Paid song "ads" on radio walk, talk, quack like payola

An article in the LA Times about record companies paying radio stations to air specific songs as ads. Critics say the practice is a lot like the "payola" systems of the 1950s, which for the most part were outlawed long ago.

During a single week in May, Canadian pop rocker Avril Lavigne's new song Don't Tell Me aired no fewer than 109 times on Nashville radio station WQZQ-FM. The heaviest rotation came between midnight and 6 a.m., an on-air no man's land visited largely by insomniacs, truckers and graveyard shift workers. On one Sunday morning, the three-minute, 24-second song aired 18 times, sometimes as little as 11 minutes apart.

Those plays, or "spins," helped Don't Tell Me vault into the elite top 10 on Billboard magazine's national pop radio chart, which radio program directors across the country use to spot hot new tunes. But what many chart watchers may not know is that the predawn saturation in Nashville ­ and elsewhere ­ occurred largely because Arista Records paid the station to play the song as an advertisement. In all, sources said, WQZQ aired Don't Tell Me as an ad at least 40 times the week ending May 23, accounting for more than one-third of the song's airplay on the station.

Link (totally stupid site registration required) (via pho)