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The Media Sony Your Rights Online

Sony Agrees to Stop Payola 450

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

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

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

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

    Anyway, talking of music that's overhyped and overpromoted, just read "most of modern R'n'B". The genre, with too few exceptions, requires little to no talent compared to too much arrogance and attitude. Recipe for success: a few hooks, some mediocre rapping and an effects/whore-heavy video. If it wasn't pushed so much, it wouldn't be popular.
  • by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:54AM (#13163712) Journal
    Exactly - they just payola'd the US justice system with $10m, its all calculated risk and marketing expenses to them. I wouldn't be surprised if their legal department had already budgeted for this.
  • by ichin4 ( 878990 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:55AM (#13163714)

    Why exactly should this be illegal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Anyways, I listened to the top 40 station in the region, and let's just say, I was not impressed. He then switched the radio to his iPod and listened to the a science news cast and a indie-top-40, and, the easest way to put it; I'm never listening to the radio again.
  • Re:Worth it? (Score:5, Interesting)

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

    I know that it's an absurd over-reaction, but if no-one is willing to accept the bribe, then there will be no bribe.
  • by inmate ( 804874 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:18AM (#13163778) Homepage
    I believe US law treats companies as legal personae, granting them similiar rights to people.
    Should a person break the law, they may well face a jail term.
    For a company, a jail sentence make sense. Who should be incarcerated? The executives?

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

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

  • Hmm. NY. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by E-Sabbath ( 42104 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:42AM (#13163858)
    I wonder if this is why the NY hard rock station, 92.3 WXRK, changed formats and has ditched nearly all music produced since '95 from the playlist.

    Currently, NY is completely without a modern rock station, leaving only pop Z-100 to play anything new.
  • by el_womble ( 779715 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:50AM (#13163890) Homepage
    It just seems to me that this is all backwards. Selling CDs is just one way an artist can make money from they're music. If we imagine a world where the ability to transfer music is fast, free and easy - making the sale of CDs unnecessary (its easy if you try ;) ) are there other ways that recording companies can continue to make money?
    • Selling music to music radio, music television and dance clubs. Some people see a way to induce people to by CDs others see a market in its own right. This is the way it should be as people, even those in industry are careful not to spend their money on rubbish.
    • Live performance. Some musicians can actually sing outside of a studio. People will pay to see this. Others are pretty good at putting on a show and miming, people will pay to see this too. This is the product that musicians should be trying to sell - entertainment, not plastic discs. In the old days this is how musicians got discovered - you know before Simon Cowel invented Pap Idol
    • Selling interviews. If you are not trying to sell anything, but people are interested in what you have to say, people will pay to hear it, so you can charge the people who want to write it down and sell it. This might mean that music journalists finally get some sense out musicians, and are free to interview interesting people, as opposed the people who will do anything to promote they're album.
    • Merchandise. People will buy actually high profit products that are endorsed by the people they rate.
    • Work in other art industries where you have no right to concider yourself an artist. Britney / Crossroads - we're looking at you.

    Sure I'm deluded - this will never happen. I mean - a technology that removes the need to sell music facsimilies to the masses? No-one will ever invent that! But I can dream can't I?

    When something is essentially free to make, it should be free to use - with one exception: when it is used to generate a profit. Thats when copyright and licence fees should kick in and not before.

  • Re:Worth it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by I_M_Noman ( 653982 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @08:39AM (#13164104)
    I think that the DJs who were accepting these bribes should be forced into retirement.
    It wasn't the DJs this time, but rather the stations' Program Directors and Music Directors. Besides, there aren't very many actual DJs left, are there? And the ones who are there probably don't have the power to deviate from the playlist, at least on the stations that would play this crap. Somehow I don't see Pete Fornatale or Vin Scelsa falling for this.
  • by muellerr1 ( 868578 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @08:48AM (#13164153) Homepage
    Minnesota Public Radio has recently started one of the best alternative radio stations I've heard, 89.3. It's completely listener (and NPR, to some extent) supported, so there aren't any ads and the DJs seem to be able to play whatever they want, judging by the fact that I've never heard the same song twice. Ever.

    I believe that public radio is the only way to get good songs on the air, because they're listener-supported and not just corporate shills.

    Government funding for public television and radio is under attack by Republicans pretending to 'restore balance' when in reality the American public doesn't think there's any bias; the real goal is to take away government funding, which will kill much of the programming. Fucking shame.
  • Re: agree/disagree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BitterAndDrunk ( 799378 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @09:26AM (#13164380) Homepage Journal
    The music industry is stagnating right now. MTV has been useless for several years now, choosing to focus on reality television rather than music videos or innovative sound. Mom and pop radio stations have been bought out by the one or two monopolies left in broadcasting.

