Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Payola Day

In what everyone's calling a landmark settlement, four major radio broadcasters will be paying the FCC a tune of $12.5 million. The settlement gets the agency off the broadcasters' backs on their practice of payola-accepting payment in exchange for playing certain songs.

I see nothing wrong with this; it's just a form of advertisement. If you think the station's playing too much of the same song, do something else. But some radio listeners and-not surprisingly-small time artists are applauding the move because all these stations also promised air time for independent musicians.

This leads to more variety, they say, and I'm sure it does. But most successful independent musicians serve a niche audience. Their songs aren't as suited to the radio. Maybe there's a good reason why we hear only a small band of artists.

What everyone seems to be tip-toeing around is that now these broadcasters no longer have the payola's source of income, how many more conventional commericals will we have?


Anonymous said...

So what you're saying is that with enough money, you don't need talent to have a hit record. Gee, soon people won't know what music really is.

I suggest listening to "The Old Payola Roll Blues" by Stan Freberg. It was made when the first major payola scandal hit the radio stations. Maybe it will help you understand the damage bought popularity can do.

David said...

People won't know what music really is? That's a strange claim. Radios aren't the only source of music. Everyone has a reason to make sure people still want to listen. I could, for example, pay broadcasters $1 billion dollars to play a my songs with fingernails on a blackboard as the only instrument.

Even if broadcasters do this (they might or they might not--playing this might permanently alienate their audience), no one will sit in their car and listen to it (completely defeating the purpose of advertising). The stuff still has to be good enough for lots of people to listen to it more than something else. People will always know what music is, even if they don't agree with you on what's good.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, let's take the opposing argument and take it to a ridiculous extreme in an attempt to discredit it.

Payola leads to bland music it has happened before and it is happening now. Radio stations claim to play the hits, but how valid can that claim be when the hits are manufactured and not honestly made. The music isn't called good because it is actually good, it's called good because a bunch of people get paid to call it good. That's dishonest.