robert Fripp's DGM []. That all of the above are run by world class veteran musicians should be no surprise - they've been there, done that, got the t-shirt and the shaft.

  • The ONLY problem with your argument is the fact that the radio spectrum is a limited resource, owned by the public and placed under the stewardship of the FCC (that is, the government). The People, through their proxy the FCC, can and should regulate what is done with The People's resources. If the resource in question were not finite (like, say the radio stations were broadcasting on the Internet, where bandwidth is relatively inexpensive) then the free market would be just dandy.
  • Nonsense. Water operates in a closed system. It's infinitely least until we start cracking it in fusion plants. Humans don't occupy a significant fraction of land on Earth, so land is not a scarcity. You can TRY to get a TV network to play what you pay them for...I bet you'll be unsuccessful.

    TV frequencies ARE regulated. It is required that certain bands be set aside for things like PBS. You're arguing that radio should not be regulated, by saying it's like TV, which is easily as regulated as radio. This doesn't make sense.
  • by PeterMiller ( 27216 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @05:33AM (#175921)
    No wonder they are all paranoid about Napster et al! Obviously, they are willing to pay a great deal to get thier songs to the masses, but now the power is in the hands of the individual.Yes, people still download what is on the radio, but in time that will change.

    When we are talking about THIS much money, someone somewhere is getting really scared.
  • Some stores are paid to place fixtures with specific products on certain locations. But the product that a grocery store provides isn't the location, or quantity of new and improved Crap-in-a-can. The stores provide the availability of all the stuff you want, or might want, to buy. A better anology would be the collusion of some soft drink companies to "buy" more linear feet to prevent other soft drink companies from selling their wares.

    The soda companies are just an extreme. I used to work in a grocery store that was part of a small chain, and virtually all product manufacturers paid for shelf space. It's not a huge deal.

    Radio stations are free to play whatever they want without accepting kickbacks, and, if doing so meant the quality of their content was so much superior that the increase in listenership made up for the lost payola, they'd do it. Why don't they? Most people like teen-bopper mass-produced crap. This is unfortunate, but it's true. How many Britney Spears-loving pre-teens do you know?
  • by sien ( 35268 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @05:38AM (#175926) Homepage
    OK, this is a rant.
    I've lived in four countries; Germany, US, Sweden and Australia, and I have to say this quite simply. American media is the worst. By far.
    The reason is simple, the business of America is business, the research of America is business, the government of America is business and art in America is just business.
    On the plus side, Americans are rich and pay is good, at least if you've got a degree and work hard and are a bit lucky. But, it means you have to watch over promoted shit from Hollywood, watch TV that is utterly crap, watch professional sports that are little more than long ads and, if you're silly enough to listen to the radio, listen to virtually uninterupted crap.
    Honestly, Americans talk about choice but there is none. I live in a city of about 1.5 million and there is less choice in films here than there was in Australia in a city of 300,000. Try listening to Australian radio - triple J broadcasts on the internet. There is a radio station that plays good new music, rather than Britney spears. And as for TV. Well, cable here has less variety than Australian, Swedish or German free to air.
    It's all money, and money produces crap entertainment in the long run. Just like American fast food, fatty, dull and tasteless after a while.
  • by e-gold ( 36755 ) <> on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @06:35AM (#175927) Homepage Journal
    (Warning, I've ranted about this before, so if it seems familiar it probably is.)

    Between musicians & fans involves fans being able to directly-pay musicians, bypassing the inefficient layers of "corruption" inherent in the current system. e-gold (among other options) now makes this possible in ways un-dreamed-of in the days of Alan Freed, and it's going to lead to good things for artists and fans (greed-disclamer -- and me!). Slashdot readers are free to contact me for a free spot of my favorite currency if you want to play with our Shopping Cart []. e-gold works for this because e-metal payments are pushed, rather than pulled, and settle instantly and internationally. Yes, I'm a greedy self-interested capitalist, but we've been ignored for a long time in favor of failed systems that try to be a real currency but can't, for a variety of reasons. e-gold, in either a tipjar or pay-per-listen model, is what will work today. e-gold has been in the black for over a year, and is not a typical overhyped (in fact, I'm pretty-much the entire hype-department, in many ways!).

