Music Industry

What’s the Difference Between MTV’s New Album Premiere Strategy and Payola?

Maybe I’m missing something here, but this smells.

Knowing that showing music videos isn’t enough for artists to make an impact, MTV has embarked on a new strategy for “blowing up” album premieres.  Using Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande as test cases, this new multi-platform plan called “First” is design to make hit records.  The plan includes special programming, exclusive premieres, social media campaigns, corporate tie-ins, an exclusive MTV stream and more.

That in itself is fine.  All broadcasters–radio and TV–are free to get behind artists they love and support them.  They’re free to spend time and money promoting an artist.  But the moment money exchanges hands–say, between a label (or its proxy)–to push a particular piece of musical product, isn’t this the same as old-fashioned payola?  Or is this couched in terms of “marketing and promotion” or “advertising?”

The way I read it, this looks like old-school pay-for-play.  And that’s illegal.  Or am I out to lunch here?

Could this sort of thing be the new normal in the on-demand age?  What sorts of artists will be offered these opportunities? What deals will be cut?  The moment a big advertiser comes in–Pepsi is part of the Ariana Grande campaign–who gets a cut of the action?  So many questions…

Read this article from Mashable and explain to me what’s really going on.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37921 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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