How Payola Works Today… Or Why You Only Hear Major Label Songs On The Radio

from the who-listens-to-radio-any-more? dept

Over at the Tunecore blog, former Rykodisc President George Howard has a post up explaining how payola works today in the world of major labels and radio stations. While I know that a large percentage of folks reading this here are rushing to the comments to declare “ha! who listens to radio any more!” the fact is that a ton of people do, and for the major labels, it’s still a key (if not the key) way to “break” an act. And even though the labels keep getting dinged every decade or so for payola, the process never seems to change much, other than greater efforts to separate out the transactions so that the record labels can pretend that they’re not bribing radio station employees, even though everyone knows that’s exactly what’s happening:

Getting a song ?added? to a station?s playlist to get a certain number of plays per week involves a rather byzantine process that brings in various parties, called independent promoters (?indies?). These ?indies? are first paid by the label. It?s important to note that the money the indies receive isn?t necessarily compensation paid directly to them for getting Program Directors to get a song played. Rather, they work more like an intermediary to pass the label?s money to the radio station. These indies, with the money paid to them from the labels, pay the radio station money for various listener give-aways, bumper stickers and so on. To top it off, these very same indies are often also paid a second time by the stations themselves as a consultant to advise the stations on what songs they should play.

Because of this, the major labels absolutely dominate radio airplay. Independent labels could try to hire the same indie promoters, but won’t get the same attention anyway:

Here?s why: You?ve come to these indies, and they?ve gone to the labels, and they?ve taken your money, and they know that you?re probably not coming back any time soon. On the other hand, the majors are coming every week with money and new artists. Who would you prioritize if you were in the indie/radio station?s shoes?

Now, as Howard notes, and many of you probably have already realized, this is not a sustainable system. Because if radio keeps playing crappy songs based on bribes rather than quality, in an age where there are greater and greater alteranatives, the system won’t hold. More and more people will go elsewhere, where there’s more choice and fewer guys with briefcases full of cash making the decisions.

If you’re wondering exactly why the labels have been trying to shut down popular hip hop blogs recently, look no further than this story. Such blogs have really become “the new radio” for creating hits for the younger generation. But, unlike the old radio, the major labels don’t “control” these blogs in the way they control radio. While some of it may just be the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, there are at least some who see this as an opportunity to “regain control.” Forcing blogs offline and/or trying to significantly limit them is a pure power play by the labels against hip hop blogs. It’s got nothing to do with copyright or being worried about someone’s songs leaking. It’s why the RIAA is out there sending takedowns on music that a Universal Music employee purposely put online for free.

Now I’ve said before that I’m not convinced that payola for radio play is necessarily wrong or bad. A play on radio is effectively a commercial for that music/musicians. And paying for commercials is (obviously) fairly common. Is it really so crazy that some in the industry want to “buy” spots? I get the argument concerning the lack of transparency. And, in fact, as technology becomes more widespread, and as the next generation of services launches, radio stations are going to be forced to move away from payola not because they don’t like the practice… but because people won’t be relying on radio so much for leaning about new songs. For the time being, it’s likely that these kinds of situations will last. But consumers just aren’t going to stand for it that much longer.

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Comments on “How Payola Works Today… Or Why You Only Hear Major Label Songs On The Radio”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What you call it rip off was once called rise to fame, promotion, larger exposure, market place.

You had to at least pretend you cared if you was to sell anything, copyright has corrupted that and some people few they are entitled to mandate others how they should use or consume something inside their own homes, the logical conclusion of this is that nobody respect them anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

So then you admit that it’s not only the major labels that are being listened to.

There is a lot of CC licensed content out there that’s also being listened to as well. Content that people can use file sharing networks to distribute. Content that they can use broadcast radio (if it weren’t for our oppressive laws) and cableco infrastructure (again, if it weren’t for our monopolistic laws) to distribute. Content that can be heard in restaurants and other venues (if it weren’t for collection societies that demand payment under the pretext that someone ‘might’ infringe and for a legal system that encourages such behavior through potentially insanely high infringement penalties and far lower penalties for making baseless threats).

