As the news comes out about yet another admission by a record label that it will pay fines for being involved in a payola scam, it makes you wonder if payola even matters any more. Despite years of similar lawsuits and similar fines and apologies, the practice of paying to get songs played on the radio obviously still happens all the time. It doesn't seem to stop. But with traditional radio losing out as a source of music compared to many competing offerings (online, satellite radio, etc.) will payola still matter? Payola makes a lot of sense when you have limited airtime with limited stations. However, when the coverage is much broader, then payola suddenly becomes a lot less valuable. While it did help create the megastars of today, it's becoming clear that we're moving towards an age where there may be fewer megastars, but many more successful musical acts -- as they have a better ability to reach the right audience without having to go through just a few gatekeepers. There will always be some gatekeepers and tastemakers, obviously, but the field is no longer so limited. So, perhaps, it isn't decades and decades of useless legal sentences and empty promises that will stop payola scams -- but simply new technology that will make paying to get your music played a lot more obsolete.
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