Payola settlement forces stations to devote half-hour programming blocks to independent releases


Today, the Associated Press reports, four radio-broadcast companies and the government have settled on a plan to atone for engaging in pay-for-play agreements with the major labels. The broadcasters won't have to admit to any wrongdoing, but they will pay fines totaling $12.5 million to the government, and they'll free up 8,400 half-hour segments on their stations for music by "independent record labels and local artists":

The American Association of Independent Music, a group of independent record labels, has received a commitment from the same four broadcasters for the free airtime, the sources said.

In addition to airplay, the broadcasters and the independent labels have also negotiated a set of "rules of engagement" that will guide how record company representatives and radio programmers interact.

The free airtime would be granted to companies not owned or controlled by one of the nation's four dominant music labels -- Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and EMI Group.

The American Association of Independent Music is made up of some heavier hitters in the indie space, including the Beggars Group (which includes 4AD, Too Pure, and Beggars Banquet), Epitaph, and Koch; still, this promise of "free airtime" rings a bit hollow to us, if only because 4,200 hours spread across the country doesn't sound like all too much time for repeated spins of "How You Remind Me," and the possibility of those half-hours being relegated to low-rating slots seems all too real. Whether this punishment encourages radio stations to change their ways on a longer-term scale remains to be seen, but let's just say that we aren't exactly optimistic.

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