These and other distribution mechanisms can be used to freely distribute content that people will listen to if made more widely available, but such CC and other permissibly licensed content is being systematically locked out of distribution through oppressive monopolistic laws that seek to grant indefinite monopolies on all content and their distribution channels.

Only monopolized content is permitted distribution over many of these monopolized content distribution channels thanks to a corrupt government that establishes monopolies on almost everything.

Then they dare call this a free market capitalistic society. More like plutocracy.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: Re:


There’s nothing wrong with greed as a motivation. It’s quite effective at getting non-artist types to create the necessary infrastructure for artists to thrive.

No, I don’t mean the big labels. I mean every distribution method. I also mean instrument manufacturers, concert ticket sellers, etc.. There are plenty of things that make musicians and fans lives easier that wouldn’t exist or would be much less accessible if there weren’t money to be made.

The problem isn’t wanting money, it’s wanting control. And we keep right on electing asshats who keep giving them more.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There’s nothing wrong with greed as a motivation.

Actually you confuse wanting to be paid a reasonable sum to keep you going in the business with greed. You also confuse greed for money with greed for control.

The fact is that most people’s financial motivation is limited to that which they consider “fair”. After all most of us would be perfectly happy with a material life supported by around $100k annual income.

Most people outside of subsistence employment chose their profession based on what they enjoy doing and merely want to be paid enough to keep on doing it without money worries. That isn’t greed.

Those who pursue money beyond that threshold as an (apparent) end in itself are actually either pursuing power of using money as a means of keeping score. That really is greed – and it is a distorted motivation that is generally destructive. We would be better off without it.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You have hit the nail squarely upon its head.

If left unchecked, greed, lust for power, etc will spiral out of control eventually causing mass destruction and chaos. The megalomaniacs responsible will blame it all on terrorists or whomever the present fall guy is. They do not see themselves as having anything to do with the problems.

Zeth says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Wait, wanting up to $100k per year isn’t ‘greedy’? Seriously? That’s your threshold for ‘perfectly happy’? Everyone below that level of income is allowed to be legitimately unhappy at their income level and can seek higher income with out being labeled as ‘greedy’? The amount of wealth $100k/yr can get you would boggle the minds of most of the humans living on Earth.

People making under $100k don’t keep score? Since when?

what is “subsistence employment” anyway? Income less than $100k? Is the implication that people who make over $100k are choosing their jobs for the fun?

Making $100k/yr puts you within the top 20% of HOUSEHOLD incomes in the US (and over 3/4ths of the top 20% of households have two earners.) To say nothing of the world population.

Claiming that striving for %100k per year isn’t ‘greedy’ just shows how arbitrary the word ‘greed’ is. I’M not greedy. I’m fair! It’s the other guy who makes more than me who is greedy!

Ilfar says:

Re: Re: No Wonder

The patrol car for one of the security runs I used to do Night Patrols in could only tune one station – Not uncommon to hear the really popular songs played six or seven times in a twelve hour period.

I’d rather listen to something, and at least they played often enough I could learn to sing along. Thank god the stereo went loud enough I couldn’t hear myself!

Anonymous Coward says:

This I believe is part of the reason the RIAA, via their subsidiary organization, pushed for the outrageous royalty rates that Internet radio is required to pay to play songs, rates which are more than an order of magnitude higher than what satellite or broadcast radio pays. The crux of the problem is that Internet radio is uncontrollable, and what’s to prevent them from playing (and thus promoting) music from independent artists and labels. The big labels, with their reputations for making all the money and screwing artists, need to maintain the status quo whereby any artist must sign with one of them to make it big.

First, there was no provision for artists to make their content available to internet streamers at lower rates or even free. Everyone must charge the statutory rates.

