The Nation Is Cleaning Up Radio with Eight “Rules of Engagement”: Does Elvis Costello Know About This?

Those of you who have not given up on radio entirely will be happy to read one of the music industry's more pleasant surprises of 2007: The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) has united with Entercom, CBS Radio, Citadel, and Clear Channel to create eight voluntary "Rules of Engagement," which in theory will help cut down on scandals of the payola variety, as well as securing more airtime for independent music to be played.

Wait... independent music? As in music "not owned and controlled by a major label, and [whose] market share is not reported by a major label"? According to A2IM's Peter Gordon, as stated in an interview with FMQB, that's exactly what it means. As part of the arrangement, independent music will occupy 8,400 half-hour blocks (a 30% marketshare) to be played between 6 A.M. and midnight. Does this mean you should expect to hear your local top-40 station playing Jandek tunes between traffic and weather updates during your morning commute? Not exactly, though that would be disquietingly awesome. The new regulations will ensure that independent and local artists from all genres, including hip-hop, country, rock, and others, are represented on their respective stations.

Other facets of the agreement include stipulations that "Radio should not be allowed to sell or barter access to its music programmers," that "Radio should not exclude independent promotion companies, as a class, from gaining access to music programmers except for independent promotion companies which are compensated based upon playlist additions," and that "Radio shall not ask for or expect, either directly or indirectly, any quid pro quo to play music." Theoretically, new regulations such as these will create a level playing field on which non-major labels will be able to compete. At this point you might be asking yourself: "Wait, we have to spell this shit out? You mean these haven't been regulations all along?" To which I would say: "Brah, now is not the time." Other rules include disclosure of promotional giveaway recipients by stations and ensuring that stations are properly publicizing procedures for music submissions.

The simple fact that Clear Channel would agree to these rules without a court order instinctively makes this reporter wary of the whole arrangement, yet on the surface, things certainly appear win-win. After all, the arrangement has received enthusiastic support from numerous organizations such as the Future of Music Coalition, The National Academy of Arts & Sciences, and others. To be sure, only time will tell whether or not these new regulations will truly make a significant impact on the musical world; but hey, it's a step in the right direction.