I heard about the radio payola scandal while listening to the news on my way home last night. Consider:
In late 2002, an official at Sony music was trying to boost interest in the song “A.D.I.D.A.S.” by Killer Mike, and considered sending disc jockeys at WAMO-FM one Adidas shoe to promote the song. Jocks at the Pittsburgh station, and others throughout the Northeast, could get the second shoe after playing the song 10 times, he mused.
To which I offer a resounding “duh” and “who cares?”. Who didn’t know, or at least assume, that this still occurs? Does anyone care, other than New York’s Attorney General? Yes, payola is against the law, but is it really the largest issue Mr. Spitzer’s office faces? So Sony has to pay $10 million to make the investigation go away. So what? How does this help the people of New York? The criminals are still free, with the newly confirmed opinion that they can pay a fine, courtesy of Sony’s stockholders, to whom they have a (now broken) fiduciary responsibility, and all is forgiven. How does that help enforce the rule of law? Perhaps, instead, it’s merely election campaigning.
But no matter, there’s a more important point in this. Consider:
How the Spitzer investigation will affect the way Sony and the other big music companies work with radio to get airplay remains to be seen.
What will it mean for the listener, who supposedly owns the public airwaves? Radio is already under pressure to compete with other forms of music — from satellite radio, with its diverse formats and commercial music, and Internet radio, which offers a smorgasbord of music for every taste.
Ultimately, tightening the definitions of payola and enforcing them may benefit both music makers and music consumers. For artists without a well-oiled promotion and money machine behind them, it may level the playing field. For listeners, they may get to hear what they want — not what the music industry wants them to hear.
Ummm, I already listen to the music I want to hear. Granted, some of the same issues of repetitiveness still occur, but I can change the station to one that plays something different. If that doesn’t work, I change the medium (not form of music – that’s stupid… form is chants vs. pop, not satellite vs. the Internets) to something else. It’s called competition and it works pretty well. Terrestrial radio, where this non-scandal (apparently) occurred, may not know that because they’re too busy being suckered in by free trips to see Celine Dion, but eventually they’ll learn. The free market has a way of teaching its lesson much more effectively than any bureaucrat could.