Payola Redux

Yesterday I mentioned the practice of record companies paying radio stations to play songs as ads. Well the debate continues as record labels are purchasing overnight time slots or “spot buys” in order to promote their latest singles. According to Radio Spin Buys Spark New Debate:

for instance, while much of Nashville slept during the pre-dawn hours of May 23, Avril Lavigne’s latest single was airing as many as three times per hour on top 40 station WQZQ. The Cromwell Group-owned station played “Don’t Tell Me” 18 times between midnight and 6 a.m. that Sunday, according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. In contrast, the song played a total of four times during the rest of the day.”

RAIN also quotes from an LA Times story which adds:

“Playing songs as advertising makes ‘the chart unreliable,’ said Garett Michaels, program director of San Diego rock station KBZT-FM. ‘Basically, the radio station isn’t playing a song because they believe in it. They’re playing it because they’re being paid.’..

This is of great concern to Michael Ellis of Billboard who states “We take great pride in the accuracy and credibility of our radio charts,” Ellis says. “We are carefully studying this situation and are consulting with the industry to determine the proper course of action.”

Now paying for needle time has been around since the dawn of rock and roll and that should be no surprise. After hour “spins” that are chalked up as ads should be taken as just another reason why commercial radio, for the most part, is a load of cookie-cutter crap that continues to foist on the public those performers the major labels deem will get them back their “investment” in the fastest time possible. It is not like this everywhere in major label-land but it certainly encourages me to look even harder at the indie record labels and cool Internet and listener supported radio stations that put out great music for the sake of just putting out great music. There are alternatives to this whole way of doing business, it’s just trying to find the right combination of artistic sensibility with prudent business that is the tough part. And who the hell is listening to this stuff at 3:00 AM?