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Warner Reaches ‘Payola’ Settlement

Warner Music Group will pay $5 million in fines to avoid prosecution over “payola” allegations from New York State Attorney General and noted media watchdog Eliot Spitzer. On Nov. 22, Spitzer released a sheaf of documents accusing the Warner Music Group of padding the pockets of radio station employees with perks like iPods and tickets to premier sporting events in exchange for playing songs by Warner acts like Green Day, R.E.M., and My Chemical Romance. One of the documents in question was an e-mail from a Warner staff member describing a Cincinnati disc jockey as a “whore” who was willing to play just about anything in exchange for lavish gifts.

“Warner is the second major player in the music industry to come forward and acknowledge that these practices are wrong,” Spitzer said in a statement that listed other allegations against Warner, including “[p]urchasing ‘spin programs’ to artificially increase the airplay of particular recordings, and “[h]iring independent promoters to act as conduits for illegal payments to radio stations.”

Earlier this year, reported on a similar agreement eked out by Spitzer with Sony BMG — a company which had engaged in the same kinds of schemes as Warner (read more). Perhaps Spitzer’s well-publicized prosecutorial doggedness lately is less than altruistic: He’s already announced his candidacy in the 2006 New York State gubernatorial race.

Official Press Release from the Attorney General

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