Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Radio bigs’ ‘payola’ settlement...Real Change, or Just Another Smoke Screen?

Today, in an article entitled "Radio bigs’ ‘payola’ punishment may help local music make waves," Jesse Noyes, a reporter for the Boston Herald Business Reporter, reported on the details of the payola settlement between the FCC and the four conglomerate radio ownership groups who were supposedly, "Looking to settle 'payola' charges with the FCC, Clear Channel Communications Inc., Citadel Broadcasting, Entercom Communications and CBS Radio - all of which have stations in Massachusetts - agreed to pay $12.5 million and to boost the amount of local and independent music they play."

Some main points of the settlement reported by the Associated Press included a 'side deal' with the American Association of Independent Music that "the broadcasters will offer 8,400 half-hour blocks of free airtime for independent artists," citing unnamed FCC sources. Noyes goes on to say that "under the new agreement, stations would have to set aside time for artists not signed to the largest four record labels in the country."

While there are some that are optimistic over this new development, there is still a lot of skepticism going on, especially, with true independent record labels who believe this is to good to be true. Although the settlement defines independent music, as music not signed to the "largest four record labels in the country," it does not address the issue of indirect connection, which has and does allow access to radio airplay. Even the smallest social connection, or previous employment with a major label is enough to bring down market-entry barriers.

People do not realize how easy it is for "music industry veterans" aka. major label connectees to start a business and operate as an "independent," while enjoying the benefits of free market access compliments of their former engagement, and still very much alive association, with the majors. It's the same snake only dressed up differently. The real proof will be in how much true independent music actually gets radio airplay, if any, in the future vs. how many "industry veterans," and posers actually eat up the dedicated 8400 half hour slots. Time will surely tell.