Universal Music Group Still Taking the Odd Hit Of Payola Now and Then

Five months ago, Universal shelled out $12 million to New York charities after being slapped firmly on the ass with accusations of payola. The settlement also introduced a rule that prohibits any label execs from purchasing radio ads containing more than 60 seconds of a song, since independent tracking services could potentially count this as actual airplay, rather than as a dirty, dirty, fat-cat trick. However, if Universal really wants to try it out, all it has to do is give written notice.

And so, as if possessed by a spirit of good will and fairness, some labels distributed by Universal have recently taken up the practice of, well, purchasing radio ads containing more than 60 seconds of a song. Blackground Records used this method last week to boost JoJo's "Too Little, Too Late" to the no. 2 slot on the U.S. pop charts. In the previous week, Roadrunner Records, another label associated with Universal, bought ads that launched Nickelback's "Far Away" up to no. 1. Written notice of these purchases was provided, but it was on a bathroom wall at Universal's corporate headquarters, and was written in shit. Another sign that something was awry in the charts was the fact that no one, in any country, has ever heard either of these songs.

The "ball" is now in New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer's "court." Will Spitzer make a "slam dunk" and tighten up the settlement? Will he "call a foul" on Universal's shady practices? Will he continue efforts to "Shaq"-kle corporate criminals? Will he "chase a player around the court with a bucket of water and then toss it into the crowd, revealing that the bucket was actually filled with confetti"?

Check back in the coming weeks for any further developments on Nickelback.

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