    I happen to prefer the tipjar idea to pay-per-listen because I like voluntary stuff, and I have enough faith in what's left of human nature to think that most of us will leave tips. I also have enough faith in the greed and inefficiency of the RIAA to think that tips will end up benefitting artists more than the present system, but I have no proof (yet!). I'm giving e-gold away because it's in my interest for programmers to try and play with e-gold. Thanks for listening, as always I speak only for myself -- since nobody else would claim these opinions anyway.
    AKA Cassandra, among other names...
  • Read all the Salon articles in that series, there are links in the stories. The author is really going after Clear Channel.
  • You're right, 101 is Clear Channel, and HFS is Infinity. They're both "rock alternative" or whatever that format is called. They play the same songs.
  • Yeah...that Frontline was excellent. What the marketing machine did for Limp Bizkit, was done for Korn a few years before.

    Go back to 1994, when Korn's label was throwing tons of promo material to radio stations. They were determined that Korn _would_ be the next big thing. Most of thought they sucked and threw the stuff away, but the label kept it up, and eventually all the kids knew who Korn was and thought they rawked. A star is born.

    You combine all of this with the fact that the FCC will now allow a single owner to hold most of a market, and it gets even worse. The corporate owner (Clear Channel, Emmis, Infinity) figures they can save a few bucks by not duplicating staff all over the country. So pretty soon, a single MD and PD handle any given station format from corporate HQ, and you now have complete homogenization across the country.
  • by jakeblue ( 62815 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @05:23AM (#175939)
    Check out the Frontline (excellent PBS news magazine) episode The Merchants of Cool []

    It's not only the radio stations...
  • Are all radio stations free to play whatever music they want? I've been told that commercial radio stations were require to pay a fee if they played songs that were not on some 'list of singles and EPs' or something, and that Public Radio stations were exempt from this rule, and this was the reason why Public Radio stations played a wider range of music variety.

    Am I wrong? Please note that I'm a real neophyte when it comes to radio politics. However, what I'm saying is a pretty commonly held belief.

    I'm a big fan of the public radio stations here in the SF Bay Area: KPFA in Berkeley and KZSU in Stanford have some excellent music selections ... especially late PM/early AM.

    I'm also interested in creating my own audio streaming stations, but want to do it like the Public Radio stations do it... do it free and legally.

    -= Stefan
  • OK, so what I'm getting out of your post is "American corporate fodder is worse than European corporate fodder". Is this a surprise? Mass produced entertainment from anywhere is going to give you the least common denominator. America, being the epitome of corporatism, is going to have a lower LCD than just about any other country. But why subject yourself to corporate entertainment "programming" in the first place? Go out and see a band/DJ, poetry event, indy film, etc..., or, better yet, get involved in whatever local scene you're interested in? Real American culture can't be found in corporate sponsored media - it's taking place in real life, in the clubs, galleries, and streets. You have to get off your ass and go find it. Media entertainment is the fast food of culture. You want real culture in America? Support your local band/DJ/artist/poet/restaurant.
  • by Paelon ( 69063 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @10:03AM (#175943)
    To understand why it even existed, we have to go back to Alan Freed's Rock and Roll Show in 1960. One of the first rock'n'roll DJs, Freed was busted in 1960 for taking $2,500 in bribes to play records. He claimed the money was just a thank-you with no influence, but he still went down. He only paid a small fine, but his career was ruined and he died soon after.

    If you're interested in more information about this, I just finished reading a book called "Last night a DJ saved my life: The history of the Disc Jockey". It outlines the rise of dance music in the 20th century, and starts with an in depth history of radio disc jockeys.

    One of the interesting things it mentioned was that although Freed was the first person busted for 'payola', he was by no means the only one accepting it at the time. Apparently it was common practice at that time too. The book claims that Freed was busted instead of other DJs because of his love for rock made by black musicians, which he would play instead of the sanitized rock made by white musicians.

    Telestra: All your bandwidth are belong to us.

  • As they say about porn "I know it when I see it..."

    Granted, independents produce a lot of drek, but most radio stations play *100%* crap. At least with Internet radio there's exposure to artists whose name *isn't* Shaggy, O-Town, or deity-forbid, The Backstreet Boys. Granted, you still have to wade through a lot of crap, but at least it's *different* crap.

    For example, I found an artist I've come to really enjoy through an interview on the Bravo TV network. No one in radio in the Midwest is going to play the works of a Canadian cabaret singer. (Patricia O'Callaghan is her name, BTW) However, the Internet provides those opportunities.

