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Don't Rock the Jukebox

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There's a reason that when you flip through the radio stations, it's the same junk all along the spectrum, and it's not that everyone else really does love Celine Dion. Sony BMG has agreed to stop giving payola (bribes) to radio stations and DJs, under pressure from New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Yes, he has documentation that people were given trips to Las Vegas in exchange for playing Celine Dion songs. Anyone surprised? Yeah, OK.

It's nice of Spitzer to enforce the law, but that alone doesn't mean commercial radio will suddenly bloom with great DJs seeking out and playing great new bands you've never heard of. The agreement to follow the law doesn't eliminate the legal but equally blandness-inducing middleman.

What's really so weird about the whole case is that it illustrates how desperate record companies are to get certain songs played on the air, to the point that they will pay thousands of dollars for some random DJ in Buffalo to play a particular song. It also shows how slim the chances are of a song being played on a big commercial radio station unless it is one of the few songs a record company has chosen to support with its big bucks. If music companies could figure out how to work with music fans and new technologies, instead of assuming the intention of all networks and other online services is only to steal, they might have a less expensive way to have more songs reach a more diverse market of music fans who would then buy their products.