FMC, AFTRA have decried 'pay for play' at federal level.

EMI has confirmed that it has received a request from New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer “for information regarding practices in connection with the promotion of records on New York state radio stations.” Meanwhile, representatives of artists' groups are welcoming the investigation.

The comments follows word that Spitzer has served subpoenas on the four major record companies seeking copies of contracts, billing records and other information detailing their ties to independent middlemen who pitch new songs to radio programmers in New York state.

London-based EMI says it is “cooperating fully with this inquiry, which is at a preliminary stage.”
Sony BMG had no comment; spokesmen for Warner and Universal Music Group could not be immediately reached.

EMI says it has “a long-standing, strict written policy prohibiting unlawful radio promotion practices, and that policy was reaffirmed internally earlier this year.” The statement adds, “EMI has no reason to believe that there will be any material financial impact on the company.”

The “new payola” issue, as one component of the negative fallout of radio consolidation, has also concerned federal lawmakers for the past two years.

The Future of Music Coalition, an indie-artist-driven group, in cooperation with the Recording Artists' Coalition and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, was the first to bring the issue of "pay for play" to the attention of lawmakers and the Federal Communications Commission back in 2002.

FMC government relations director Michael Bracy applauds the Spitzer action. “The attorney general has the ability to move faster than the FCC, and has a proven track record taking on big companies and getting results,” says Bracy.

“I’m delighted,” says Ann Chaitowitz, the head of the recording artist division of AFTRA. “He can use subpoenas to get necessary documents. I hope he also looks at related issues that affect artists, such as treating artists unfairly if they don't play their [owned] venues or promotion companies.”

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., introduced a radio consolidation bill to address the concerns of the artists' groups. He and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, have held several oversight hearings on the negative impact of radio consolidation.

Both senators convinced the FCC this year to look at pay-for-play in a larger inquiry to determine whether the dearth of local input on broadcast stations has precipitated problematic business practices. That inquiry, which seeks to build a record after seeking input from the public, closes next month.