Probe into 'pay-for-play' scandal

New York’s chief law officer has subpoenaed many of America’s largest radio conglomerates in his “payola” investigation of major artists and songs, reported to include Jennifer Lopez, REM and Glasgow band Franz Ferdinand.

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer claims some of the songs may have been given air time because of payoffs by recording companies.

Mr Spitzer would not identify the major radio companies that have been subpoenaed nor the artists and songs that he claims benefited from the pay-for-play practice for cash, trips and gifts.

“A lot of the major songs have been implicated in this and it showed how pervasive the payola infrastructure had become,” Mr Spitzer said.

“Probably many of the songs that were beneficiaries of the payola scheme would have succeeded without it, but certainly payola became part of the promotional structure and was integral to the game to get songs to the top.”

He says the victims of payola are listeners who did not hear music based on objective criteria, including popularity, and artists who cannot get their big break because they had no player in the payola scheme.

Mr Spitzer is investigating the nine largest radio corporations in a scheme that involved Jennifer Lopez’s I’m Real record and John Mayer’s song Daughters, according to court documents filed by Spitzer’s office.

Songs by other artists are also being examined, including recordings by Jessica Simpson, Celine Dion, Maroon 5, Good Charlotte, Franz Ferdinand, Switchfoot, Michelle Branch and REM.

The radio companies that have received subpoenas control thousands of stations in the US, including Clear Channel Communications Inc, Infinity, which now operates as CBS Radio, Citadel Broadcasting, Cox Radio, Cumulus Broadcasting, Pamal Broadcasting, Emmis Communications, Entercom and ABC.

The practice has evolved but appears to be have been under way in its current form since the mid to late 1990s, said Terryl Brown Clemons, assistant deputy attorney general in charge of the payola investigation.

She said the practice was found across the spectrum of music, from top-40 to urban to rock.

Artists and writers were not targets, she said. In fact, they had supported the probe and provided several complaints that assisted investigators.

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