Payola and it’s Effect on The Music Industry


What do we understand by “Payola”? 

Payola is the practice of bribing someone {radio stations} in return for the unofficial promotion of a product in the media.

“If a record company spends enough money on payola, it can make any record a hit.”

Radio stations now airplay songs they are paid for not the ones you want to listen to.

You try to listen to some programs on the radio and each station plays the same songs across all frequency.

We are aware of labels paying radio stations to play their songs, but can we say the majority of those songs are really worth promoting?

The benefactors of PAYOLA are solely the Payer & the Payee, causing a bridge between rising artists and small record labels who can’t handle the hefty fees mounted on them.

I contacted an agent whose work is to connect you and these radio stations and believe me when I saw the price list, my heart sank. How do you expect an artist, who is struggling with 100 plays on all Music Platforms to afford that kind of amount for you to play his song? 

The Birth of Payola 

In the 1920s, Payola was totally legal (still is to an extent), in as much as the fees is paid directly to the media house and the media house must disclose such openly. But sometime in 1959, it became illegal due to a big profile case involving Alan Freed, a top DJ at the time with WABC radio in New York.

Alan Freed was fired after his refusal to sign a statement that he had never collected money to play a song on air. This led to its first court case in 1960, which made the news and subsequently served as references in court judgments.

Payola is punishable by law, citing the case of Sony BMG one of the biggest record labels in the world, was made to pay $10 million.

Television stations now also are in the act. For you to get your video played on any station, you just cannot pay those fees.

These Media stations and their paying partners all say they want the very best for upcoming artist, they all come out to say they did something for the industry, meanwhile, all they do is enrich their pockets. 

That’s why when you tune in to a music video station, or you listen to the radio, or you come online, you see almost the same types of music and artist everywhere. How do the Rising ones grow?

Why do Record labels resort to PAYOLA?

In the music industry, numbers and saturation are key, so these big labels and artists pay their way to get these numbers and saturations by flooding the music airwaves so big corporations would take notice of them and still make more money.

Forgetting the fact that there are upcoming artists who need platforms to make their impressions but have little and no resources to push their music.

Payola kills competition in the music business because how can an upcoming act compete monetarily with big acts, even if the upcoming is far better?

I really hope this issue gets addressed on and something is done about it. 

Our Upcoming acts are really trying very hard to push their contents but when it comes to settling your way to move higher if the resources were available, then it can be met, but this is NIGERIA!

Since media houses have embedded ‘payola’ as part of their business development strategy, can we then say that Payola is a bad thing? Let’s discuss.


  1. Hi Marcus!

    Hope this message meets you well. Thanks for putting out this article. I think Payola is a touchy subject and while it’s proven effective in some cases, it’s hard to admit for two reasons.

    1. There are the legal and even ethical reasons.
    2. There is always the danger that “good” artistes without funding will be sidelined while “bad” artistes with funding will be promoted.

    IN many ways, what most artistes can do is keep making the music and keep pushing.

    Also, a tiny thing, in your heading “Why do Record Labels Result to Payola?”, I believe you meant “resort”.

    On another note, I’d like to introduce an artiste to you: he goes by the name “KABACCI” and he’ll be releasing his new single “JON SNOW” on the 31st of this month.

    I’d be glad to send you the song and artwork if this would be a good fit for your audience.

    In the meantime, here’s his Soundcloud page:

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Keep up the good work and do have a wonderful day ahead!


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