In black and white, New York state Attorney General office documents reveal numerous radio stations and programmers that are alleged to have accepted gifts, including electronics, vacations, airfare, hotel stays, sporting events tickets, concert tickets and laptops.
The documents were released July 25 as part of a $10 million settlement between the A.G.’s office and Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
According to internal Sony BMG correspondence released as part of the settlement, Columbia prioritized the value of spins in terms of radio market size: tier 1 consists of markets 1-30; tier 2 is 31-75; and tier 3 is 76-140. A rate sheet accompanied each artist.
The documents state that Dave Universal, former PD of Entercom mainstream top 40 WKSE Buffalo—who was fired by the station Jan. 3, 2005—accepted airfare for two in July 2001 to New York in exchange for adding “I’m Real” by Jennifer Lopez. In November 2003, Epic paid for a trip to Ft. Lauderdale, if Universal would add Good Charlotte’s “Hold On” to the WKSE playlist. An internal memo contained in the documents states that the label had a total of $1,250 “budgeted for [the] WKSE [Good Charlotte] add.” In August 2004, Epic sent Universal and three friends to Miami, with the understanding that he would add Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out.” An internal e-mail said the total cost of the trip exceeded $4,000.
Likewise, Clear Channel top 40 KHTS San Diego PD Diana Laird allegedly accepted a flat screen TV in November 2002, under the guise that Epic was providing it as a contest prize for a station listener. Laird is said to have provided the name and Social Security Number of a friend to mask the scam for the label’s internal accounting department.
Similarly, Blake Larson, PD for Archway Broadcasting top 40 WRHT Greenville, N.C., was given airfare for two, a laptop PC and Playstation 2 equipment and games, in exchange for airplay.
Columbia is sited for providing Las Vegas trips to Donnie Michaels, formerly PD at Pamal Broadcasting top 40 WFLY Albany; and to another programmer.
Michael Saunders, PD of Clear Channel R&B/hip-hop WWPR New York, was to be given a plasma TV and entertainment system valued at several thousand dollars, with the understanding that he would add Sony R&B artists to his playlist. However, Sony’s in-house counsel squelched the deal and Saunders did not receive the goods.
In one of the most egregious examples of potential corruption, documents site communications from an Epic promotion employee, writing to a programmer at Clear Channel top 40 WKSS Hartford, “What do I have to do to get Audioslave on WKSS this week? Whatever you can dream up, I can make it happen!!!” Likewise, a Zomba label employee implored of a programmer, “You have room for a money record this week?” 311 ‘Love Song’ Big $$$.”
Infinity is named in an Epic promotion in which the label provided trips to Las Vegas for station contest winners to see Celine Dion at Caesar’s Palace, in exchange for airplay of Dion’s “Goodbye’s the Saddest Word” by 13 of the group’s “mainstream and adult” stations. A threatening internal e-mail noted, “Ok, here it is in black and white and it’s serious. If a radio station got a flyaway to a Celine show in Las Vegas for the add and they’re playing the song all in overnights, they are not getting the flyaway. Please fix the overnight rotations immediately.”
More novel promotions were revealed in a lengthy outpouring of e-mails obtained by the Attorney General’s office, including a promotion where mix show DJs would be sent one Adidas sneaker as a lure to spin specific titles, and the other sneaker once airplay was secured.
Elaborate schemes were also established by Sony BMG labels to blanket radio stations with phone requests for specific songs by hired “listeners.” An Epic e-mail notes, “As for Saturday nights, you need to rotate your people. My guys in the inside say that it’s the same couple of girls calling in every week and that they are not inspired enough to be put on the air. They’ve got to be excited. They need to be going out or getting drunk or going in the hot tub or going clubbing. You get the idea.”
Another internal e-mail from Arista, says, “Here is the list of stations I’d like your team to start to hit with phones over the next week. Please make sure all callers are male, preferably under 25.”
> For full coverage on the Sony BMG / Spitzer settlement visit Billboard.Biz/spitzer.