The Worst Strategy

Elliot Spitzer’s announcement that the record industry has been paying disc jockeys and radio programmers for radio airplay doesn’t come as a surprise to many. Payola is an old and pretty successful strategy for promoting their artists.

That strategy, while serving it’s short-term purpose, is helping to destroy the industry. Payola coupled with deregulation made radio so boring that it’s almost beyond belief. With cash coming in, radio programmers choose to ignore their audience and play what they were paid to play because that audience had nowhere to go. Now they do. Listeners are opting out subscribing to satellite radio and helping Apple’s iTunes sell 500 million songs.

This new payola scandal obviously isn’t of Enron-esque proportions despite the fact that Elliot Spitzer called a press conference and showed up with very ominous looking charts. The lesson here is what can happen when an industry continually serves the wrong master incapable of realizing what doing business as usual is costing them. Sony will pay a $10 million fine, and — hopefully — the radio industry will get a clue.