Gen Y Did What Eliot Spitzer Couldn't

Even a politically ambitious New York Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, couldn't stop payola. Congress has never been able to. Radio never wanted to. And record labels still in their heart of hearts believe it's just the price of doing business. So the latest news that CBS has settled its problem with Spitzer in exchange for a $2 million charitable donation while admitting to payola practices should appear to be another nail in the coffin of this "dreaded disease". Clear Channel, Emmis and Cox are among the major groups to be subpoenaed as part of Spitzer's jihad. Entercom is fighting Spitzer but hasn't had much success so far. So what does it all mean? Payola still exists. People in radio know this. It's not the same as it used to be. But it would be hard for an honest radio person to put his or her hand on a bible and swear that labels can no longer influence airplay. I know...I know -- no trips, credit cards, money or overt offering of drug payments. And the consolidators who invented their own kind of "legal payola" by selling access to their program directors in return for slightly earlier "add" reports than the music trades published was always a joke. Now no one is laughing because the joke is on radio and records. Increasingly payola doesn't matter any more, because radio airplay matters less and less each day. The next generation uses peer-to-peer filing sharing, social networking, legal and illegal downloading and other Internet-related means to bring democracy to the music business. Radio is less of a force and will continue to decline. So there -- Gen Y has found a way to do what lawmakers couldn't, self-regulation wouldn't, consolidators shouldn't and Eliot Spitzer cannot -- stop the influence of payola. An assist goes to record labels and radio for incorrectly assuming that they would always be America's hit makers when the Internet generation had something else in mind.