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Radio Stations Tapped in New Payola Investigation

In a story as old as the music industry itself, new payola accusations have come to light in New York as Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has dropped subpeonas on some of the largest radio groups in the U.S.

The group includes Clear Channel Communications, Infinity (CBS Radio), Citadel Broadcasting, Cox Radio, Cumulus Broadcasting, Pamal Broadcasting, Entercom Communications, Emmis Communications and ABC.

"A lot of the major songs have been implicated in this, and it showed how pervasive the payola infrastructure had become," Spitzer said. "Major artists, major songs were sent up the charts through improper payments to buy spins on the air that translated into sales."

The big story here isn't that payola is actually going on (gasp!) but that someone is actually investigating this in such a system-wide way. Eliot Spitzer has also been investigating large recording labels like Sony BMG and Warner Music; both have made out of court settlements with the Attorney General's office, choosing instead to pay between $5-10 million.

Power and influence have long been king in the music industry, and cash payments have often times been replaced with gifts and access. This is an interesting angle, as radio stations often times aren't making any money with "bought" promotion but are getting gifts from the the fat of big media empires.

In addition to selling music, these empires also make computers, MP3 players, clothing, and can give access to artists and events they're pushing if you promise to give their music a guaranteed amount of plays in a broadcast rotation. More plays will almost always generate more album sales.

So the music you heard on FM radio may not be the best and most talented artists out there, but the ones that the labels "picked to click."


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