Second, in order for the big players such as Pandora to be able to stay in business, they have to make independent deals with the record labels. You can imagine that such deals will include provisions requiring them to play a certain minimum percentage of their material. By the time they’ve made such deals with all of the big four, those percentages will add up to enough to insure there’s little or no room left for smaller independent labels, yet if they fail to comply with those percentages, they have to pay the higher statutory rates which over time make it difficult to stay in business.

Casey (profile) says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 16th, 2011 @ 9:26pm

Incorrect. It is a statutory rate. Indies get the same as majors, and the performing artists get their half of the digital performance royalties paid DIRECTLY, and not held against recoupables.

With terrestrial radio, there is no doubt that it’s about control, you are right there (as is Mike).

Anonymous Coward says:

I can’t stand most radio stations. The same songs are played over and over, hour after hour with very little change up.

Like tv it seems like the music is there only to be the excuse to separate commercials.

At the same time, almost none of these stations are local anymore. Don’t try to call one with a tip on an emergency or disaster and think you’ll get the word out. They are retransmission stations, not real DJs setting at the control panel in your neighborhood.

I’ve given up on radio stations with the exception of a college station. It actually plays a longer and larger playlist, and other than work hours, has no commercials. So listening at night, you get back to back songs, not the same as last hour, and with no breaks.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My favorite station ever was WMMR in Philadelphia when they were an underground station in the ’70s. They used to play some amazing stuff that I’ve never heard on any other station ever. My biggest issue was that they were so weak that I had trouble tuning them (I was a ways out in a semi-rural area).

When I came home for a visit from college they’d gone pop. They’d gotten a real transmitter and started playing the same stuff everybody else was. Last time I was there (6 or 8 years ago) they were still a mediocre pop station. Not even a good one.

“This is WMMR.
“Ninety three point three.
“The Radio Station.”

I sure miss it.

Ah well. Nostalgia just isn’t what it used to be.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

The fight against piracy (which is part of their fight against the internet) has always been about controlling distribution. They have to make sure artists cannot bypass their distribution system make living. That’s what makes them major labels.

However… “Because if radio keeps playing crappy songs based on bribes rather than quality, in an age where there are greater and greater alteranatives, the system won’t hold.”

I don’t buy the argument that all music from a major label is crappy. Indie musicians release plenty of crappy music too, and some of my favorite bands are/we’re on major labels. The quality of the music has nothing to do with the corporate corruption of our public airwaves.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“They have to make sure artists cannot bypass their distribution system make living.”

True, but the artists are doing that anyway, whether it’s music, movies, or actual artistry.

“The quality of the music has nothing to do with the corporate corruption of our public airwaves”

But the quality of the music is directly influenced by how the money changes hands and influences the playlist algorithm. That’s the main problem.

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

Google forcing Dutch Royal Library to fight piracy

Google has full commercial rights over library?s works which are being digitized by Google (for free). In return, the library has to prevent third parties from downloading these works without authorization

Copy of Google?s contract with the Dutch Royal Library:

mike allen (profile) says:

Not all stations everywhere are the same, with the station I work for in the UK we took the decision at the start that major labels would be secondary to unsigned bands we don’t operate a “playlist”, each DJ has the freedom to play any music he / she want to play. that way we get a greater verity of music to the top 40 stations.

PaulT (profile) says:

Not a surprise

I’ve told this story before, but I think it’s relevant to repeat here:

In the early 90s as a teenager, I bought a *lot* of singles. My main exposure to new music came through the radio, and thanks to UK law preventing BBC Radio 1 from going commercial and forcing them to play new music, I was exposed to a lot of different genres – metal, rave, hip-hop, even reggae dancehall. But, even that station played chart/pop music during the day (albeit more diverse than the US commercial stations).

So, my time would be spent listening to the latest music and buying the stuff I liked. However, toward the middle of the decade, I’d noticed a change. Whereas before it would be possible to tune in to the lower reaches of the chart show and hear things I’d never heard before, now I was hearing things 2, 4, even 6 weeks before release date. I was literally hearing a tune, thinking “where can I buy it?” and then getting sick and tired of hearing the damn thing before it was even released. On top of that, the music itself was becoming generic. No more rave, jungle, grunge, metal, etc., now airplay consisted of boy bands, girl bands and my personal nemesis, Britpop.