    The issue isn't necessarily that independent or obscure music is always better... its about the *choice* to listen to those artists. Radio doesn't provide that. The Internet does. That's why radio is in the trouble it's in, more commercialism, less music, less choice.
  • by WombatControl ( 74685 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @05:34AM (#175949)
    Is anyone really surprised by this? After all, radio is the most heavily commercialized venue for music you're liable to find. Most Top 40 stations play nothing but typical commercialized drivel anyway. Considering that traditional music outlets like radio and MTV hardly spend more than a third of their time actually playing music, no wonder everyone's gone on the Napster bandwagon. I've heard a more diverse selection of artists who aren't attached to the RIAA or the big labels through the Internet than traditional media have allowed. You better believe it's causing me to buy fewer major label CDs... because I actually can find *better music*. It's a win for good music, and a loss for the kind of crap that radio wallows in. Radio's a wasteland for the most part, and they're doing everything they can to help their bottom line. (Why else would they resort to giving money away to get listeners?) These payola deals are just one way of helping stave off oblivion before Internet mobile radio becomes practical and traditional radio dies comepletely.
  • Oh yeah! Cynical teenagers is new [].

  • I'm trying to keep this as un-patriotic as possible, so if I slip, please try to look past my unabashed love for true Americanism and see my arguments.

    American media is the worst. By far.

    No argument there. I nearly spit every day I read the paper, watch the "news," listen to the radio, etc. The simple fact is that there is a new class of people that wants to be lazy (and I, frequently, am one of them). Many people unfortunately confuse this with "American." Don't. This class of people exists, predominately in cities, all over the world ([cough] Paris, Tokyo[cough]). However, perhaps more than in most other countries, our businesses exploit this consumer class. Yes, our media outlets are primarily corporate-controlled. Why? Because we're greedy bastards. We (stereotypically) don't mind selling out. Even the most counter-cultured among us change our tunes when 7 figures worth of US$ are flashed in front of our faces. As repugnant as the resulting media environment may be, I STILL prefer it to Government controlled media. But that's another rant.

    It's all money, and money produces crap entertainment in the long run. Just like American fast food, fatty, dull and tasteless after a while.

    Hey... fast food is an acquired taste. Take up your holier than thou mantle if you like, but the fact remains that McDonalds is earning money in Paris, Rome, etc. (home of fantastic "real" cuisine).

    Back to the point, however. You're complaining about our corporate entertainment engine. You seem to think that's all we have here in the states. You're mistaken. You're falling prey to that very same lazy consumerism we both so revile in our writings. You're only eating what corporate America is feeding you. Would it be fair if I were to fly into de Gaulle, and judge France on the ads I see in the terminals? Of course not. To find NON-corporate entertainment, one must go out into the world and f*cking LOOK for it. The price of freedom is responsibility. I'm not trying to convince anyone that the US is a free country or anything (if it ever was, it hasn't been since the '70s, when I was born), but we DO still have a more freedom-oriented society than some places. The freedom for big ugly corporations to brainwash us with corp-rock 24-7, and our own freedom to turn the f*cking radio off and go to a f*cking blues club. The responsibility is ours to seek out something else if we don't like it.

    Next time you're sick of the radio here, try it. Go to a bookstore on live music night. Don't like it? Start your own band. That's a freedom/responsibility dichotomy I can live with.
  • Sure, the Brits were tired of it by '79, but in the United States punk took off in the early 80s precisely because kids realized how blatantly the radio stations were being manipulated.

    We all knew that the same bland, vanilla-flavored crap was being pumped out on every channel. We knew that demographics dictated that the King Biscuit Flower Hour was going to be played on every freakin' station in the nation on weekends, while we were being fed pap by Journey, et. al. during the weekdays.

    When people say that punk was a rebellion against boredom, and nothing more, they're missing the point. It was a rebellion against the media control addressed in the article.

    In closing, I leave you with some words from the Dead Kennedys' historic performance at the Bammies [].

  • The kids whose billions pay for this machine are not only fully aware it's a sham, they embrace the cynicism and still manage to enjoy the show.

    I guess the music industry is the 3rd to go down this route, where the 2nd was politics, following the lead of the professional wrestling.

  • by Vanders ( 110092 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @05:50AM (#175964) Homepage
    I was recently in America, and I was surprised to hear the same songs being played over and over again on not only the same stations, but on almost every other station on the dial. It was almost as if they were all running a continuous loop of five songs.

    So, thank fuck for the BBC. No commercial interests means no Payola. No Payola means no endless drivel of the same stuff all the time. BBC Radio 2 has recently become the most listened to station in the UK, the main reason being that it plays a massive mix of old and new music.

