Let’s play a game. Here’s how it goes: I read a headline, you feign surprise. “Sony-BMG engaged in widespread payola.” “Sony-BMG settles in case regarding payments to radio stations.” “Radio groups refuse to comment.” (see Digital Music weblog or your local paper)
Okay, well here’s one that brings a little surprise. According to Billboard Radio Monitor, the one radio group that is being outspoken about cleaning out the corruption is uber-evil media giant Clear Channel. On the other hand, payola isn’t exactly part of Clear Channel’s business model — they’re too busy going after the big bucks by being the Wal-Mart of radio. Meanwhile, Sony is mum about whether it will take any disciplinary action or make any real changes to how it does business, other than to say: “Sony-BMG looks forward to defining a new, higher standard in radio promotion.” Hate to break it to you guys, but higher standard ain’t sayin’ much when the status quo is a decades-old system of bribes. And the damage inflicted by New York state’s Spitzer? A “punishing” 10 million dollars. Pardon me, Bill Gates, but can you spare a tuppence?
You know what, though? Payola sounds like a pretty good idea to me. Maybe it’s not too late to save it. Here’s CDM’s evil plan:
1. Promote independent music, distributed on the Web
2. Turn online music, indie labels, music podcasts, and indie record stores into an industry-crushing sensation
3. Let the payola from the industry (now geared at the Web, instead of radio) pour in
4. Use the cash to start a new record industry, printed entirely on (wait for it!) — vinyl records.
That’ll work, right? (Why are you snickering?)