The movie, American Hot Wax, speaks infamously about the subject that had caught up two of the most famous people in radio during the 50’s, Alan Freed and Dick Clark. It was even a part of the topic in the movie starring Jimmy Cliff, The Harder They Come. However, what exactly is Payola? The dictionary defines it as the ‘practice of bribing someone in return for unofficial promotion/airplay of a record, or for any other product for that matter…. In the rawest sense of the word, it is the all too common practice of Disc Jocks/Hosts and others on radio/television, taking money as the only motivation to play the songs of artistes.
Consider that a very good artiste, in the line of a Chronixx or a Taurus Riley, being unable to pay the fee demanded for play, and so gets lost in the system that has swallowed up many talents that we will never have the opportunity to hear as they are driven into some obscure occupation to earn a living. It happens that some have been known to even resort to some nefarious deeds, their career in music having been buried by their inability to ‘pay for play’.
In this scenario, it isn’t only the artiste who suffers, but thousands, if not millions of people, who could have been made happy or be entertained by the music of the artiste buried under an avalanche of corruption. The family of the artiste is not left out, as they stand to suffer the most, along with others that would be employed by the artiste in some needed and worthwhile role that is being enabled by a successful career, where radio plays a crucial role. Countless lives have been ruined by this pernicious practice of Payola….
Granted, the Disc Jocks, ‘haffi live’ better than Kartel’s ‘dawgs’. The radio stations don’t pay enough, and the life of luxury and conspicuous consumption enjoyed by the artistes is enviable and should be similarly lived by top tier radio station employees, who will tell you that they are responsible for the ‘buss’ the artiste ‘buss’. They take credit for thriving careers, but never take responsibility for the careers they kill.
I am sympathetic, and, since the station owners are unlikely to pay anymore than they are already paying, there are countless ways for a Disc Jockey to earn a comfortable living without having to sell his/her soul….
Firstly, they should allow young careers to flourish. Many of these artistes are not assigned to any Label or Producer, and should be able to pursue their careers without this needless stumbling block. Once they have risen, or are signed by a Producer or a Label, it is they that the Disc Jockeys should be allowed to accept reasonable gifts from. Properly dealt with, it doesn’t have to present any problems, and would curtail the present activities that do much harm to the music industry by stifling many careers that would be worthwhile pursuing…. There is also Producing, Hosting and playing at Events, Product and company endorsements that they can get involved in to boost their income.
Despite the suggestions, however, the concern is more about this dastardly, informal system of Payola that hurt so many and deprive as much of countless opportunities. It needs to be stopped. It is corrupt and wicked…. It is even more so when you listen to Disc Jocks lambast and castigate politicians and pastors for their corrupt practices and ways that would need several more articles to cover. It makes it hard to stomach the kind of rank hypocrisy in the face of all this; and while we know that not all are involved in this sordid affair of payola, there are just too many. ‘Who the cap fit, let them wear it’ ~ The Most Honourable Robert Nesta Marley
Until next time, keeps doing what is noble and just. Go ahead and have a discussion right here.
I am Warren Johnson
Editor at Large, Mckoy’s News: the views expressed on this post are that of the writer and not that of Mckoy’s News.