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Music Media The Almighty Buck

Major Broadcasters Hit With $12M Payola Fine 222

Gr8Apes writes with a just-breaking AP story reporting that the FCC is wrapping up a settlement in which four major broadcast companies would pay the government $12.5 million and provide 8,400 half-hour segments of free airtime for independent record labels and local artists. The finish line is near after a 3-year investigation. An indie promoter is quoted: "It's absolutely the most historic agreement that the independent community has had with radio. Without a doubt, nothing else comes close."
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Major Broadcasters Hit With $12M Payola Fine

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  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:24PM (#18254256)
    ... is how Clear Channel and the Big Five are going to neuter this so that they technically comply but don't mess up a good thing.
    • by bizitch ( 546406 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:42PM (#18254536) Homepage
      Easy - they will give the indie labels plenty of air time ....

      Sunday morning around 2am-ish
      • Nah, some people are still out then (that's not "Sunday morning;" that's still just late "Saturday night!"). Make it 5:30-6 AM Sunday morning, and you've got it about right.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Nah, easier than that. Just play the junk and see viewers leave in droves, along with "this boring half hour mandated by your Congressman, name XYZ, up for re-election in just four short months."

          Seriously. If they can't charge for advertising, they have no incentive to search out "good" independents, and suddenly you have a de facto NPR clone playing something some toker deems Worthy. Hence they actually have an incentive to search out, or "allow", to avoid looking complicit, boring content to get on the
      • by Ripley ( 654 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @05:53PM (#18255370)

        Easy - they will give the indie labels plenty of air time .... Sunday morning around 2am-ish
        For example, Sunday March 11, 2007 from 1:59 AM to 3:01 AM.
      • Right. One hour each Sunday morning when there's a DST change from 2 to 3 am. Sounds like a fair deal to me. "Okay folks, let's settle in an listen to...Oops, looks like our time's done here for the Indie segment, now back to our regularly scheduled Clear Channel programming".
    • From the sounds of it they just have to fund a college radio station for 25 weeks. The details of the 8400 segments are pretty lacking so far...just kind of sounds like they need to give them some radio waves. I'm betting radio isn't really going to change at all as a result of this.
      • by pfhlick ( 900680 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @05:00PM (#18254748) Journal
        The FCC is just patting themselves on the back for letting the big four broadcasters off the hook and making a little cash as a sideline. It's a bunch of garbage. They will commit airtime to 'independent' acts, wait for some cream to rise and mine them as best they're able. People who listen to commercial music radio get exactly what they're asking for: 20 minutes of ads to 40 minutes of recycled singles from the 80s, 90s, and beyond! Radio will stay the same. The music industry has been aware for some time that the only way to get the common slob to keep buying the same rehashed "new sensation" garbage is to bribe the broadcasters to beam it directly into the cars that they're slavishly dependent upon. Radio stations will continue to broadcast feeds from 1,500 miles away on autopilot, 24 hours a day, with some fresh indie flavor thrown in for the rebellious young americans. They will continue to bombard you with ads for auto glass repair and continue to not serve the communities they're located in. Switch it off, it's a setup.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Goalie_Ca ( 584234 )
          Time to make a plug for the best independant music radio station in the world. They already have 1 long running podcast.. over 70,000 downloads per week and they just started up 2 more. Best yet it comes in OGG format too :D.

          CBC radio 3 [] and the french canadian station with its own podcast (today its all arcade fire!) []
    • 8400 half-hour slots divided among dozens of radio stations and hundreds of days in the year amounts to practically never knowing when and where the broadcasters are going to play something other than the Mafiaa-dictated playlists.
      • the settlement is chump change, they can ignore it and do business as usual
      • the 1/2 hour "indie" segments will probably run between 3:30AM and 4:00AM if they ever run
      • the "independent labels" will presumably be RIAA members and probably subsidiaries of the big players
  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:25PM (#18254258)
    The fine was nothing, considering the scope of the industries involved. But the air-time for independent broadcasters should be a cool twist.

    At the very least, it'll be fascinating to hear how the broadcasters will transition to the 'punishment' broadcasts...

    "This is wacky bob and the fizz signing off - up next, it's a half-hour of something we don't want you to hear, and we don't get paid for. So, um, enjoy!"

    Ryan Fenton
    • Re:Very cool... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by xerxesVII ( 707232 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:35PM (#18254430)
      Simple. They'll do one of two things (or probably both):

      1. These half-hour blocks will be aired somewhere between midnight and six a.m.
      2. They won't say that this is something they're required to do. They'll crow about how cutting edge and forward thinking they are.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by robkill ( 259732 )

        Each of the major broadcast networks will syndicate a single show of independent music through their syndication subsidiary (Clear Channel: Premiere Radio Networks, Cox: Cox Syndication, CBS: Westwood One) to each of their local affiliates.

        Let's face it. Your standard big radio station formats (classic rock, Top 40, country) don't lend themselves to independent music. Some of the rock stations in big cities can focus a one or two hour show on the local music scene, but most large commercial stations
        • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @05:37PM (#18255198) Homepage

          ...but most large commercial stations aren't interested in promoting small independent acts from other markets, especially if the act doesn't tour and appear in that station's coverage area.

          That's funny. I didn't realize that the broadcasters were in the business of promoting bands. I thought they made their money selling advertising, and therefore tried to find good music to keep listeners. So does that mean record companies are paying broadcasters to promote these bands?

          By the way, what's payola?

        • Don't forget all the Jack FM formatted stations (in addition to the dozens actually named Jack, there are Bobs and Mikes and Dougs and others that don't have silly names but still use the "ipod on shuffle" format). It'd be incredibly easy for them to slip indie stuff in, since their slogan is "We play anything(/everything)" anyhow. These stations are pretty hot right now, and growing - I'll bet they're where a lot of this ends up.
          • Yep, But not a place where someone would hear a good off-label song then start asking for it which would help the genre and the artists. Jack doesn't do requests. They need to be on the top stations by type (Rock, Country, Rap) during peak listener hours (6-10AM and 4-7PM)
    • I wonder what qualify as a "local artist." I could see radio stations running some cheesy "Have all your highschool friends call in and sing songs they made up during class" program. Which would not promote any real local or independent talent.
    • Number Two: [clears throat] Sir, strictly speaking, 12 million dollars will not go very far these days. Virtucon alone makes over 9 billion dollars a year.
      Dr. Evil: Really? Okay then... we hold the world ransom for 1... hundred... BILLION dollars!
  • And far too late. Fine them out of existance.
    • by Orange Crush ( 934731 ) * on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:32PM (#18254368)

      And far too late. Fine them out of existance.

      Screw fining them. Revoke their broadcast licenses. The spectrum "belongs" to the public. They're granted exclusive use of little slices of the spectrum in exchange for playing by our rules (well, the FCC's rules, anyway). Break the rules, and your spectrum goes to somebody who will make better use of it.

    • waah mommy (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah but you gotta give props to this guy: "In a statement Monday, Commissioner Michael Copps said pay-for-play `cheats radio listeners and will not be tolerated.' Radio, he said, is `supposed to be our pipeline to exciting, local undiscovered acts -- not more nationalized pablum from big media companies.'"

      That's "Commissioner" as in FCC Commissioner. So hey, maybe the feds are on the right track for once.
  • by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:27PM (#18254308)

    Large broadcast companies probably have paid a higher price in loss of listenership, as their tired, weary, and limited playlists have driven more and more people to alternatives such as iPods, MP3 players and satellite radio.

    Sure, go ahead, fine them, order them to allocate time to new acts, that's a small loss they can see on their balance sheets in comparison to the difficult to calculate loss of listenership.

    • You are absolutely correct. I stopped listening to broadcast radio several years ago. In fact, it was the moment I hooked up my stereo to a laptop and began listening to Internet based radio. All the music you want, none of the fscked up talking. Its cheaper than XM, better than the cable company alternatives, and has much more choice.

      At this point, I'm happy to report that I no longer know anything about any of the local radio stations.
  • 12.5? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mastershake_phd ( 1050150 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:27PM (#18254316) Homepage
    $12.5 million and provide 8,400 half-hour segments of free airtime for independent record labels and local artists

    A paltry $12.5? Isnt it great when a company gets fined less than it probably made by committing the offense. Its called a cost benefit analysis, basically if crime pays they commit the crime. 4,200 hours of independent/local music sounds good though. I wonder who gets to pick who gets the time.
    • My guess is that the timeslot will be 5am on Sunday morning, right before all the religious and other public service/education programming. I think it would be a hoot to order them to block out a half-hour segment of prime afternoon drive time, commercial-free, as punishment.
      • by unity ( 1740 )
        The LA Times had some more details in their article yesterday: ,1,2865175.story []

        The relevant part:
        "In a separate agreement, the radio companies have agreed to set aside 8,400 half-hour segments of free airtime over the next three years for local and independent artists. The segments would have to air between 6 a.m. and midnight."
        • The segments would have to air between 6 a.m. and midnight.

          So, 11:30PM to 12:00AM on Monday night it is, then! (Seriously, that's not much of a requirement; after 8PM or so, radio listnership absolutely plummets because the rush hour drive is done and practically everyone is home. I can't tell you what's on then, because I never hear it, but on the local rock station where I used to live, they used to run this Lovelines-type call-in-about-your-penile-boils show from like 11PM on.)
    • 4,200 hours of independent/local music sounds good though.

      Now divide this by the number of radio stations owned by the broadcasters....
    • by garcia ( 6573 )
      I want to know if that 12.5 million dollars is going to be used to fund programs that the FCC shouldn't be in charge of in the first place -- like indecency. Their job is to control dividing up the spectrum, not what is or isn't acceptable to put on it.
      • Yes well the Constitution is supposed to be more than a list of suggestions to. Congress shall make no law....THINK OF THE CHILDREN! The founding fathers didnt have Howard Stern!
    • Not only is there no real punishment for these corporations, the linked article is itself an indicator of a deeper problem: it is carefully written so as to avoid painting any of the businesses as illegal actors where adequate, democratically-arrived-at remedies ought to be applied. There is no simple and clear declaration akin to what one /. poster wrote: "The recording companies are illegally paying off radio broadcast networks to get exposure for their music." nor anything as short and simple as the /.
  • by Zeek40 ( 1017978 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:31PM (#18254362)
    Why aren't the Music Labels who are offering the payola being fined as well? If the police see a drug deal, both the buyer and the seller will be arrested. How is this any different?
  • I do remember reading articles related to the NY settlement that stations were paid or coerced into playing her album. Too many bands are foisted upon us and most listeners don't even realize it. Still long term I doubt it will have that much impact, the record companies will come up something similar that fits in the rules.

    Hell, CDs are still essentially price fixed, and how long has that been going on?
  • by ghoti ( 60903 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:35PM (#18254414) Homepage
    From TFA:

    Radio listeners weary of hearing the same songs over and over may have something to cheer about

    Huh? Ever heard of that dial thing on your radio? You don't need the government to step in and change the programming, just put down the Slurpee for a second and change the station. It's really no wonder ClearChannel et al are taking over the entire market when people can't be bothered to vote with their dials. There are still lots of alternatives, find them while they still exist and support them!
    • by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @05:00PM (#18254734)

      Some time ago, this was a valid remedy for substandard programming. The biggest reason being that FCC regulations prohibited an entity from owning more than one station in a market area. That has since changed. Now you have large broadcast conglomerates that own several stations in a market. Sure, they don't want to compete against themselves, so they typify each station with one of their "researched" genre formats (i.e. A.C./Top40, Country, Urban/Rap, Alternative, 70's/80's etc.).

      Of course, each one of these formats are based upon listenership tuned in, on average, 20 minutes at a time. So what happens? They put a handful of "popular songs" into heavy rotation so that there's a good chance that it will play during some 20 minute window. And, of course if the research works in one market, then why not apply it to all of the conglomerate's markets. The result, any particular format is pretty much homogeneous across their span of coverage. Stations begin to lack individuality (outside of their personalities and callsign sweeper).

      So what about the independents? Well, if they grow enough listenership in a market, they become ripe for a buyout by "big radio". One would think that new independent stations would come in to replace them, but you need to remember that "licenseable" spectrum is finite. At some point, there are no free channels left to assign, and this has already been the case for a long time in larger markets.

  • Variety (Score:4, Funny)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:35PM (#18254422)
    You mean we may now actually have some musical variety on the airwaves?
    • by overshoot ( 39700 )

      You mean we may now actually have some musical variety on the airwaves?
      If I had mod points I'd mod this one "ROTFLMAO Funny."
  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:36PM (#18254436) Journal
    generally defined as radio stations accepting cash or other consideration from record companies in exchange for airplay.

    I thought that radio stations paid the record companies a license fee in order to broadcast their music? Can somebody in the industry (or with knowhow) clarify how this works?
    • Yes, they do (Score:4, Informative)

      by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:46PM (#18254586)

      I thought that radio stations paid the record companies a license fee in order to broadcast their music? Can somebody in the industry (or with knowhow) clarify how this works?
      No, they are only required to pay the composers. The artists get nothing, which is why so many of them write their own (mediocre at best) material rather than cover something better. That, and they use the records and airtime to get fans for concert gigs, which is where the real money is.

      Now, "Internet radio" is something else. They have to pay per play not only to the composers but to the record labels, and they pay handsomely. Of course, the artists still don't get anything but at least we're being protected from the horrors of radio over the Internet.

      • by Peyna ( 14792 )
        Composers are artists. In fact, they are probably much more deserving of the title "artist" than "recording artists."

        But anyway, you pay royalties to the copyright holder for the composition. It could be anyone, and probably more than likely is a record label.
    • I thought that radio stations paid the record companies a license fee in order to broadcast their music?

      Radio stations pay money to either ASCAP [] (the first) or BMI [] (created to compete with ASCAP) or SESAC [] (the E stands for Europe), which deal with the licensing of music & the collection of fees.

      Basically, the radio stations are going to be paying licensing fees no matter what they put on the air. Payola either gets a new song some airtime, or gets an existing song more airtime.

      Payola is legal if the DJ

  • by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:41PM (#18254518)
    I worked for a brief while in the music industry and can tell you that this won't mean a thing. The airtime that will be devoted to independent labels will get sucked up by independent imprints and offshoots that still very much bow to their corporate overlords. There are quite a few "independent" labels out there that are run by someone in the A&R department at a major label. Consider it their "hobby" record label. However, quite often they have agreements whereby the major label that the "independent label" owner works for has first rights to signing any bands that the "independent" label managed to dig up. Labels like this are just another cog in the machine, and I assure you this is where the majority of that airtime will be going...
  • ...indie bands being heard on mainstream radio stations so that they can be "discovered" by major labels and have their music stripped from them in exchange for exhorbitant amounts of money and their very souls.

    I would prefer to have to keep searching for unknown indie music groups rather than have them fed to me, thank you.
    • Speaking of searching for new indie music, anybody interested in a [to be clear: free] invitation to the members-only I've earned quite a few (through keeping a good ratio there, being nice, etc.) I just have stockpiled. It's a tracker dedicated to beautiful music made by hardworking, (mainly) DIY musicians keeping themselves far and away from the RIAA Radar's pulsewaves. The added benefit of never having to worry about a lawsuit for anything grabbed or upped on the tracker is very nic
  • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @04:49PM (#18254622)
    Let me get this straight. The recording companies are illegally paying off radio broadcast networks to get exposure for their music. At a time when the number of listeners to broadcast radio is in decline. At the same time, they're trying to kill off Internet radio, satellite radio, and trying to strong-arm their main on-line distributer - Apple. Oh, yeah - and don't forget lawsuits against their customers. Either the heads of marketing in the recording industry have large short positions in their own company, or else there's a serious need to start drug testing.
    • by nuzak ( 959558 )
      > At the same time, they're trying to kill off Internet radio

      Because they don't control it.

      > satellite radio


      > and trying to strong-arm their main on-line distributer - Apple.

      hat trick.

      Perfectly logical when you're looking at an industry that has no ability to deal as an equal. They want total control or nothing. And they have congress to ensure that the latter option isn't available.
      • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @05:26PM (#18255054)
        The recording companies are distributors. Musicians supply them with music that they then sell to retailers like Apple, Wal-Mart, etc. These in turn sell to the public. They've grown used to controlling every aspect of the distribution process and as a result grabbing the bulk of the revenue generated.

        If you look at the history of American railroads in the nineteenth century, it was similar. They controlled distribution of goods and in many cases could charge what they wanted. Farmers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers suffered, but had no alternative. At least till technological development changed things (trucks and highways). Then suppliers and consumers had a way of bypassing the rails, and did so. Eventually the rail companies adapted (mixed mode transport) and even prospered.

        Like the railroads, the recording industry is trying to maintain control. And now the environment is changing. Unlike the rails, the recording industry appears to be unable to adapt and determined to shoot themselves in the foot ... repeatedly ... with large caliber weapons.
    • What you don't realize is that, according to their plan, all that doesn't matter. Marketing doesn't matter. Radio doesn't matter. "Customers" (What are they? Surely you mean "consumer whores," right? Or "sheeple," at the least...) don't matter.

      So what does matter? Increasingly draconian copyright laws matter. DRM (especially ubiquitous DRM, like how Microsoft is pushing, e.g. WMP adding DRM to ripped tracks by default) matters. Payola between the labels, radio stations, and (DRM'd) hardware and software ma

    • FYI.. Clear channel is sponsoring a couple of channels on XM. It is easy to figure out which ones. But 98% of the other channels are not Clear Channel sponsored.

      After 3 months of XM.. I keep wondering WHY I kept listening to regular radio so much.
  • I know this is going to be considered a troll - I listened to Air America when it was on Sirius, and I don't want to disparage it, but how come they can pay to be carried on certain radio stations, and record labels can't pay to have songs from their artists carried on radio stations?

    Don't get me wrong, I want to listen to the independent labels and artists, I want to get wide exposure to new (to me) music, but frankly if we live in a free market, don't we need to accept the bad with the good?
    • Me paying you to play my song is advertising. Me handing you money under the table to play the song, then you claiming that you're picking the songs 'you like best' or that 'the audience demands' is fraud, deceptive advertising, and probably tax evasion.

      No one's saying they can't pay to have their songs played. We're just saying they can't lie about doing so.
    • ...frankly if we live in a free market, don't we need to accept the bad with the good?

      Radio spectrum is limited and regulated by the government. Therefore, -- and I want to make sure everyone gets this, because I'm tired seeing it needing to be repeated -- RADIO IS NOT, AND NEVER COULD BE, A FREE MARKET!

    • by DeepHurtn! ( 773713 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @05:30PM (#18255104)
      "Free markets" only have a chance in hell of actually functioning anything like the fantasies of neo-liberal economists if consumers have the resources to make informed decisions. Payola blatantly violates that, by turning the song into nothing more than a paid advertisement for price-fixed pieces of plastic and presenting it as if its placement on the Top 40 is the result of requests or other measures of popularity. Oligopolies are the enemy of the free market because they can make backroom deals like this out of the public eye that distort the market.

      Besides, these companies do not have an inherent right to broadcast at all. You, as an American, own the airwaves, NOT the broadcasters; they are using a public resource for private gain, and part of that deal is that they owe something to the public. Asking them to kindly not lie out of their teeth in order to enrich a few people's pockets doesn't seem like much to ask, eh?

      Finally, I don't think you, as an American citizen, *need* to accept anything! As a citizen, aren't you theoretically part of the body politic...? Are you not, in theory at least, participating in your country's sovereignty, in fact the ultimate basis for that sovereignty? Are you really happy to surrender that sovereignty to entrenched business interests? If so, what's the point of Democracy at all? Government for the people, by the people, and all that jazz?

    • by IthnkImParanoid ( 410494 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @05:47PM (#18255308)
      From wikipedia:

      Under United States law, 47 U.S.C. 317, a radio station always has had the ability to play a specific song in exchange for money; however, this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime, and that play of the song should not be reported as a "spin". Some radio stations report spins of the newest and most popular songs to industry publications, which are then published. [...]On influential stations (and particularly on television) payola can become so commonplace that it becomes difficult for artists to get their records/videos played without offering some sort of payment.

      There you go. My opinion: if radio stations were allowed to accept money for non-advertising plays of songs, only people who could pay would ever be broadcast, which is an abuse of a government granted monopoly.
  • by hguorbray ( 967940 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @05:19PM (#18254974)
    I'm sure that the media conglomerates will also just use existing local band shows to satisfy some of the hours required by the settlement....


    Our local san Francisco CC station KITS (Live105) has one of those shows, but actually they are already a better station than most ('fighting for alternative rock' is their current slogan)

      I think the SF Bay Area has more musical diversity than most places....
    besides KITS we have KFOG (eclectic) and the college stations (the mighty KFJC, KSJS, KSCU and KSZU) and our weird, fringe broadcasters (KKUP, KALX, KPFA, KPFB).

    indie rock, just as it's 80s predecessors college rock and punk in the 70s and underground music in the 60's has had a large impact on music in the past few years and as usual, the mainstream outlets have tried and will continue to fail to subvert and commoditize it because these movements thrive (esp like punk) by going against the mainstream. Kids will never (I hope) accept corporations telling them what is cool (except maybe apple).

    Just because an indie label has a distribution deal with someone like sony/BMG doesn't mean that they are no longer works the same way in the indie film world.

    -I'm just sayin'
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PCM2 ( 4486 )

      Just because an indie label has a distribution deal with someone like sony/BMG doesn't mean that they are no longer works the same way in the indie film world.

      Tell that to the folks that run 924 Gilman Street. [] You got major label distribution, you don't play Gilman. It's a widely disputed policy, but it does make a certain sort of sense, to wit: By sticking to this policy, corporate interests do not get to infiltrate independent/alternative venues with "submarine" artists who will later be re

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rhakka ( 224319 )
      I'm not sure how you think punk has "thrived" by "going against the mainstream". It did, until it thrived enough to make major interests interested. Then, post-Green day, we got the whole emo scene, which is basically "corporate punk" targetted at the teens that don't want to wear the country or urban uniforms and instead identify with angst ridden rockers.

      And it sells very well. Kids very easily accept corporations telling them what is cool, as long as the corporation says the right things and has the r
  • by cheezit ( 133765 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @05:26PM (#18255044) Homepage
    Ever notice how many acts start on smaller labels, prove their value, then get snapped up by the majors? This deal will undoubtedly result in the big companies adopting independent labels as de facto "minor league" holding areas. The focus for Sony et al will be on how to manipulate the allocation of the time reserved for independent labels to favor the "independent" labels that feed Sony.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see artist contracts for the independent labels that designate a favored path for contract buyout---"sign with Sony Junior (an independent label) and if your contract is bought out by Sony, you'll get an additional 5% of T-shirt sales!"
  • 12.5 is not enough (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DynamoJoe ( 879038 )
    12.5 million? They won't even put down their whiskey to sign that check. 4,200 hours of indie radio hurts them a little more - do they have to run it in drive time, or can they bury it in 2-hour shows early Sunday mornings?

    It's all useless, though, since Broadcasters would admit to no wrongdoing. Let's have some punishment, people!

  • by Scott7477 ( 785439 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2007 @05:58PM (#18255444) Homepage Journal
    is that a lot of those songs that you thought got played a lot because they were popular among your peers were just played because somebody slipped the DJ a couple of fifties. To me, the point isn't that "indie" music didn't get airtime; it is that the Top 40 wasn't based on what kids liked to listen to but what product the record labels had under contract that they needed to make their money back on. There have been a lot of crap songs on the Billboard 200 over the last 30 years; payola is at least a partial explanation.

    With podcasting and MP3's and so forth the only excuse you have for not finding independent music to listen to is your own laziness.
    • the DJ has nothing to do with it. Payola is run out of the major chains directly as a profit center. Simply assume that EVERY song played on a radio station part of a chain is a commercial some RIAA label paid for. And that the same will continue to be true, all that will result is more creative ways to get around the anti-payola laws and FCC regulations.
  • I'm a local musician and would like some of the free air time.

    Anyone know how this can be done?

  • Useless. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cervantes ( 612861 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:03AM (#18259648) Journal
    This whole thing is useless.

    12.5 mil is a sneeze to these guys. It will barely pay for the cost of the 3-year investigation. It's the FCC saying "Hey guys, we're done, but we don't want to admit we paid millions for this investigation. Can you pay for us?"

    4200 hours of independent programming? Great. Cue 4200 different stations all owned by the same guys playing 1 hour of "independent" material gleaned from wholy-owned subsidiaries of the same companies that got busted, and that 1 hour will be from 2-3 AM on a Sunday.

    The whole thing is a make-work project that won't change a damn thing. No fine that actually means something, no meaningful changes... nothing. But everyone can claim something special was done, nothing will change, and in 2 or 3 years the same thing will happen again.

    This isn't even bread and circuses for the masses, this is crumbs. I don't call shenannigans, I call pathetic.
  • by rmckeethen ( 130580 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @04:14AM (#18259682)

    Perhaps I'm simply ignorant or naive, but I fail to see why anyone has a problem with modern-day payola. A lot has changed since the early payola scandals of the 50s, and pay-for-play deals between radio stations and the music industry aren't what they used to be.

    Back in the days when DJs controlled which songs played on the radio, and when radio itself was seen as a public service, it made a perverse kind of sense for record labels to ply DJs with drugs, booze, women and money in an attempt get certain songs played on the radio. More airplay equates to increased record sales for the labels, making pay-for-play payola a powerful and lucrative lure for both record companies and DJs. As long as radio is perceived as a public service, payola in any form ends up looking like a bribe, and a 'dirty' bribe at that.

    Today though, a lot has changed in the radio industry. Tapes, CDs, iPods, satelite radio and, most importantly, the Internet have made the old public service arguement moot. In addition, DJs don't call the shots anymore at most radio stations, making modern payola much 'cleaner' than it once was. Nowadays, record labels don't need to offer the full battery of sinful inducements to get their songs played; cash is probably sufficent for most execs. And, when you think about it, why shouldn't it be? Pay-for-play payola is really nothing more than simple advertising, and what's wrong with that?

    If you take the sordid elements out of payola, does it really make any difference if it's Record Label X paying for three minutes of airtime to play their song, vs. Joe's Hardware store hawking hammers with their three minutes? By definition, advertising is paying for th promotion of a product or service. If Record Label X pays thousands of dollars to buy a 30-second spot suggesting you buy a particular album, how is this different from the same record label paying money to simply play a song? Where does the public lose in this scenario? Who supposedly gets hurt? Keep in mind that the independant record label issue is a red herring. Small, independant labels suffer most when payola schemes are secret and hidden, as they are today. If payola is above-board and open, if we treat it like advertising, independant labels get the same opportunities to buy airtime as the major labels now have. Keeping payola underground just raises the bar to market entry as it forces smaller labels into playing the game the way the major labels play it, ensuring that only the big boys with large wads of cash have the means to strike secret deals to have their songs played on-air. Five decades ago, payola scandals hurt both radio stations and the record industry, largely due to the public's perception that payola cheated the public service aspect of radio. Today, it's our out-dated perception of radio as a public service that causes the most harm.

    Payola has always been a problem for commercial radio, and today's settlement isn't suddenly going to change the economic conditions that create the payola problem in the first place. As long as airplay increases music sales, we'll always have payola. And, contrary to TFA, a $12 million settlement isn't going to do a single thing to improve the playlists of large commercial radio stations.

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.