US Attorney General for New York Eliot Spitzer might as well be taking on the Mafia for filing subpoenas complete with a little red bow for the criminals at Universal Music Group, EMI, Sony-BMG and Warner Music for violations of the Payola Law.

If you think it's a crime to play some of the crap that makes it to radio, you're right. If you think these rope sucking, boil-in-bag DJs are taking bribes to play Ripe Tripes, you're right about that too. Simply put, radio stations are not allowed to accept money for airplay without identifying it as a commercial. The most interesting part of the New York Times report is this:

Broadcasters are prohibited from taking cash or anything of value in exchange for playing a specific song, unless they disclose the transaction to listeners. But in a practice that is common in the industry, independent promoters pay radio stations annual fees – often exceeding $100,000 – not, they say, to play specific songs, but to obtain advance copies of the stations' playlists. The promoters then bill record labels for each new song that is played; the total tab costs the record industry tens of millions of dollars each year.

This practice prevents independent artists and small labels from breaking through without dealing with the crime families and their “system.” Corruption is an affront to free markets and consumer choice. Spitzer's office indicated that it's a wide open case which means dozens of people will get caught in the net. Perhaps being on the receiving end of a Maoish cultural revolution is what record industry executives _really_ need. In the meantime, criminal prosecution will suffice.

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