So, I stopped buying commercial music in single form. A few years later, when the RIAA started its crap and I realised most albums were full of filler, I stopped buying any major label content…

Sorry guys, buying more airtime for your crap isn’t going to work when people have access to better stuff. It’s a shame that the legendary A&R of your early days has given way to Simon Cowell dictating an image and sound before a “band” has even been formed, but your days of selling horseshit and calling it chocolate ice cream are over.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not a surprise

Wow, I knew you were frigging idiot, but I didn’t know you were such a complete corporate drone. I tell the story of exactly what made me stop listening to the crap shovelled by the major players in your glorious industry, and your first reaction is assume I’m lying and can’t possibly live life without it.

One of the many reasons why the industry is dying, and you’re almost certainly part of the cause. Bravo.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not a surprise

Heh, i missed that part of the idiocy.

Yes, AC, I *do* have RIAA music on my drives, legally ripped from the CDs I said I bought prior to me boycotting them. Is that a problem, that I’m using my legally purchased media, now? That your masters can’t extract more money from me than they already have, for things I already own?

I’m tempted to make a deal with myself. Every time one of these morons accuses me of being a pirate, I’ll buy an 100% independent album, movie, book, or whatever they accuse me of pirating. Sounds like a good idea, at least I can help tilt the industry further away from these disingenuous idiots.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Not a surprise

May I recommend The Ones Who Keep The Machine Functioning Smoothly by Edison Suit?

I recommend it not only because one of the artists is a personal friend, but because I really, really like the album.

And yes, I realize that the album title is (ironically enough) a reference to ?Repent, Harlequin!? Said the Ticktockman, which was the subject of another recent Techdirt entry. Entirely coincidence, I assure you, driven in part by the fact that all the titles on the album are references to Science Fiction works. I myself was unaware of that particular connection until I did a web search for the album title just now. The gods will have their little jokes. 🙂

Jake says:

Re: Not a surprise

I came to popular music about the same time you were getting fed up with Radio 1, and I reached the same conclusion pretty quickly. My stereo was tuned to Radio 2 more or less permanently by the time I was 16, because they still play some genuinely new and interesting stuff in some of their early evening slots. (Also, even at that age I knew that Terry Wogan was infinitely preferable to Chris Moyles.) Even then I usually ended up streaming a digital station like Radio Caroline or just listening to an ever-growing collection of MP3s.

Anonymous Coward says:

For me, the biggest mistake here is the assumption that the radio stations are gullible idiots, willing to sell out their business and ignore the wants to the public, just to make a quick buck. It is far from the case.

Radio stations are not a business that gets up and moves to a new town because they ran out of customers in the current town. You cannot screw all your clients in the door and then, once they stop coming, move down the road and do it again to the next bunch of rubes. Radio stations have to live in their communities, and they profit only when people listen to the station.

The suggest is that the stations play what the record companies want them to play, without due consideration to what the listening public wants. With all of the options people have from the internet and such, they are turning back to radio to satisfy their needs:

If radio stations were only paying “payola” music, and not bringing a product to air that people liked, the public would not be tuning in.

The are also tuning in online:

This goes against the ideas of “roll your own”, because even services like Pandora are oriented towards “popular” music, even if you hit the most obscure gendres. They always tend to tie back into more commercial music.

The methods may be slightly different, but the products are the same, and the reasons for listening are the same – the music they enjoy. People wouldn’t listen to radio if they didn’t enjoy the product.

Now, as for the “payola” itself, well, let’s just say that the link is tenuous as best, and certainly doesn’t raise up to the level of payola, otherwise the government would have been all over it already.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Everyone seems to be making the assumption that if it’s payola, it must be bad music. Let’s acknowledge first that a major label can put out good music (you know, guys like David Bowie are major label artists, and major good).

