26 Jul 2005

"air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs,"

I'm not particularly surprised by the news today that Sony have been paying radio stations to play their songs. After all, payola has been a tradition in radio since the fifties. Theoretically, this manner of hacking the charts was stopped in the UK in the early nineties. Simon Napier-Bell's excellent Black Vinyl, White Powder covers the meeting where John Kennedy of Polygram shut things down:

..."Can I assume that as a council we would be horrified if anyone sitting at this table were to be involved in hyping the charts?"

'Everyone shuffled in their seats so I said, "I take that to mean you're all in agreement. And if that's the case, can I propose that if anyone at this table were to be caught hyping the charts we would jointly ask for the most serious possible sanctions against them?"

'All the BPI members started spluttering into their coffee, so I added, "Either we're against hyping or we're not. And if we're against it, shouldn't we agree as a council that if we find chart hyping taking place we should ask the police to investigate it and urge the prosecutor to demand a prison sentence?"

So what's the situation in the UK now? I don't know. Given the steady decline in single sales, maybe it doesn't matter any more. But still, it's a good thing that Sony got smacked down on this. See here's the thing - piracy isn't killing music sales. Nobody is buying music because there's no good music to buy. Sure there's the classic albums, but don't you already own those on CD by now?

And what's good music? Here's a clue. If you have to pay radio stations to play it, it isn't very good. Think about it - radio DJs will play Celine Dion without being asked. It's not like the bar is very high here, guys.

So what radio do I listen to? None. OK, if I listen to any commercial radio these days, it's National Radio. Excellent stuff. Apart from that, it's all podcasting baby...

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