    I'm sure most of you already know, but the BBC also webcast both Radio 1 [] and Radio 2 [] over RealMedia streams. If you live outside of the UK and want to know what a non-commercial, music playing radio stations sounds like, I recomend you try them. You might be surprised.

    P.S: & for those who don't like links in posts.
  • Payola in radio is legal, if it's disclosed. The illegality is in doing it without disclosure. The real story here is the likely consequences for the industry. RIAA has already quietly settled some price-fixing and racketeering suits, I hear. Regardless, they are now vulnerable to all sorts of lawsuits from independent record companies, listeners, etc. In addition, the Bush Administration may seek payback by beginning fraud and racketeering investigations. After all, the entertainment industry leans heavily Democratic, and its leaders are always calling for more regulation of (other) businesses.
  • The "compelling interest" that we should care about is that we, the people, "own" the airwaves that the broadcasters are using. The government is the steward of those airwaves. And what we have here is basically the sale of those airwaves at the expense of the taxpayer. This probably drives up the cost of CDs and all that other stuff, so we're the ones that are really getting hosed here.

  • ...I don't listen to radio. I've been blatantly anti-radio for the past five years or so, only playing the occasional college station or Philly's 95.7 Jammin' Gold (funk and r&b hits from the 60's and 70's). What passes for "music" these days on big market stations like (again, in Philly) Y100 (100.3) or Q102 (102.1) is absolutely deplorable. The only "new" music station I like is WHFS in Washington DC and Baltimore, although I haven't heard them in the past 3 years so it's possible they've changed.

    Yes, I may feel a bit out of touch ("What? You haven't heard the new Staind song?") but it pays off in the end. Less ads clouding my time, more good music. Hunting for new music is something I do out of word of mouth or trial through MP3. Had it been for radio, I would not have found out about Badly Drawn Boy [] or Grandaddy [].

    The way I see it, for those people who truly enojy music, radio is but a small stepping stone in the path to enlightenment (not to say I am "enlightened"). It comes early, and is very optional.

    So, what can you do? Get mp3s by new artists to listen to, listen to college/community radio, loan CDs from your local library, ask your friends what they listen to and likewise, share your music with everyone else. Radio is lazy and creatively broke, and has been for a long time.

  • Is this another example of why TMBG is better off spamming people than promoting their music in much less invasive ways?

  • Disclaimer:Most people wouldn't give a crap about the stuff I'm about to speil. So, don't read it if you don't want to.

    Several things happened to change my tastes in music when I went away to college a couple of years ago.

    1) The first and major thing that changed was that I was no longer in High School worrying about such trivial things such as fitting in with the "cool" group. Not that I really cared all that much for such things anyway, but when everybody in school was listening to a certain CD and were exclaiming how good it was I would go out and pick up the CD too. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So, I mostly listened to what was popular at the time. I listened to what everybody else listened to. Of course, that just happened to be the pre-packaged crap that the music industry was spewing out, and paying good money to do so. But, once I got to college I stopped caring as much about such things

    2)I went to college out of state and met many new friends who had come from different areas of the nation. Namely, they came from areas where there is something of a local music scene. (If there's any kind of local music scene here in Arkansas, I wish somebody would clue me in as to where to find it. All we ever get is the mindless, corporate crap.) As such, they had chances to see some of the lesser known bands and experience music that I'd never heard before. And these friends introduced me to this new music. I didn't realize that there could be such good music out there, and that it was good music that I'd never heard of. I had just assumed that if it were any good, then it would be played on the radio.

    3)I went to school in a city that had a bit of a local music scene of its own. As such, I was able to experience a much wider array of music in person, than I ever had before. These were bands that had never come to Arkansas and probably never would.

    4)Napster. Let's face it. Whether the record companies like it or not, Napster has changed the face of music forever. Now(or rather then; Napster is useless now), any time somebody mentions a band that I might like, I simply had to fire up Napster and download a few of their songs. If I liked them, I went out and bought the CD. If I didn't, oh well, nothing lost.

    It is because of these four factors that I was able to discover a whole new breed of music: that of the non-prepackaged, corporatized crap. I found good music by talented artists who, more often than not, were making music to make music and not making music to make money. (Don't get me wrong on this point. Making good music can be very time consuming and can be very hard work. Good artists should get paid for their work.) I look at the popular music scene these days and I'm glad my music tastes have changed. I don't think I could have stomached the current boy band trend otherwise. Don't they remember New Kids On The Block? They know how it ends. Anyway, I encourage everybody who doesn't already to go out and give some lesser bands a try. You might like them.


