Clear Channel Communications, which owns 1,200 radio stations in
the U.S., is planning to cut ties with independent promoters hired
by record labels to plug particular songs and artists. The
Texas-based company claims that it has never exercised “pay for
play” practices but that it is cutting out the middlemen to
eliminate any appearance of impropriety.
Radio has been at the center of discussion by the Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation initiated by
Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold. Feingold has sponsored a
bill that would both increase governmental regulation of radio
station mergers (which were loosened by the 1996 Telecommunications
Act) and eliminate record label payments to radio stations for air
Under the current business practices, promoters charge record
companies to champion particular records, artists or singles.
Promoters then reportedly pay radio stations for information about
programming and play lists.
Clear Channel, which maintains that listener demand rather than
payments dictates it play lists, says that when its contracts with
these promoters run out this summer, they will not be renewed.
Clear Channel will then work directly with record labels on
marketing of music.
The issue was last discussed in the Senate in January. Among
those who testified was Don Henley, who urged for tighter
regulations on radio ownership. “Getting on the radio, in one way
or another, is the holy grail of our business,” he told the
committee. “In a perfect world, merit would determine which records
get played on radio. But this is far from a perfect world.”