That Explains It: Radio Stations Took Payola To Play Jessica Simpson

from the let's-annoy-the-customers dept

New York’s Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, filed suit today against radio operator Entercom on a good old fashioned charge of payola. The company allegedly took payments to play songs by Liz Phair, Jessica Simpson and Avril Lavigne, in the last case playing one of her songs 109 times in one week. The practice of payola isn’t much different than a website or product buying links from a popular website to fuel traffic and higher search engine rankings. In both cases it’s unseemly, but ultimately the seller pays for this by auctioning of its credibility, or whatever it is that made it popular. The decline of commercial radio stations, flogging bland top-40 “hits”, suggests that such consequences don’t just work in theory. Spitzer, in his statement, noted that payola harmed listeners because song selections aren’t based on artistic merit. This is true, but prosecuting consumer-unfriendly practices only encourages creative ways to get around the law. With many competing entertainment options available, letting businesses harm their own product, seems like punishment enough. Of course, playing an Avril Lavigne song 15 times a day might still be worthy of an investigation.

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Comments on “That Explains It: Radio Stations Took Payola To Play Jessica Simpson”

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Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

not only is the music crappy, but if it is on so much then you wont need to buy the cd, just turn on the radio to listen to it. so they are making people listen to crappy music, brainwashing them to think it is good, then putting it on so much that they have no need to buy a cd

record crappy music
play it on radio
brainwash people to like it

yeah, im a /.er

Mr. Lucas Brice says:

Re: No Subject Given

If you hear it enough times, you can just play it in your head.

What about that no-talent Ashlee Simpson? Surely someone paid radio stations oodles of money to play her music, not to mention money that must have gone to women’s magazines to put her on the cover. Hell, it must have taken a few million dollars just to supply the manpower to airbrush her big nose.

dkwdba says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

…. I know its’ hard to believe – but with a pre-teen daughter at home…. they actually like to hear the same song played repeatededededlylyly….
I didn’t really get that until she got her first Avril CD and put it in on repeat… for 4 hours.
I know this is about payola, but it isn’t the concept of playing a song 15 times a day that’s wrong – but the paying for it.
In some places, there are enough pre-teens and teenagers to “request” songs enough times to make any sort of payola scheme look petty.

happy user says:

Re: Re:JACK-FM for example?

i type my words into a search engine and plenty of websites are displayed.

i click on one of the several, and it brings me to a site that has the information i desire.

if that website also displays many annoying advertisements across my screen that animate, show pornography or distract me from easily reading the information offered, i will backtrack to the search engine and look for a different webpage to get my information from… never looking back.

this is the same for me when looking for a radio station to listen to…

JACK-FM for example: They may play a couple of songs hat I want to hear. but for the mast part, that they play a bunch of crap songs or in orders that don’t make sense, breaking the song rhythm (Rolling Stones -> Madonna -> Diana Ross -> Nirvana …etc), then I am less likely to return to that station.

the same could be said for stations that repeat the same song every 45 minutes or whenever i turn on the radio, they are playing that same song again… or they always play commercials.

at this point, it’s worth it to me to purchase $200 worth of ipod -> car-radio OR satellite OR basic CD/MP3 changer equipment and just not listen to radio at all.

Jeff from NJ says:

Re: and the RIAA still doesn't see the connection

Reminds me of the whining we heard on the Oscars the other night (twice) from the Pres of the Academy about how people should go to the theaters to see a movie and not view via DVD. Yeah, right. $9.50 per ticket, $5.00 for popcorn, $3.50 for a soda…now there’s good value too! And they wonder why box office sales are down. Wouldn’t be crappy movies and high prices, would it? Nah. What a bunch of dinosaurs.

Neal (profile) says:

Re: Crappy music

I am pretty sure Matisyahu is doing the same thing. That song sux large. They are just trying to cram some middle eastern crap down our throats. Plus reggae blows aside from the best, Marley. Every other reggae song sounds like all the other ones. Our altrock station plays that song like it was a new Red Hot Chili Peppers song, sooooo overplayed. But as long as the radio stations are making $ they are happy.

Jimmy Z says:

Re: Re: True, but...

Good points, but with all the mentioned analogies, you still have the option to look for what best suites your needs (unless you’re a complete moron).

In the case with the crap that’s played on the radio, you can either turn the station and listen to other crap or change the source of your music (Satellite, MP3, etc..) You can’t select to listen to another song from the same station.

The quality of most of the music played on the radio is very poor. It’s not even music really and most intelligent people have moved away from radio to other mediums.

Trikein says:

Re: Re: Re: I only listen to local radio.

When the use of motor cars became world wide, people thought the Horse would go exstinct. When the phone was invented, people thought we wouldn’t write letters. Now we have the ability to choose the music we buy from how it sounds. Not what the cover looks like, what show the Artist was on, or how many times it played on the radio. The recording industry cries fire like a enviromentalist cries “Save the earth”. It’s not the earth which is at risk, but Us, the people on it. The artist will always find a way to sell his music, because it is a valuable product(or sometimes it is not). The reason the record companies are scaresd is they don’t really have a product, they have a ability. A ability technology has outgrown a need for. But they would rather have us ride around in Horse and buggies so they can make that one last dirty penny.

