Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Busted Jukebox

Forty-five years ago this winter, the careers of several disc jockeys, including Alan Freed, were collapsing thanks to the payola scandals. The federal government went after disc jockeys who had accepted money or other favors from record companies and promoters in exchange for airplay. For 35 years afterward, payola was supposedly eliminated--even though any radio people could still get "benefits," everything from cash to drugs to sex, in exchange for services rendered to promoters of records or concerts. Beginning in the late 90s, payola became an acceptable part of the radio biz again. Major radio chains were paid by independent record promoters in exchange for playing records pushed by the promoters. At some stations, it was like a jukebox, almost--promoters paid for a fixed number of plays per week, and bought additional plays as desired.

The modern payola system has largely collapsed over the last several months, however, thanks to the intervention of New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. Salon's Eric Boehlert reports, however, that this may not have the positive effects you might logically expect. It probably won't open up radio station playlists to artists and record labels who weren't served by the payola system. Instead, it's likely to make radio stations even less adventurous than they are now--if such a thing is possible. For all its faults, the payola system helped get a number of new artists on the air to begin with. Without it, new artists, who already have a nearly impossible time getting on bigtime radio stations, will find the going even tougher.

A Man, a Phone, a Plan: How many song titles can you name that contain phone numbers? I can think of a few:
Beechwood 4-5789 (the Marvelettes)
634-5789 (lots of people, including Wilson Pickett and Bon Jovi)
Lonesome 7-7203 (Hawkshaw Hawkins)
Echo Valley 2-6809 (a Partridge Family album cut)
867-5309 (Tommy Tutone)
The last one is the most famous, and last month a guy took it upon himself to call 867-5309 in every area code, just to see what he'd get. The results are here.


At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Squeeze had a minor hit in the late 1980s with "853-5937." The Time had a tune called "777-9311." And, if you expand the question to P.O. boxes, the Monkees had a song called "P.O. Box 9847"! -- Dave P.


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