Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pay to Play? Think Green Day

There have been an untold number of critics who have fallen over each other in praise of Green Day's "American Idiot" seemingly for all of 2005 (the album was released in September 2004).

You would think the Green Day CD was so great that every radio music director in the land thought this was the best album since Nirvana's "Nevermind." And yet many of the year's best albums (including especially strong releases by Embrace, Neil Young, Aimee Mann, Bruce Springsteen and New Order) have sadly been largely ignored by commercial radio.

But after revelations today that Warner Music Group has had to pay up $5 million to settle a payola probe, we now know that Green Day, My Chemical Romance and even R.E.M. were among the bands who won airplay after the record company reportedly ponied up paid vacations, laptop computers, iPods and even Super Bowl tickets to get their music played over the airwaves. Sick, huh?

This isn't the first time New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has shined a legal spotlight on the problem. Earlier this year, Sony BMG had to pay out $10 million to the state of New York for using so-called payola to get Jennifer Lopez some air time.

Spitzer, according to media reports, is still setting out after Universal Music Group and EMI Group, as well as Clear Channel Communications and others. If only radio would focus on playing good music, not worrying about collecting "goods" for themselves.

I would love to think this legal victory in the fight against pay-to-play tactics would make a difference. Somehow, I don't think it will.

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