Payola II

Following my earlier post, an astute reader pointed me to an excellent analysis of payola:

[Payola] helped new musicians gain airplay. Payola combatted conformism and racism in the music business… Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene,” his first hit and still one of his most popular songs, was given initial airplay because of payola. Leonard Chess of Chess Records went to well-known disk jockey Alan Freed with a large catalog of material. Chess offered Freed partial songwriting credits on any song of his choice, provided that he would play and promote the song. Freed now had a stronger incentive to pick the best song and to promote it. After listening to hundreds of recordings, Freed picked “Maybellene.” Berry became a star, and the Freed estate continues to receive royalties…

The discussion, of course, is from Tyler’s book In Praise of Commercial Culture. (Yup, he’s the astute reader also!). See the book for more, including how racism factored into the payola “scandals.”


Comments for this post are closed