  • by derrickh ( 157646 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @05:05AM (#175981) Homepage
    It's not as if the same thing isn't happening on the internet. Payola [] is at least honest about it.

    Mad Scientists with too much time on thier hands

  • LOL, you know what's really interesting is that both of those radio callsigns have something to do with Apple Computer. In the first instance, I'm sure you saw the banners on Slashdot a while ago advertising Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference (WWDC), and, of course, most of us know that the filesystem, at least for Mac OS 9, is called "HFS".

    Coincidence? I hardly think so. Obviously, both of these stations are owned by Steve Jobs. Either that, or Apple's lawyer's have just completely missed this one, and are just now typing out legal threats to the stations...

    < )
    ( \

  • So what if 90% of independent music is crap? At least with independent music, you can find bands that have different and new ideas about music, politics, and life in general.

    All you hear on the radio these days is music that is all themed toward what record companies want people to think about, which right now would seem to be either complacency with life (when was the last time you heard a song on the radio with a radical political message?) or worship of shallow beauty (Britney Spears et al.) and material wealth (almost all the crap cranked out by rap labels such as Cash Money these days. Or you could look at Limp Biscut and see both).

    < )
    ( \

  • American media is the worst. By far. The reason is simple, the business of America is business, the research of America is business, the government of America is business and art in America is just business.

    I've only live in the US, and I have to say that you couldn't have put it better.
  • Not only that, but the public broadcasters have a for-profit branch, which sells CD's, DVD's, books, merchandise, and tapes of Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion. (If you are a member of either a public radio or public TV station, you get a spiffy catalog of overpriced yuppie toys, coffee mugs, etc. which IIRC is called "Signals". All of that stuff is for profit.)

    The people who run NPR and PBS make huge profits, they just hide them by putting all their profitable ventures under the umbrella of a separate company.

  • All "non-profit" means is that you never pay our dividends to the owners of the company. You can still make profits, but they all must be socked away or spent.

    There are lots of multi-billion dollar "non-profit" companies out there. I used to work for one. The way the game is played is this: If you have a surprisingly successful quarter, you pay out huge "bonuses" to your executive staff. That way, they come out just as well as if they were shareholding execs in a for-profit venture.

    It's really just a difference of semantics.

    Even setting that aside, your theory has one small problem...

    If you are a human being, you are biased.

    There is no such thing as purely objective journalism. Even those who try be "just the facts" reporters will allow their bias to bleed into their selection of stories, their choices of emphasis, and the "experts" they choose to interview.

    As one example, Jim Lehrer of PBS's "News Hour" tries his darndest to be fair and objective, yet vast majority of Republicans who are invited to appear as talking heads on his show are liberal republicans like David Gergan. You are not likely to ever see the likes of Jack Kemp on his show. Mr. Lehrer does not have a similar aversion to the far left, so debates on his show are usually held between a liberal Democrat and a liberal Republican (which results in a very civil debate... lots of consensus of opinion is usually found between them.)

    That's why, when I want to read or watch news analysis, I always turn to the extremists on both sides. Why? Because they are up front about their bias. On the Internet, The Smoking Gun [] makes no secret of being a JonKatzian-style anti-corporate leftist site, while The Drudge Report [] is published by an unapologetic Republican cheerleader.

    The panel of the quirky-yet-entertaining PBS show "Mental Engineering" probably don't really think of themselves as lefties, but do such a poor job of hiding their bias that they might as well have a running caption that says "we hate capitalist marketing". And on the same network we have William F. Buckley's "Firing Line". Nobody ever accused Mr. Buckley of pretending to be unbiased.

    When you consume media that is open about their bias, it invites critical thinking, which is a Good Thing. In our local radio market, there is a conservative blowhard named Jason Lewis who dominates the late afternoon drive. I find that about half the time, I disagree with either his position, or the argument he uses to support a position I would otherwise agree with, but I appreciate that he comes right out of the blocks proclaiming his bias. I wish more journalists would do the same.

  • This is yet another example of why They Might Be Giants [] are probably better off on a small indie label, selling most of their music on line.

    (Follow the link to see the lyrics to their notorious song about radio payola.)

  • Just a sidebar about Freed:

    Alan Freed went down because he had integrity; he was honest. He would not sign an affidavit that said he had never accepted gifts or cash from the labels; in fact, he acknowledged that he had, and that anyone who signed said affidavit was a hypocrite, since that form of payola was widespread-- virtually all disc jockeys participated.

    However, Dick Clark and most others did sign the affidavit, pretending ignorance and innocence, and were essentially off the hook.

