Tag Archives for " playola "
While radio airplay used to be the lifeblood of a hit (and in some cases still is), today it’s the playlist that really sets the tone for listener discovery. If a track is added to a popular list, its streams will spike and listeners will add it to their personal playlists, which sometimes adds a viral element that spreads to playlists on other networks as well. What’s more, hot playlists are now watched by radio programmers to see both what’s trending and what’s not.
Not surprisingly, pay-to-play has come to the digital age as a new form of payola now attempts to influence what consumers listen to. Playlist promotion, or “playola,” has become a big part of the promotional campaigns for many managers and labels. In fact, prices for playlist promotion can be as little as $100 to a small blogger with a modest following, to as much as $10,000 for a six-week campaign for a major playlist owner. A quick Google search will find dozens of promotion companies that specialize in getting your songs on playlists just about anywhere.
Just like in the old days of radio promotion, competition is now fierce for these playlist spots, so don’t be surprised if the prices continue to rise.
While the playlist culture has been great for music discovery for the listener, it turns out it hasn’t been that great for artist development. Where before listeners were getting to know the artist’s music via multiple songs on an album, that’s all changed as streaming has made the business more song-driven instead of artist-driven. As a result, songs tend to come and go faster, as do artists. The good news is that means there are are always spots open on a playlist for new songs. The bad news is that it’s more difficult for an artist to get long-term traction as a result. Check out this post to improve your chances of getting placed on a popular playlist.
I just returned from speaking at Nimbus School of Recording and Media in Vancouver (one of the best recording schools anywhere – thanks Mike, Rob and Brandon), and one of the questions that I received from the students was if the music business is more difficult now than it was in the past. Actually, getting into the business has always been difficult, and that’s the same as it ever was 10, 20, 30 or more years ago. It’s different, of course, as the industry has evolved, but one thing’s for sure, the seamy side of the music business of the 80’s has improved a great deal over time.
Here’s a video called “The Chart Busters 1980” that’s about the widespread payola of the era that was a requirement for radio airplay. For those of you don’t know, payola is where a record label or promotion company that’s been hired by a label pays a radio programmer in exchange for not only playing a record, but playing it at the best time of the day as well.
At first, payola was all about cash, which lead to the first scandal in the 50s that lead to a law that prohibited cash for airplay. Clever promotion men got around that by supplying gifts, vacations, drugs and women instead, which lead to a second crackdown. The labels tried to insulate themselves from further prosecution by hiring third party promotion companies, but a another crackdown in 2005 attempted to close that loophole.
Believe it or not, we’re experiencing another form of payola today called “playola” where money and favors are exchanged for placement on popular online playlists, so the practice continues in a new and insidious form.
Regardless, this video is a great look at the music business as it was back in the 80s, when vinyl albums were still king and the CD was just coming on the scene.