FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly (pictured above) rocked headlines in early September when he sent a formal letter to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) requesting their cooperation in an investigation into the unscrupulous practice of “payola” (as we reported here).
Taking weeks to respond, their unsatisfactory reply to the inquiry has only incited a deeper probe of music industry practices. Details inside:
“Payola” is an act that sees a music servicing platform (streaming or radio outlets mainly) accept pay or bribes from record labels to boost an artist’s chart or certification stats. As the practice has been rampant in the music industry for decades, an official probe from the U.S. government has been launched to curtail the activity.
Per the petition of O’Rielly, the RIAA’s CEO – Mitch Glazier – responded on September 27th and ultimately offered little insight as he stated the organization is ‘constrained by law in [its] ability to probe and collect the individual business practices of [its] member companies.’ Pointing the finger at ‘independent radio promoters,’ Glazier insinuated the act of payola is NOT one major labels (which the trade organization represents) engage in.
See the letter in full below:
Branding Glazier’s letter ‘underwhelming,’ O’Rielly has promised to continue his investigation by taking his questions to the alleged sources. Taking to Twitter, he said:
It should be noted the RIAA’s response, though seemingly ambiguous and unhelpful, is nonetheless factual. As the organization certifies artists based on record labels’ audited and verified sales (digital and traditional) and streaming reports, radio airplay is not included in its equation. Yes, streaming is often pointed to as a manipulated source of payola, but the FCC’s stake in the conversation is related to radio as it is the United States’ regulatory authority for security, fair competition, radio frequency use, and media responsibility of radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.
However, to O’Rielly’s point (as we reported here), the RIAA is “uniquely situated” to survey industry practices as its association members do supply content to and/or engage with reports across radio and digital platforms alike. Being able to “see the bigger picture” means they are at least capable of surmising if unfair radio practices are at play. As such, Glazier’s dismissal of the FCC’s request could only see worse things uncovered if the probe digs deep into major record labels’ data.
Simply put: things are about to get ugly.