    Freed, on the other hand, was ruined.

    To paraphrase "American Hot Wax:"

    They might be able to stop the show, They might be able to stop Alan Freed, but They'll never be able to stop Rock and Roll.

    Damned if they don't keep trying though...

  • It's not as if the same thing isn't happening on the internet. Payola is at least honest about it.

    This raises an interesting question -- at what point does it cease to be "payola" and instead become legitimate advertising? To take a slightly silly example, I could theoretically purchase a Slashdot banner ad along the lines of "READ MY POSTS." with a link to my user page, as a means of using payola to do an end-run around Slashdot's moderation system. So here're some of my thoughts on where the difference comes into play:

    Radio is a very limited resource. As mentioned in the article, radio is limited enough that it's considered a "public resource". (In the US) We've got the FTC regulating who gets to do what. In the realm of radio, I can't necessarily create my own (non-pirate) radio station. On the Internet, virtually anyone can publish -- although Internet radio would be trickier when you factor in bandwidth considerations, but it's still got to be cheaper by a couple orders of magnitude. I suppose someone could argue that '' does have possession of a very limited resource in the form of their domain name (as an asset, I'd guess that domain might be valued in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars), but that doesn't create nearly an exclusive club as the limited resource of radio broadcast frequencies.

    Obvious ads. In the case of other mediums, it's usually (although admittedly not always) clear what is and isn't an ad. No one would argue that a 5 minute long "commercial" (played during a regular commercial break) of a music group's new video is payola. Provided the band didn't suck, it might even be a welcome change from the typical commercial jingles and such. Similarly, with my aforementioned idea of a "read my posts" banner ad, I can't imagine a Slashdot reader not recognizing it as anything other than a banner ad. In radio, however, I can't recall ever hearing the DJs admit, "We're being paid to promote this song." Furthermore, the article specificially mentions cases where the stations didn't make such a connection clear (and wound up getting fined an amount that was only a small percentage of their profit on the deal). So I'd argue something that's obviously payola isn't as likely to be considered payola. But even when clear disclaimers, we must still consider the notion brought up in the previous paragraph that radio's a limited resource.

    User-directed experience. In the realm of radio, you've got much less control over what goes on. Your choices are generally limited to "listen to this station", "switch to another station" (who may also be pimping songs and may not even play the genres of music that you like), or "turn the radio off". With the Internet, it's generally a fully user-directed experience. If I start listening to a band being pimped by and they suck, I can easily decide to go the next band on the list. Or the middle of the list. Or even the end of the list. My options are much more flexible than either jumping to another website or turning off the PC. And, even if we were to pretend that I couldn't control what I saw on any given website, the number of websites out there is multiple orders of magnitudes greater than the number of radio stations out there.

    So in conclusion, while the payola thing has some similarities to radio station payola, there are some key differences that make it not nearly as slimy (including the point made by the previous poster that they're honest about what they're doing).

  • You better believe it's causing me to buy fewer major label CDs... because I actually can find *better music*. It's a win for good music, and a loss for the kind of crap that radio wallows in. Radio's a wasteland

    Yes, 90% of what they play on the radio is crap. As Theodore Sturgeon noted, 90% of everything is crap. 90% of independent music is also crap.

    I'm curious as to how you (or anyone else who would care to comment) separate the wheat from the chaff. What tools/websites/recommendations/etc. do you use to identify the few good groups among all the independent crap?

  • At least with independent music, you can find bands that have different and new ideas about music, politics, and life in general. ... (when was the last time you heard a song on the radio with a radical political message?)

    You won't get any argument from me there.

    So what if 90% of independent music is crap?

    The "so what" is that when I'm trying to find music, I'm primarily interested in the music. If I'm interested in politics, I'll look to read political tracts, listen to talk radio, etc. If the music itself sucks, but the lyrics have an interesting political message, I'm still not interested.

    Maybe you listen to music for its political message, but that's not my cup of tea.

  • If you see that 90% of everything is crap, and I see that 90% of everything is crap, who said that your cap and mine are the same 10%? What is crap to you may not be to me.

    That's a fair point, and I certainly wouldn't expect that I would be handed independent music I like on a silver platter.

    My point is that everyone has slightly different tastes, so categorizing music and allowing a person to listen to music and determine _what_ they like is the tool. By playing only what the major labels push, radio is causing the majority of listeners to settle for _their_ drek.