RevMike (user link) says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

“O’Reilly and Limbaugh both pay folks to carry their shows…”

You have no concept of radio, do you?

Radio stations either pay them or run their commercials.

It is actually a little more complex than that. There are three typical ways that content providers get their products broadcast.

  1. The broadcaster pays top $ for the right to broadcast, and sells their own commercials.
  2. No money is exchanged, or a smaller amount is exchanged in either direction, and some of the commercials are sold by content provider and others are sold by the broadcaster.
  3. The content provider buys the airtime outright, then sells the commercials.

Watch your primetime network television sometime. Typically a show will go to commercial break and you’ll see a series of national commercials. Next you’ll see a short promo for the network itself, followed by a series of local commercials. Then the show comes back on. Most primetime TV follows the second model.

Anonymous Coward #42 says:

Wiki-Definition of Payola

In the music industry, the illegal practice of record companies paying money for the broadcast of records on music radio is called payola, if the song is presented as being part of the normal day’s broadcast.

Under United States law, a radio station has always 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. The number of times the songs are played can influence other stations around the country to play or pass on a particular song. 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. The term gets its name as a take-off of the names of some early record-playing machines, such as Victrola.

Alan Freed?a disc jockey and early supporter of rock and roll?saw his career and reputation greatly harmed by a payola scandal. Another early disc jockey who was nearly derailed by the payola scandal was Dick Clark, but he avoided trouble by selling his stake in a record company and cooperating with authorities.

The practice was criticized in the chorus of the Dead Kennedys song “Pull My Strings,” a parody of the song “My Sharona” sung to a crowd of music industry leaders during a music award ceremony.

Currently a different form of payola is used by the record industry through the loophole of being able to pay a third party or independent record promoters (“indies”; not to be confused with independent record labels), who will then go and “promote” those songs to radio stations. Offering the radio stations “promotion payments”, the independents get the songs that their clients, record companies, want on the playlists of radio stations around the country.

Because of this, a very large majority of DJs are cut out of the song-picking decisions and are instead told what to play and when (for the most part) by music directors and/or “higher ups” at their radio stations.

This new type of payola sidesteps current FCC regulations requiring that, if a song is paid for by the record company, the radio station must state that it was paid for. Using independent intermediaries allows the record company to avoid directly paying the radio station, thus the radio station need not report it as a paid promotion.

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has been prosecuting payola-related crimes in his jurisdiction. His office settled out of court with Sony BMG Music Entertainment in July 2005, and Warner Music Group in November 2005. Both conglomerates agreed to pay $10 and $5 million respectively for distribution by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to New York State non-profit organizations that will fund music education and appreciation programs throughout the state. The other two majors Universal Music Group and EMI remain under investigation. [1]

Jeremiah (user link) says:

Uhh, no Joe....

Joe speaketh: “The practice of payola isn’t much different than a website or product buying links from a popular website to fuel traffic and higher search engine rankings. In both cases it’s unseemly, but ultimately the seller pays for this by auctioning of its credibility, or whatever it is that made it popular.”

Dear god man, payola is HUGELY different than advertising….for one, it’s *illegal.* Secondly, payola is a kind of fraud…it’s not just “promotion” or “advertising” in a different skin.

And I’m sorry, are you honestly insinuating that an artist’s credibility is somehow magically at stake because they benefitted from payola?

See: The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, etc. None of these acts have artistic credibility issues (at least due to payola 😉 and every one of them benefitted from payola practices at some point in their careers….


Peter Rambo says:

No Subject Given

Wait… people still listen to the radio?

I’d care… if I hadn’t bought my first mp3-cd player as a Junior in High School ~7-8 years ago…

80% of music on the radio sucks. And by that I mean 20% of music on the top 40 is good, 20% on the college radio is good, and 0% on the modern rock radio is good (not a typo).

If you care about music, you’re looking for new music on music forums and myspace and bittorrent or talking to friends or paying attention to who your favorite bands are touring with or listening to the bands that they cover or cite as influences. You’re not listening to the radio, be it the top 40 or the pretentious (but allegedly independent) college radio or the modern hard (but totally wussified) rock station.

And if you don’t care about music, you’re listening to the radio and reading People and paying attention to who Avril/Ashley is dating and what’s going on in the Jessica divorce trial and not reading techdirt.

I thought this was a modern tech blog. The radio is an outdated tech that shouldn’t be reported on anylonger.

Tin Ear (user link) says:

I knew there was a reason..

I only listen to radio stations that play the music I grew up with. Classic Rock for the most part. I don’t really care for most of the more contemporary artists, many of whom are just not as talented in writing or performing as my favorites. I was listening to a recording from Offspring the other day. It was playing loud from my son’s room. I heard the words, I heard the instruments, but I could only think “It would be better if the guy could actually sing.” Most of the bands that have been touted by the contemporary radio stations sound much the same to me. Lousy and with very little talent. My 2cents…

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