But after being sued by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the mammoth music company acknowledged that it had bribed radio programmers with cash and gifts to get its artists on the airwaves. As Rolling Stone reported, the label doled out free iPods to get radio play for the Streets and $800 gift certificates to land spins for the wretched singer-songwriter Toby Lightman. Shit, we'd pay 800 bones not to hear that crap.
Of course, Warner isn't the first record company to cop to payola charges. Earlier this year, Sony settled a similar suit for $10 million. But that hardly excuses Warner's actions.
Who really gets screwed here? As usual, it's the music fans. By making the airwaves a pay-for-play enterprise, major labels have successfully excluded independent labels from getting spins on commercial radio. Not only have indies been responsible for some of the most vital artists in recent years (Bright Eyes, Interpol, Iron and Wine, to name a few), but they often offer their product at a cheaper price; when record companies spend millions getting their songs on the radio, they pass the bill onto the consumer, hence the advent of the $18 CD. For sticking us with crappier music at a higher cost -- and for its neverending corporate greed -- we're tossing Warner Music Group and its seedy business practices onto the compost heap.