    You'll get no argument from me there. My point is that the time involved to find a few good (to me) bands can be very large, having to listen to a lot of crap (to me). Even with genre classifications, it can be difficult. (I'm more likely to like a ska band picked at random than I am to like any band picked at random, but there are still many more independent ska bands that I dislike than those that I like.)

    Now, I haven't spent a lot of time on the internet looking for independent bands, so perhaps there are some good sites out there--thus my request for recommendations, and some other people in this thread have made useful suggestions.

    Please keep in mind that my original question--essentially "Given that there are thousands of independent bands, most of which I won't like, how can I find those bands I do like without spending an excessive amount of time?"--is meant as a sincere question, and not as an attack on independent music.

    (As an aside, it's interesting you mention TMBG--I am aware of TMBG, but ironically I became aware of them after hearing "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and "Particle Man" on an episode of Tiny Toons--a WB produced TV show.)

  • by Sodium Attack ( 194559 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @07:49AM (#176007)
    Granted, you still have to wade through a lot of crap, but at least it's *different* crap.

    Sure, I could find good independent music on the internet too, if I had the time to wade through lots of crap. Thus my question: how do you find good independent music without wading through lots of crap?

    Admittedly, having to wade through some crap is inevitable, as each person's definition of "crap" varies with taste. I'd like to listen to more independent music, but I don't have the time to listen to twenty bands I don't like in order to find one I do.

    The issue isn't necessarily that independent or obscure music is always better... its about the *choice* to listen to those artists. Radio doesn't provide that.

    I won't argue with that. But the flip side is that, even though the radio may only play 50 different bands, it's not too difficult to find the 5 that I like. How do I find the good music among 50,000 bands?

    (I'm not trying to attack independent music; this is a sincere question.)

  • by 575 ( 195442 )
    KLF knew it...
    They exploited the system
    Read "The Manual []"
  • I feel your pain man, Philly radio is horrible for newer rock. Occasionalyl I'll get in a New York or Baltimore station and think "Wow, this is so much better than Philly".
  • by Exedore ( 223159 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @05:36AM (#176026)

    One of the local "alternative" rock stations (how can they be an "alternative" when there's so many of them, and they're all the same?) just completed a weekend of programming that was not based on their usual rotation system.

    Basically, the DJ's dug up some of their old (and new) favorites and played those instead. Oh, it wasn't like they went too far out on a limb... they were all songs that had been played on the station at one time or another, when they were "current".

    Still, the listener response was overwhelmingly positive, with comments such as "Man, I haven't heard some of that stuff in a while. You guys should do this more often!" The DJ's agreed, but sadly they were back to playing the same old schlock on Monday morning. Why? The payola system, most likely.


  • Word gets out, Slashdot spigots spouts torrents of nasty verbage at grocery stores for selling space on end-caps.

    Heavens to hell, now how is Joe Six Pack ever going to get his instant-maple-flavored-mash potatoes with new SuperCheezyKrapomatic potatoes staring him the face!

    Its obvious, he is being forced to buy into these new potatoes, the refuse to let him pass down the isle to try the "other brands"

    Slashdot versus the RIAA.

    It happens in nearly every industry.
  • Elmore Leonard wrote a Chili Palmer book involving the music industry in LA, the indy promoters, and wise guys, called Be Cool.

    Chili Palmer, you may recall, is the protagonist of Get Shorty, involving the motion picture industry in LA, movie stars, and wise guys.

    John Travolta played him in the movie. Yeah, that dude. And the nifty jazz trumpet riff. You remember it. "It's the Cadillac of minivans".

    Be Cool is its sequel. And it's typically good Elmore Leonard.

  • I have to agree. Between the babbling and the commercials I hardly hear any music. Radio is better in Canada, too. Ottawa has (had?) a great FM station, Montreal supposedly has a great FM station, and Toronto has the mother of all Alternative stations, CFNY, which now calls itself "The Edge" unfortunately.
    Ever hear the Rush song "Spirit of Radio"? They wrote it as a tribute to the early days of CFNY.

    "What are we going to do tonight, Bill?"
  • "Yes you too can pay DJ's to play your music from the comfort of your own home.", coming to a radio station near you.

  • The great thing is, this doesn't bother the radio station at all. Its all about percieved popularity, they don't have anything like the Neilsons to actually figure out how many people listen to them, at least in this area.

  • There was actually an all-music, no-talk whatsoever (excusing the occaisonal required call letters) in this area too, for a while. It mysteriously acquired Bob & Tom and a bunch of loud, annoying dj's at some point, with narry an explanation...