The problem with payola isn’t that it leads to bad music, it’s that it gives the major labels say over what gets played. A radio station faced with 10 good songs are going to play the ones from the major labels over the indie labels because of the payola. It’s illegal to do that but they do it anyway to the point where the only way good music will get heard is when it’s backed by a major label.

i.e. it has nothing to do with the quality of the music, just about who controls what gets played – your local radio station, or some multi-national corporation – and how an artist can take advantage of the great promotion radio provides. It’s sign with a major or no airplay.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What really controls what gets played is public demand. For all the discussion of the power of internet marketing, of all these promotional tools, all the kick starting my spacing stuff going on, few if any of the indie bands really make a dent in the overall public perception, at least to a level of attracting attention of programming people. This is especially true in that happy middle group of top 40, adult R&B, and that area. I have seen where most of the rock / alternative stations tend to have some space for local acts, but the mainstream stations just don’t.

It should also be pointed out that most indie bands aren’t making top 40 style music. That also means that the vast majority of what is in the public eye at the most popular stations comes from label artists, because they appear to be the only ones making the music that fits the category.

The sad truth is that it appears that the vast majority of people are happy enough with what they get on the radio, or at least tolerant of it, and have little urge to run to the internet to try to discover something new.

I would also suggest that the current crop of “no label, indie only” internet types will find that over time, they don’t want to invest the effort and time into it anymore, and they will go back to just listening to the radio and being happy enough with it.

The payola cries are mostly misdirected, because clearly an unpopular product wouldn’t bring in listeners. Something else is at play here, which the anti-label types don’t want to look at or acknowledge.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

People like what they’re used to. In other words, the causation goes the other way: people like the top 40 music because it’s what they hear all the time. It doesn’t get played all the time because that’s what people like. Your idea that radio stations play what’s demanded might hold water if we started from a blank slate, where nobody had heard any music and had to go out and find what they like, and then ask the radio station to play it. Obviously that’s not the situation.

Also, the customers of a radio station are not its listeners, they’re its advertisers. The corporate stations don’t really care if their listeners are happy, as long as they have enough people tuned in to draw advertisers. If that’s because there’s no competition, or they have the best signal, or the best giveaways or parties, fine, as long as it gets the advertisers.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Most people just don’t care about music all that much. They turn on the radio, hear something poppy, and that’s good enough for them. These are the people whose entire music collection actually fits on their ipod. If they buy music at all, it’s usually the biggest names. Whatever they liked in college or high school is what they’ll like for the rest of their lives. They are just interested in other things. Radio’s great for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

” The corporate stations don’t really care if their listeners are happy, as long as they have enough people tuned in to draw advertisers.”

This would be a rather false statement. They want their listeners to be happy, because without them, they have nothing to sell. There seems to be some assumption here that the broadcasters don’t give a rats ass about the listeners, but considering they are what they are selling, they clearly have an interest in providing what the listeners want.

After all, do you think they would change formats or musical types just for fun? Nope. They are looking to get more happy listeners.

It’s pretty ignorant to assume they don’t care about the listeners.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

They want their listeners to be happy, because without them, they have nothing to sell.

I think you should read my comment again. They don’t care if the listeners are happy, as long as they keep listening. This is because, as I said, the listeners are not customers.

It’s pretty ignorant to assume they don’t care about the listeners.

They do not care about the listeners. They care about the money. It’s pretty naive to think otherwise.

And I am specifically talking about the corporate-owned stations. I know there are small, independent, and college stations that actually do care what their listeners want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Un-happy listeners aren’t listeners for long. There are too many choices these days, almost every market has multiple top 40 style stations, plus of course your own music collection, sat radio, and whatever got sneakernet’ed to your ipod thingie. People are not hostage of a radio station in most markets, and they know it.

Thus, un-happy listeners are not hanging around, which means the stations have a huge interest in keeping them happy and listening.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

That could be true. However, they don’t have to put effort into finding out what their listeners like (other than regional differences like a lot of country music in Wyoming). Like I said, if they get the genre right, most listeners get used to whatever they’re playing and like it. They’re much better off taking the payola than venturing off the beaten path to try to find something the listeners like better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

An audience around things like radio and television took time to build. These venues have had a lot more time to develop than the Internet, and older people (as you mention) tend to be stuck in their old ways of doing things.

