Clear Channel Communications Inc. on Wednesday said it would cut ties with music promoters who are paid by record labels to trumpet songs to radio stations, saying the long-standing practice gives the appearance of “pay for play.”
Clear Channel, the top U.S. radio station owner, has been a lightening rod for criticism of the industry that so-called independent promoters use payments to influence what songs are played on radio stations.
Under the practice, which has been scrutinized by lawmakers, independent promoters charge music companies to tout their records. They then pay radio companies for often-exclusive access to station programmers and early information about their playlists.
Clear Channel, which is based in San Antonio, Texas, and operates about 1,200 stations, said it will stop working with these promoters when existing deals run out this summer to avoid the appearance that its playlists are influenced by payments.
In a statement, Clear Channel President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Mays said the company recognizes that “these relationships may appear to be something they’re not.”
“We have zero tolerance for “pay for play,’ but want to avoid even the suggestion that such a practice takes place within our company,” he said.
A number of lawmakers, including Senators John McCain, Orrin Hatch and Russ Feingold, questioned whether radio station contracts with independent promoters affect the amount of airplay given to particular songs.
Clear Channel has insisted that its radio station play lists are driven only by audience demands. It testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in January that the promoter contracts under question do not influence the songs that get airtime on its stations.
Once existing contracts with independent promoters run out, Clear Channel said it would work directly with the recording industry on promotions and marketing.