Payola, in the American music industry, is the illegal practice of payment or other inducement by record companies for the broadcast of recordings on music radio, in which the song is presented as being part of the normal day’s broadcast. Under US law, 47 U.S.C. § 317, a radio station can play a specific song in exchange for money, but this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime, and that play of the song should not be counted as a “regular airplay”.
Unfortunately within the Jamaican laws there are no similar provisions. The incidence of payola therefore continue unchecked as far as Jamaican media operations are concerned, and have in fact been extended to include pay for video play, as well as pay for newspaper articles. This practice of paying to create a distorted perception of the popularity of a song or artist has no doubt contributed to the very lucrative business of hype, which apparently now takes precedence over the business of music in Jamaica.
So entrenched is this business of pay for play, and pay for exposure inside Jamaica, that several thriving music consultancies and entertainment publicity operations have been established based on the ability of the operators to skillfully navigate their way through the very well established payola network.
The media is unquestionably a very significant aspect of the music marketing exercise, and professional publicists and entertainment marketing consultants are an absolute necessity. It is now however full time for appropriate regulations to be crafted and implemented to help in bringing some semblance of structure to the Jamaican music industry. In my opinion the criminalization of payola should be very high on the agenda of our legislators.