  • ...What really happens in small market Radio. Sattelite companies like Jones Sattelite Services taken a good 60 to 70% share of small market radio stations. The math is simple:
    Cost of Jock: $7-$20/hour

    Cost of Jones Sattelite Services: One minute/Hour.

    In exchange for using their music and their jocks, you let them play one minute's worth of ads during an hour. Everything's digital until it hits the stations, and they can even use like a song2web interface to show the tracks of the playing songs (as it comes off of the sat receiver) on your webpage to make it 'look' local.

    What does this mean for Radio? Not a whole lot of new jobs are being created as old jobs are being phased out.
    You integrate something like AudioVault (Audio-on-SCSI-Drive-On-Demand) with a Sattelite Receiver (which they provide for you), 100 lines of code and a sattelite dish can run your station as long as you need it. There are windows for news, weather, and the such, so you can pull a feed from CNN Radio Network News and bump out with a "C" liner into music. Who needs a jock when you've got a PC?
    ONU's Finest Computer Sciences Geek
  • I wonder if Katz is trying his luck with someone else's name on the article... :)
  • Users of the LA Times website have noticed that so called "pop up" advertisements appear when loading news stories. This has led some to believe that money is being made. LA Times editors could not be reached for immediate comment, but we spoke with MSNBC executives who assure us that these claims are unfounded. "The press is fair and unbiased. Moreover, we don't make money, we lose money--to bring the best news to the citizens of the world"

  • I won't argue with that. But the flip side is that, even though the radio may only play 50 different bands, it's not too difficult to find the 5 that I like. How do I find the good music among 50,000 bands?

    (I'm not trying to attack independent music; this is a sincere question.)

    Well, honestly, if you're just looking at a spread of 50,000 bands with no point of reference, it'll be needlessly tedious and a waste of time. The trick is in getting other people in the trenches for you... people whose tastes you trust.

    Recommendations tend to flow up the ladder from the hardcore audiophiles raving about some new label out of Chicago to the more casual listeners who in turn spread the word to more mainstream communities, and so forth. It's a filtration process like anything else; for instance if you're into Radiohead you're bound to hear about Sigur Rós, Autechre, Modest Mouse, Six By Seven and a handful of other obscure bands that happen to be very popular within that community for whatever reason. That's not to say you'll like them or that they even possess a similar sound, but it's a greater likelyhood than if you drew names out of a hat.

    Traditional media still has a lot to do with it, too, really... there's not a lot I listen to that hasn't occupied a page on Raygun or Magnet or even Rolling Stone magazine. Even traditional radio has a place; a lot of the new bands I look into will have come to me through "Radiosonic" on CBC, "John Peel Sessions" on BBC or "What The Cat Dragged In" on my local University station. I also rather like browsing music sites like Amazon and Allmusic which contain an infinite well of "if you like this, you might also like this" type services. Listmania, an archive of Amazon customers' top ten lists (which link to other similar lists ad infinitum), is particularly useful.

    There is no pure word-of-mouth, survival of the worthiest process going on here -- people still need a point of reference -- it's just slightly more rewarding and flexible (albeit equally time-consuming) compared to being forcefed 50 polished, test-marketed artists. Not that you should totally dismiss them, either! :)

  • by PhreakinPenguin ( 454482 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2001 @07:41AM (#176087) Homepage Journal
    I can tell you this sort of thing happens every day. I have seen numerous times when we needed a prize to give away for a summer or fall book promotion and normally our indie or record label would "donate" a prize in exchange for us playing a new song in late night rotation. Take a listen to your favorite station between midnight and 5am and see how many new songs are playing that you normally don't hear. About 70% of all the songs we played on the overnight shift were favors to labels or indies. It's just one of those things that everyone in the industry knows about and kind of accepts. But to be honest, it's nice for the pd to have a big screen tv shipped to his house so the record companies can show their appreciation. Hell, I've even seen an extra jet ski and trailer sent to a station on "accident".

  • Check out this link [] to find out what corporations own the media companies. There is another site (sorry, no link) that shows the number of companies who produce virtually all (90%) of the media consumed in the U.S. It used to be over a hundred companies but now is less than six. I think that RICO should be applied to them.

    The Dead Kennedy's had something to say about the payola thing back in the day (~1980) that is still relevant today--as all good art is:

    And when I'm rich
    And meet Bob Hope
    We'll shoot some golf,
    We'll shoot some dope.
    Drool, drool, drool, drool..
    My Payola!
    The music we hear is decided upon in six boardrooms by racketeers. That's laissez faire for ya'.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant