Indie Labels Score in Radio Payola Agreement
Apparently, in this age of mp3s, iPods, P2P, torrents, YouTube, webcasts, and TiVo, people still listen to terrestrial radio.
Maybe these people are trapped in cars, or at offices, or maybe they just got one of those sweet Wild Wild West promotional radio headsets from Burger King last century and just can't get enough of it. Maybe (on a serious note...no really), they can't afford the digital knickknacks listed above, in which case we're dicks to poke fun at their radio-listening ways.
Anyhow, whatever their reasons for tuning in, chances are these people who listen to commercial radio are subjected to a whole lot of crap. Major label crap, in most cases, and maybe-- just maybe-- the disc jockey wasn't playing that Staind song every 15 minutes because he liked it. Maybe-- dun dun dun-- he was paid to play it!
That's the history of payola in a nutshell, and you're correct in your assessment that it sucks. Thankfully, legal-minded people have taken the crusade against payola to the courts, and in an uncharacteristic show of reason and integrity, the courts have sided against the money-grubbing corporate evil-doers.
According to The Hollywood Reporter yesterday, four radio giants-- Clear Channel Communications Inc., CBS Radio, Entercom Communications Corp. and Citadel Broadcasting Corp.-- have entered an agreement (a "consent decree", the article calls it) with the FCC in which they'll pay a $12.5 million settlement for payola-related wrongdoing.
Here's the exciting part for the casual radio listener: concomitant to the payola decree but not part of it, the radio giants have reached a second, private agreement with the American Association of Independent Music that will "set aside 8,400 half-hour blocks of time for independent music." That's nearly a half-year's worth of time for the indies, although we have no idea what happens after all those hours are used up.
As the Reporter explains, "The free airtime would be granted to companies not owned or controlled by Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and EMI Group; do not have a market share larger than 5%; and are represented as independent through Nielsen SoundScan."
Now of course we're skeptical, especially since the deal's unofficial, and also since a lot of independent music really blows (trust us, we've got promo bins full of it). In spite of this, it's exciting to see some waves being made, and we hope the radio giants make good on their word. Or else, you know, we'll completely ignore them even more.
While under scrutiny (not to mention illegal) since the 1950s, payola became a huge topic in summer 2005 following then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's much-publicized investigation, which landed Sony BMG, and later Warner Bros. in the doghouse.