In his LAT Critic’s Notebook, Robert Hilburn makes two important points about Eliot Spitzer’s settlement with Sony/BMG, dousing some water on the supposition that freed from the shackles of petty bribery, radio will be really, really great.
1) While songs might get a shot at airplay via record companies paying off program directors, they only stay on the air if audience response is positive. Which means a payola ban won’t really affect what’s on the airwaves that much.
2) A payola ban might actually be welcomed by those big mean music conglomerates:
My suspicion is many record company executives are privately pleased by the payola settlement because they see the practice as throwing money down a sinkhole, in many cases.
The only reason moguls haven’t quit on their own is the fear of what might happen if their rivals continue to play the payola game – a risk they can’t afford to take in today’s ultra-cutthroat environment.
So, payola settlement: good for record companies, a wash for radio listeners, bad for radio station employees who, if they want free swag, are all going to have to go work for glossy magazines and media watchdog blogs. (Note to Beverly Hills 213: where the hell is my Burke-Williams gift certificate? My puppies are aching.)