Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Public Relations


Public Relations & Advertising


Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts


Shapiro, Steve


Popular music radio stations; Popular music; Sound recording industry; Sound recordings--Marketing


Public Relations and Advertising


Payola helps get songs played on radio stations. Decades ago, it involved record company promoters giving cash, marijuana and other inducements to disc jockeys so they would add a new song to their playlist. The courts always found the disc jockey at fault.

Then in 1973, the courts began to go after the record companies. This caused the record companies to seek a middleman – independent promoters. Independent promoters helped record companies get songs added to the playlist so record companies did not have to deal with radio stations directly.

Some independent promoters gave large amounts of cash, harder drugs and prostitutes to program directors in exchange for space on their playlists. With the government cracking down on such illegal activity, payola took on a legal form. Independent promoters began to give tens of thousands of dollars to the station for marketing purposes.

This historical study examines how payola changed over the decades and identifies some significant cases. It lets some experts voice their opinions on the payola issue. This study also compares payola to advertising and public relations.