Roommates, payola is not a new concept in the industry, but it has become a topic of conversation amongst many new artists, particularly rappers. Now, the Federal Communications Commission would like to launch an investigation to figure out exactly if and how artists are paying radio stations for air-time.
According to Rolling Stone, FCC commissioner Mike O’Rielly sent an official letter to the Recording Industry Association of America asking the organization to open an investigation to determine whether to not artists are abiding by federal laws prohibiting payola.
“My primary goal is to get to the bottom of existing industry practices to determine whether the law is being followed or whether any problematic conduct must be addressed,” Mike says. “Your association is uniquely situated to survey the practices of your industry and respond to press reports regarding alleged practices.”
Payola became illegal in 1960 following a congressional investigation of corruption at radio stations. The regulations, however, were very weak. Since then, artists and radio station workers must disclose to the audience that airplay has been purchased for a song.
“Payola has never been illegal,” explains Tony Gray, a veteran of urban radio and the founder of Gray Communications. “What is illegal is if you do the transaction and don’t make it known to the audience that there was some financial support for you playing that song.”
Just one year ago, we heard about payola when Nicki Minaj brought it to the Barbz’s attention that some artists do indeed build their careers off of paying for air-time. Despite the rumors, there has been no evidence found to make a concrete accusation.
As of now, the RIAA has not identified any artists involved in the shady practice, but could soon be launching an investigation based on allegations.
“In the time since the law was passed, the recording industry has made great strides in curtailing the practice, and it it my sincere hope that recent allegations are being overstated or misrepresented.”