New proposal could make pay-for-play radio the norm

iheartmedia others propose hiding paid programming disclosures online iheartradio payola

When you think of payola, the illegal practice of payment for airing a song on the radio, you usually think of sleazy record promoters paying DJs for song placement in pop radio’s earlier days. While overt payola may be a thing of the past, a new proposal seeks to change radio’s current requirements to identify paid programming on-air before running sponsored content.

A new petition from a group of radio broadcasters, including iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel), Cox, Emmis Communications, and Entercom want to waive the current payola safeguards that require stations to announce when content has been bought and paid for by promoters. They argue that putting these disclosures online would be a more thorough and convenient solution.

According to the New York Times, the broadcasters said the proposed changes “would result in listeners’ having access to more information in a user-friendly and satisfying way.” The FCC announced this petition to the public earlier this month and will accept public comments on it through April 13.

For the hundreds of millions of monthly terrestrial radio users, what does this mean? If you’re listening to the radio in the car, your home, or elsewhere, DJs won’t be required to let listeners know that a record label or promoter paid for the songs they’re playing. In exchange, broadcasters would be asked to put up lengthy disclosures on their websites to note paid programming, but it seems unlikely that most listeners would take the time and due diligence to investigate.

Further, as the Times article points out, media companies have been fined in the past for skirting curret payola disclosure rules, including a 2007 case in which Entercom and iHeartMedia were forced to pay $12.7 million to the F.C.C.

In effect, the new format could open a floodgate for promoters and labels to load radio stations with paid programming, holding the listener hostage to what is profitable, not popular.

“If this were to happen, it would seal the deal for commercial radio just being a closed system for large media companies to promote their products,” explained Casey Rae, chief executive of the Future of Music Coalition to the New York Times.

It’s already nearly impossible for independent musicians to get time on commercial radio stations, and this proposition, if it passes, could make it a whole lot harder.

More to the point, the new format could help turn a business already loaded with commercial incentives even further down that road, with DJ playlists that are driven not by what the public wants to hear, but by whichever artist media companies are pushing as their latest artist de jour.

Emerging Tech

Astronomers plan to beam Earth’s greatest hits into deep space, and you can help

A new project from the SETI Institute (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) will give the public the chance to submit compositions to be beamed into space, with the aim of connecting people around the world through music.
Movies & TV

MoviePass returns to unlimited movies plan, but with plenty of restrictions

Troubled subscription-based movie service MoviePass is making headlines on a daily basis lately, and not in a good way. Here's a timeline of events for the company once described as Netflix for movie theaters.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in several genres for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Home Theater

Pandora now lets you mess with the secret sauce for its music playlists

Pandora introduced a new feature called Modes, allowing subscribers to pick between six different algorithms that determine what the popular music streaming service will decide to play.
Home Theater

SoundCloud hopes to add listeners with 50 percent discount for students

SoundCloud launched a student discount for it's top-tier SoundCloud Go+ membership, dropping the price to just $5 a month. It's a good deal for students, but will it be enough to keep the music platform from going under?
Computing

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation.
Home Theater

iPhone owners can finally hear the highest-quality streaming music on Tidal

If you're an iPhone owner who is after the highest possible audio quality from your streaming library, you now have the best option out there: Tidal's Masters Quality Audio (MQA) is now available on iOS.
Home Theater

Get loud with the best outdoor speakers to rock your party in any weather

From rugged, solar-powered backwoods listening companions to floating pool party jam boxes, the best outdoor speakers partner with your lifestyle to let you listen to your favorite tunes wherever you go.
Music

Apple Music offers a few subscription options. We break them down here

Competition for music streaming apps is quickly dwindling with giants like Apple Music and Spotify dominating most of the market? But how much does Apple Music cost and what does a subscription to the music-streaming platform entail?
Home Theater

If you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber, you now get Hulu for free

Spotify Premium subscribers have yet another reason to love the Swedish streaming service, with the company now offering ad-free Hulu accounts to all premium users at no additional cost.
Music

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've handpicked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Home Theater

Apple Music completes its Amazon migration, is now available on Fire TV

Amazon's popular Fire TV devices are now compatible with the most popular on-demand music streaming service in the United States, thanks to a new integration with Apple Music that has finally hit Fire TV devices.
Emerging Tech

This streaming music service pays artists in Bitcoin, plants trees if you listen

Feedbands is an environmentally friendly subscription streaming music service that pays its artists in Bitcoin, and plants trees in exchange for authenticated listens from customers.