July 26, 2005
Spitzer takes down Sony+
Eliot Spitzer, the enthusiastic New York State Attorney General who makes all your big-business-busting dreams come true, has won the first settlement against the music industry for paying radio stations to play their songs. Sony BMG Music Entertainment is paying the state $10 million, and there are three other big companies that have also been under investigation who have yet to reach agreements. The money is going to be given away to New York State music education nonprofits.
Radio programmers sure were raking in the payola. Many of those "listener contests" you hear about on stations were shams that existed only to provide cover for expensive trips and electronic merchandise that were given to programmers and radio staff. And, of course, programmers were just bribed outright. The best part of the story is the inclusion of entertaining payola-engineering emails among record execs in the Attorney General's Office press release. Some examples:
"Two weeks ago, it cost us over 4000.00 to get Franz [Ferdinand] on WKSE. That is what the four trips to Miami and hotel cost . . . At the end of the day, [David] Universal added GC [Good Charlotte] and Gretchen Wilson and hit Alex up for another grand and they settled for $750.00. So almost $5000.00 in two weeks for overnight airplay. He told me that Tommy really wanted him to do it so he cut the deal."
"WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET AUDIOSLAVE ON WKSS THIS WEEK?!!? Whatever you can dream up, I can make it happen." [Maybe try getting them to release a decent single. -Amy]
"OK, HERE IT IS IN BLACK AND WHITE AND IT'S SERIOUS: IF A RADIO STATION GOT A FLYAWAY TO A CELINE [DION] SHOW IN LAS VEGAS FOR THE ADD, AND THEY'RE PLAYING THE SONG ALL IN OVERNIGHTS, THEY ARE NOT GETTING THE FLYAWAY. PLEASE FIX THE OVERNIGHT ROTATIONS IMMEDIATELY."
Looks like a lot of "independent music promoters" out there are going to start having to buy their own iPods. Sorry fellas.
Of course, this kind of case is technically supposed to be handled by the FCC, but since the L.A. Times reports that the FCC has "imposed only one fine in a payola case in the last decade"--of $8,000--I'm happy to leave it to our boy Spitzer. - Amy
But honestly - doesn't it make you feel a little better about the world to know that listeners aren't actually requesting Good Charlotte? - Emily
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