But indie music popularity, thanks to the Internet, has been steadily increasing, and fewer and fewer people listen to the radio. Music now is much much more diversified. Fewer people read newspapers.

But this stuff takes time, which is why the existing government established monopolists are rushing to have the government regulate the Internet.

It’s not that people won’t listen to CC and permissibly licensed music, of course they would, it’s not that good permissibly licensed music can’t be produced, of course it can, it’s that the legal system is set up in such a way as to regulate CC licensed content away from public airwaves, restaurants and other venues, and cableco infrastructure.

Musicians hardly make that much of their money from record sales. Most of their money is made from concerts. The ones that get their music broadcasted are the ones that gain recognition. and only copy protected content, owned by a hand full of labels, gets such distribution. The fact that our legal system artificially make it so that such copy protected content gets relatively more funding, and such funding can be used to produce better content.

The playing field is simply not level. Having a monopoly over things like broadcasting airwaves and cableco infrastructure, and being able to use a broken legal system to scare restaurants into not hosting indies (without paying some irrelevant third party a fee under the pretext that someone might infringe) makes it artificially much more difficult for indies, and permissibly licensed content, to succeed. It’s because permissibly licensed content doesn’t have the same distribution advantages as copy protected content, thanks to our broken legal system, that it’s more difficult for permissibly licensed content to receive the necessary funds to produce more and better content. But, as the Internet allows for such content producers to better distribute their content, receive recognition, and find ways to better financially benefit from that recognition, the quality of such content will increase.

If government established broadcasting and cableco monopolies were abolished and if the legal system were made to prevent collection societies from suing restaurants for hosting independent acts, the music structure would dramatically change. Good music will still be produced and distributed, but the people who would be harmed would be the unnecessary record labels and existing broadcasters. Their influence would be diminished because no one would need them anymore. The only reason why they are needed is simply because the government has established them as a monopoly power. Most of the ‘benefits’ they provide are artificial in nature.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The same government that told everybody fuh-q and send the jobs overseas? the same government that makes the people who earn less pay more off of the taxes? the same government that can’t hand a natural disaster? the same government that got caught by surprise by terrorist? the same government that bailed out companies to big to fail? the same government that bailout bankers after they screwed everybody? the same government that knows about creative accounting and do nothing? the same government that allows others to seize the public domain and do nothing? the same government that believes that transparency and accounting is just lip service?

You got to be kidding me.

napacab says:

Haven't listened to commercial radio for 15 years

About 15 years ago I started learning about new music through written publications, iTunes, Amazon, and film sound tracks. Sometime between then and now I discovered Radio Paradise and so another source of new music. About a year ago I bought an iPhone so now Shazam is another source of new music.

Though the music on commercial radio is repetitive and often crap, what I most object to are the commercials. Can’t stand them and haven’t put up with them for years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Payola is exactly why piracy starts. If you can’t find anything good on the radio, how else are you supposed to discover music? You could hear it from your friends if they have it, or you can try and find it through the blogs which the labels are trying to shut down, or you can just do the simplest thing and download whatever sounds like it might be good based on the filename.

The amazing thing to me is that everyone loves music, everyone wants the product already – and yet the labels still think they need to push the stuff like kitchen appliances. If they would just forget the payola, get out of the way and let dj’s play whatever they want – they would sell MORE music because it would be easier for people to find stuff they actually like.

Record companies are like if car dealerships tried to charge you $500 to test drive a car, and then wondered why they weren’t selling more cars.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If they would just forget the payola, get out of the way and let dj’s play whatever they want – they would sell MORE music because it would be easier for people to find stuff they actually like.

