THEY CAN PAY TO PLAY, YOU CAN'T [Rock & Rap Confidential/1998].... "Promotion is alive and well," Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell recently told the LA Times' Chuck Philips. "One man's consultancy fee is another man's kickback."

This can take a variety of forms. When EMI was having trouble getting airplay last year for D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar" single, they set up a showcase for the singer at Bimbos in San Francisco, flew in dozens of programmers and their dates for the show and put them up at a luxury hotel. The result of lavishing $50,000 or so on the programmers was, according to D'Angelo's manager Kedar Massenburg, "a substantial increase in airplay immediately after the show."

EMI paid for this one itself but the industry also funnels over $50 million a year to tipsheets and various outside contractors, all in an effort to influence what gets played on the radio.

Jeff McCluskey runs a Chicago-based company that has all the major record labels as clients and maintains "close relationships" with over 60 of the biggest radio stations. Using the $6 million a year he takes in from record companies, McCluskey pays each station from $15,000 to $100,000 a year in return for exclusive access to the station program directors.

At some stations, programmers can win cash and cars just by predicting which songs will be hits in contests staged by Jonas Cash's Active Industry Research. Record companies pay up to $7,500 to enter a song in Cash's contests and then pay another $7,500 for weekly feedback about the song.

As any regular Jeopardy watcher could tell you, the correct question here is: What happens to a record from a company that can't afford to rent a hotel or pay $7,500 to enter a song in a contest?

Back to "Why Do We Need the Music Industry?"


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