Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sony Fined--Radio Still Needs Saving

When I heard the news that Sony had been fined $10 million for bribing radio stations, I thought, and how is that news? Sony settled with the office of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. In a statement released by his office on Tuesday, Spitzer said, "Our investigation shows that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees."

I'm glad Sony was fined, no matter how useless the act. But Spitzer's suggestion that listeners expect that "songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity" strikes me as a little preposterous.

A few years ago, I held a menial summer job that allowed me to listen to the radio while I worked. Now, I like Britney Spears as much as the next person who won't admit to occasionally singing "Baby One More Time" in the shower, but the hourly repetition of what seemed like a single playlist (and the constant commercial interruptions) over eight consecutive hours quickly became dull.

In his statement, Spitzer refers to payoffs -- gifts and free trips -- that Sony offered radio stations. I view bribes, however, as just one more tactic record companies take to aggressively market music chosen for its salability. The radio stations, also out to make money, willingly play the same songs by the same artists over and over again, claiming all the while that that's what the people want.

Spitzer can try to eradicate "pay-for-play" but the online sharing of songs, the defection of increasing numbers of people to satellite radio and the popularity of iPods all point to deeper problems with the music and commercial radio industry.

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Blogger Nicole Lyn Pesce said...

Hey Lisa - I especially agree with the points raised in your last paragraph. The music industry is in a lot deeper trouble than this 'payola' business (for the record, I abhor that term.)

Having worked many jobs where a pop radio station was played all day, I too was subjected to that repeated-playlist-purgatory. It was horrible. The worst is that, by hearing a song seven thousand times, I sometimes find myself actually starting to like it. Brainwashing. It's atrocious.

8:13 PM  

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