I think they’re worried that the stuff people actually like might not be major label music. It’s more straightforward to just buy the access rather than ensure they’re releasing the best music possible. It’s their strategy with legislation as well as radio.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think they’re worried that the stuff people actually like might not be major label music. It’s more straightforward to just buy the access rather than ensure they’re releasing the best music possible. It’s their strategy with legislation as well as radio.

You’re right, that probably is what they’re worried about. But there has to be some way they could take all the money they’d save from ending the stupid payola system and use it to invest in and make available a more diverse selection of music. I’m not in the music biz so I don’t know all the details, but there has to be a way.

They don’t have enough respect for what music actually is. It’s a way people understand the world and connect with each other. Which of course they don’t care about, since they’re just trying to use it to make money, trying to create the next megastar. But they don’t understand that you can’t really make people like music beyond a superficial level. People like music if they feel a connection to it. So which makes more sense, create a system where everyone can find music they have a real connection to, or try to relentlessly pound the same generic 18-34 targeted hits into everyone’s ears in the apparent hope of forcing people to like and buy it? Music sales are dropping of a cliff, I think that should be evidence enough of what a failure that strategy has been.

The thing that they’re afraid of, that some people might not like major label music – it’s already happened. That’s why piracy is huge. There’s some people who really do like what’s on the radio, and there’s some who don’t have the time or energy to search out the music they really like so they just put up with mediocre crap, but there’s also a large contingent of people who really love different music and want to listen to the best stuff out there, so they are forced to fight their way through this idiotic system to find whatever they consider to be good music. I’m not saying that justifies downloading music without paying for it, but it’s human nature to want to do things in the easiest way possible. The easiest way to find good music is to listen to it and see if you like it. If radio provided that function to everyone, that’s how everyone would find music. But it doesn’t, so for a lot of people the easiest way to hear new music is to download it.

If the record industry wants to save itself, the best thing it could do is to get together and agree to stop payola for real.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

They are obsolete, the new distribution is WiFi(my made up description self mesh organization and creation of local networks).

Augmented reality + Social Networks:

Imagine all your friends tagging streets with songs that remind them of something and telling a story that happened there, your friends also would tag stores and places and you being in their circle can see those tags, so others will look at what it is cool or not and start spreading the word, there are also creepy uses like the one that has a facial recognition software that knows who your friends are and can pull the data from them from anywhere they can find it.

Everybody will be using cool glasses in the future so they can overlay that information in realtime.

Bm says:

Re: Re: Re:

Im a music manager and after reading these comments I see the public knows what I been dealing with for a few years radio stations I.d.k if they accept payola because I cant talk with program directors only “promoters” can but you the public have to request the songs from “indie artists” n support if they are great.. But major labels are scared of indies because 90% dont want to sign with major labels so by pumping 150k dollars into a song keep indies out shame but true major labels dont find these talents 90% was on indie labels before a major even dug and found them

Joe Dirt (user link) says:

Up in Canada we have this crazy loose cannon named Bobby Gale who rakes in $10 000 per single

Instead of getting it on radio, he enjoys nice meals and sports game with the program directors and because its so competitive to get an add in the Canadian market, he sites the competition as the need for more dollars

People like BG are everywhere and are even worse in America

Anonymous Coward says:

There are still stations that listen to their listeners

Here we have a local station who still have live DJs all day. They play more music and less commercials. They also knowmthe listeners really liked the morning guys so they made it so there’s a balance of more music and more of the morning guys. Years ago they even stopped playing certain group because listeners complained. They tried playing one of that group’s new song. Didn’t announce who it was just played it. That was the last time they played that group. They also focus on TX music one day every week, I think on Sun evenings. I’m not a Muscian but seems to me you do what you have to do to get your music heard. No matter what that takes. Just because a Muscian is small/independent doesn’t make em the best or the worst. Neither does being on a major label make you that way either. Just look at Beiber, Perry, and Gaga, it’s driven by what teens want. Also in my area we have a very good oldies station and a station called Jack FM. Jack plays a great mix of all kinds of pop and rock music, mostly stuff from 70s-90s I believe.