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

    Erm. . . I had a revelation halfway through the post. You're referring to the industry not music itself.
    I agree, mostly. The monolithic companies that control most of the music industry are pretty much what you'd expect from a monolith - controlled by inertia, and slow to react.
    The key difference is found where music is really progressing - not in the Clear Channel approved acts but the other stuff that gets no radio play. Look to Ani DiFranco for an example of an artist who is 100% independent. Look to Eighteenth Street Lounge recordings for a small label with huge distribution, and tons of radio play worldwide. (not so much in the US, due to payola and the like).

    So I guess we agree. Traditional model - bad and failing. New models - good.

  • by shish ( 588640 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @09:38AM (#13164452) Homepage
    Then listen to stations that aren't in your area --> [].
  • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @10:37AM (#13164891)
    If the large corporations of the music industry can get an image of "large tax provider" they will become more protected too. Effective DRM and an internet music tax would be ideal for this.

    This would be an interesting situation for the music industry. They could double their prices, give half of their new earnings to the tax collectors, get priviledged status (any laws that they wanted would be rubberstamped), and blame everything on music file downloaders.

    But this is not a good analogy with the tobacco industry. They sell an addictive drug primarily to the working class. Tobacco addicts have no real low-cost substitute. The music industry faces low cost CD-R and DVD-ROM blanks, where people can buy a $70 DVD burner and put 1000 songs on a single 40 cent blank DVD. Plus there are many sources of non-RIAA controlled music.

    Most of this non-RIAA music is not good, but that can be solved by putting out sampler disks (1000 songs by 300 bands on a low-cost DVD). Bands can also have websites where people can write them to explain why they don't like a song and upload examples of other songs that are similar but better. Imagine doing that with a major RIAA band selling millions of title disk. Think Mariah Carey cares that there's too much pseudo-gospel non-verbal 'ooo' and 'ohh'-ing on her tracks? Goodness no, she does what the producer tells her to.
  • Mod Parent Down (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @10:41AM (#13164932)
    Eliot Spitzer is idealistic and ruthless in his pursuit of corruption.

    The idea that he would accept bribes is ludicrous, not to mention stupid. In his high profile position, he would surely be found out.
  • by novakreo ( 598689 ) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @11:41AM (#13165663) Homepage

    Australian radio sucks, and sucks hard.

    Well that depends on where you live. Here in Melbourne, there's also the community radio stations PBS [], Triple R [], Joy [], SYN-FM, and 3MBS [], which more than make up for the drivel on Nova and co.

  • It's funny that the music industry will actually pay out money sneakily to get airplay via the radio and tv, to boost sales, but for some reason airplay via p2p services can only damage their sales.
    It's because P2P services are uncontrolled, so they don't focus the "promotion" on the commodity acts from which the Big 5 make the most money. (or, alternatively, P2P exposes the filler material surrounding the one presumably palattable track on a given release) So P2P does damage sales, but by exposing the crap material and allowing informed choice by the potential purchaser.

    The obvious response would be for the Big 5 to produce more quality output, but given Sturgeon's Paradox (90% of everything is crap, but that 90% varies by individual), that would mean much more expense for the companies to find and expose real talent. For their bottom line, it's much more efficient to just convince the market that Brittney is what they like. But to do that, they have to maintain a stranglehold on the market and suppress alternatives.

  • People are suprised? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:54PM (#13169096)
    Anyone who's ever tried to get a song on the radio knows that payola is alive and well.

    I play in a local rock band. There's a small radio station in the next county north of where I live (they've got about a 20 mile broadcast radius). When we put out our first album we tried to get on their show that showcases "local" bands. Talking to the program director didn't get us anywhere. After being turned down a couple of times the guitar player and I ran into the DJ that hosts the local band show on the radio at a bar we were playing. He really liked our stuff so we gave him a free CD. When we asked if it would be possible to get it on his show he laughed and told us that we had to buy the $2,500 "advertising" package at the station before the program director would even listen to a song off of the CD.

    I'm not suprised that Sony is involved in Payola. What I am suprised at is that they were caught doing it directly. There are "promotion" companies out there that exist only to act as middle-men between the labels and the stations. After talking to the DJ we poked around and found a promoter that works in Chicago (our general area). Let's just say they're not hard to find. For $10,000 he would guarantee us airplay at a major radio station in the Chicago market.

    Oh, and Zardo, not to disparage your friend at all but he knew it was illegal. Even when I was doing college radio we were all made well aware of it and the possible consequences. In reality it's more of a "wink, wink" in the industry because everybody does it. Sony definately got a slap on the wrist. These stories come out every few years so the industry can say that they're cracking down.

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.