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Created by The Core DJ's Jul 6, 2014 at 4:18pm. Last updated by The Core DJ's Jul 6, 2014.

The Truth Behind Payola, and why you can't get on Commercial Radio

Ever since Clear Channel
pledged to sever its connections with independent contractors also know
as promoters, the world of music promotion has been exposed for all to
view and judge. What the public doesn't realize is that, according to
some, much of the music we hear on Top 40 radio stations is played
because independent promoters pay the stations to add it to their
playlists. Because it is illegal for record companies to directly pay
radio stations to play their music -- or for radio stations to play
music someone paying them to play, at least without disclosing on the
air that the time is paid for -- they bring in a middleman, the
independent promoter, or "indie."

This is how it works:

An indie approaches a radio station manager or group owner about becoming
their exclusive representative. In exchange, the indie will pay the
station an annual payment of $75,000 to $100,000 per year (for
medium-sized markets) for "promotional support." This means the indie
gives the station money, vacations, or gifts in other forms (often gift
cards or American Express money cards and at times Cars) that they can
use for their promotions, or for whatever use they choose. Because the
"gifts" are to be used for promotions, the pay-for-play is
side-stepped. The station's part of the deal is to add songs the indie
recommends to their playlists. These are called " add" in the business.
Most stations have an average of three adds each week.

The indie then contacts record companies to tell them he has this agreement
with the station. He charges the record company a fee (usually around
$1,000) every time the station adds one of the label's songs to its
playlist. For most singles, the record companies are paying in the
neighborhood of $100,000 to $250,000 to indies. According to some, if
they don't, the songs won't get played. In addition, there are "spin
maintenance" charges to keep the song on the list. To avoid legal
problems, indies have their lawyers examine their records to make sure
the transactions are still on the legal side of the line. The real
problems come in when, rather than using the money or "gifts" for
promotions such as vacation giveaways for listeners, the program
directors or other station staff pocket the money themselves.

Since part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act increased the number of radio stations an individual company could own
in a single market and eliminated the cap on the number of stations it
could own nationally, there has been a huge run by large corporations
to buy up as many radio stations as possible. Rather than having more
than 5,000 radio station owners in the country, four companies now own
62% of the Top 40 radio market. In addition, the vertical market has
been affected. These same large corporations, such as Clear Channel,
own not only the radio stations, but concert venues as well. This puts
into the hands of a few large players much of the control over what
music makes the Top 40 and what we, as the listening public, get to
hear. Centralized decision making regarding playlists is typical. Disk
jockeys and station managers do not and may not have the control they
used to have over what gets played and what doesn't. Small record
companies who can't afford to pay the indies have an extremely hard
time getting their music on the air.

While many stations deny that indies have this control over what they play,
others, like Radio One, which owns 65 radio stations across the
country, admit accepting money from private contractor. After all, it
isn't illegal, and it's another revenue stream for them.

So remember this is a business no one receive hype without paying for it

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