Gabby (user link) says:


I searched payola and I am so eliberated to find people are interested in finding new talent! I have been working hard to figure out how to get my music heard and find so many obstacles… If u are not rich it’s hard to promote your music for free… Paying for a beat… Time writing lyrics… Getting it mixed down… Paying for a professional video… And time it takes to tweet and Facebook etc… It’s all costly and timely and we all know time is $! Most indie artists will never be found because who can afford to pay $150,000 for a single to play on the radio? In order to get something out of something you have to put $ in . That is pretty easy to understand! But the playing field will never be even so we will keep hearing Drake . Nicki. Lil Wayne . Flo rider . Jay z . Katy Perry every hour on the hour 10 x a day. Not to mention over saturation of the Internet with music that just isn’t going to cut it.. Let’s face it! Everyone wants to make it and that dream is free to everyone! So maybe starting a radio station where people vote via text the songs they want to hear that plays 50% independent artists at a minimum and give the public a chance to vote! Cuz at the very least it will at least have an equal
Opportunity…lol… Indie artists are like the present day slaves… No equal opportunity! Wow. Thanks for the vent! Hear some of my music on and fan me if you like. If you really like buy my album at will be available on iTunes shortly! I heart music!

Jermaine Kelly (user link) says:

Power play

The gatekeeper’s key is in the wrong hands and Americans are slowly starting to realize that the radio should be democratized just like sports. Growing up as a Canadian i knew the steps on how to get a track and field scholarship to the US. Start really young, get on a local team and then bring home the results. I often wondered why this philosophy couldn’t apply to commercial radio. Why didn’t everyone have a chance to contribute, if the steps were followed and results achieved. The reason came clearer with age, the Major labels played in a different field than sports, one shrouded in secrets, mystery and seven different types of smoke. If you were daring and cunning enough to make it to the entrance you still had to face the GATEKEEPER, the final yes or no?? I’m glad to be able to see the transition from one gate keeper to many gatekeepers, also known as the public. If you’re an artist looking a payola-less world, visit
check out this streaming music directory and support emerging music! We’re the only ones that can save music.

Robert Mcduffy (user link) says:


Today socalled music is nothing but fabricated quantity junk bands,the80’s bands all cool i dig headbangersball ,the record company’s decided too remove quality excellent bands for the depress grunge demon possess nirvana curt corbain,every since that stufff started its gone down hill,radio stations play the same 3songs over&over again like
There in a rut instead of playing all the artist albums,its discussing they to stop brainwashing everyone,stop exploiting the youth too seduce into the record industry&using them for pornography&prostitution&like miley cyrus shes a puppet control by her masters in the satanic record industry too appeal to ignorant fools,they dont care for your children just too use them all they can&throw them too the curve after they have needle marks in there arms or hooked on some drugs or alcohal,or be killed by them if you fullfill there agenda,we need great quality bands.

ron dean (user link) says:


Its time stop supporting the flavor of the week bands there not well seasoned professional artist,bring back the obscure bands from the70′ like ANGELs&80’s hard rock heavy metal groups thar are far better than whats being push as art ,they were removed by force because they stood for truth
Instead of this mindless zombie that shubbed in are faces like we dont have any choice

Russell Alexander says:


AC – you don’t quite get it. There is a TON of great music out there. There are only 20 slots in the Top 20, which is really the Top 10. For any given time slot, a station has a choice of literally hundreds of songs that their listeners would probably like. So how to decide?
Same as it’s always been – whatever is most profitable, personally, to the Program Director. DJs no longer choose what songs they’ll play on commercial stations. And if the song is even close to what the stations core audience likes, and the “terms” are good, that’s the song that gets the airplay.
We’re talking about millions of spins, worldwide, per hit, per week. You don’t get that by playing a song five times a day per station, it’s literally once or even twice per hour, per station, 24/7. That doesn’t leave much room for a choice, so only a few tunes get into that slot. And when you’re a captive audience, you will eventually like that damn song you keep hearing because your brain will find some similarity to a song you already like.

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