Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Elliot Spitzer: Pay-for-Play




How about that? The sanctimonious one was caught with his pants down.

New York governor Elliot Spitzer, who extracted a few million from the radio and record industry, had his career come to a sudden halt for the price of what a parallel one top 40 add was going for in 1985.

Five grand – actually $4,300, Courvoisier from the mini-bar, room and a tip got the guv two and a half hours of something he couldn’t get at home with a 5’ 5” 105-pound brunette call girl who went by the pro name Kristen.

Or as he put it, ".…acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family.”

Questions, questions:

What do we call him now? Former governor or client number nine?

Did the Emperor’s Club take plastic? Is that $4,300 and change discreetly listed on your credit card statement as MultiSafePay?

Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot. Spitzer said "no questions - please."

The incident proved that Spitzer was as dumb as the radio and label people that gave him an easy in to extract multi-millions from both industries.

Spitzer’s investigation of payola in the radio and records industry was going nowhere fast when both industries observed Omertà. He was about to can the inquiry when one of his team, on a tropical vacation, overheard a drunken label executive, sitting at the bar, letting his liquor do the talking. While he boasted of how his the labels got music played on radio, she took notes, connected the dots, and Spitzer closed the deal.

The “legal payola” deals were the hardest to crack. Technically, they weren’t illegal. Legal payola was written off by participating stations as non-traditional revenue, where airplay was quasi-legally being bought and sold – either as a paid spot (like Arista buying overnight spins for Avril Lavigne to boost her airplay chart rotation) to radio stations contracting above-board deals with independent record promoters to have exclusive airplay influence-peddling rights (like Randy Michaels who set up the template with Clear Channel for other chains to follow).

Spitzer made his real mark at identifying the value added – where staff members were cutting side deals for trips and merchandise in exchange for airplay – most, if not all of it, unknown to the radio station’s corporate offices. The investigation uncovered e-mails and office correspondence, which exposed numerous pay-for-play schemes – directly negotiated between radio employees and the labels.

Many of the execs running the labels today try to play tough-guy cool by wearing their sunglasses at night. In reality, most of these guys are lucky sperm club trust funders that’ll fall into a fetal position and cry if you say “boo.” They don’t get the code of the street: Never write when you can speak. Never speak when you can nod. Never nod when you can wink, and never use your corporate office’s e-mail to spell-out specifics to an airplay side deal with David Universal or anyone else for that matter.

When faced with probable jail time, the caught canaries sang and Spitzer got the labels to cough up $50 million to New York State.

$50 million is chump change to the labels. They routinely cheat artists out of that much in royalties a day. Radio's a different story.

Spitzer fell because he believed his own hype. He flaunted his Princeton and Harvard Law education. He bragged of his rise in the ranks from cynosural prosecutor to crusading attorney general to New York State governor. But somewhere along the way he forgot that he puts his pants on one leg at a time like everyone else – or in his case…

When he did his witch hunt on radio and records he tried to classify anyone associated with radio or records a guilty participant – and put a lot of innocent people through the ringer. Yesterday, he did the same to his wife and his three teenage daughters.

That must be the new mea culpa. Call the press, make a statement, trot out the family, admit guilt, and take no questions.

Spitzer’s using the same playbook as former Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, who admitted having an affair with a man under his employ or Senator Larry Craig, who admitted before he denied that he was playing footsie in the stall of an airport men’s room.

Hookers are hot in politics these days. There’s Bush administration State Department official Randall Tobias. He refused to provide AIDS relief dollars to countries that allowed prostitution. Then he got caught having call girls stopping by his condo. Let's not forget Louisiana Senator David Vitter whose name turned up in the D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey ‘s phone records.

Neil Young, one artist who was not willing to share his royalties with participating contemporary hit PDs back in the eighties, released a song called “Payola Blues,” which included the line, “Here’s five thousand/that oughta get it on.”

I think Elliot Spitzer could provide Neil the inspiration for a hit song.

He should rush back into the studio and re-record the track with new lyrics – “Here’s five thousand/let’s get it on.”


See a David Helton Len 'Boom' Goldberg comic strip here

27 comments:

Talex said...

Family values strikes again. The old saying is true. What ever a politican says, believe just the opposite.

Anonymous said...

In the short term it appeared that Spitzer was doing something for the artists by eliminating payola since its payment comes directly from their royalties and not out of the label's own treasury.

Now payola just takes a different route. I am an artist trying to get airplay on the radio. I am on an indie label (not my own) and promotion and marketing is up to me to generate. I was told to contact a well known "name" radio consultant. He promised me soundtracks, getting my songs in commercials and getting me airplay at stations he consults.

When it came time to sign a deal I took it to a lawyer who wanted to renegotiate it. The lawyer said as it was written I would be responsible to pay a service charge for every radio station that added the tune in addition to a retainer and other service fees.

I went to another radio consultant and twenty four hours later I was told that he could not help me because of what I had done to the other consultant.

My lawyer says it is collusion and there is nothing I can do about it.

Could someone tell me what Elliot Sptizer really did to help recording artists and eliminate payola?

Please do not use my name or e-mail.

Anonymous said...

In the short term it appeared that Spitzer was doing something for the artists by eliminating payola since its payment comes directly from their royalties and not out of the label's own treasury.

Now payola just takes a different route. I am an artist trying to get airplay on the radio. I am on an indie label (not my own) and promotion and marketing is up to me to generate. I was told to contact a well known "name" radio consultant. He promised me soundtracks, getting my songs in commercials and getting me airplay at stations he consults.

When it came time to sign a deal I took it to a lawyer who wanted to renegotiate it. The lawyer said as it was written I would be responsible to pay a service charge for every radio station that added the tune in addition to a retainer and other service fees.

I went to another radio consultant and twenty four hours later I was told that he could not help me because of what I had done to the other consultant.

My lawyer says it is collusion and there is nothing I can do about it.

Could someone tell me what Elliot Sptizer really did to help recording artists and eliminate payola?

Please do not use my name or e-mail.

Jan said...

Why am I not surprised? The goody two shoes types turn out to have their own demons to hide. How could Spitzer who launched investigations on prostitution be dumb enough to set himself up?

Another guy who thinks the wrong head.

Anonymous said...

Spitzer credits himself as an investigator? If it were not for that drunken loudmouth from Epic Records spilling his guts in a bar he never would have gotten close to cracking the payola case.

Anonymous said...

VOTE FOR NUMBER NINE

Anonymous said...

They should toss Spitzer in the slammer and play a continuous tape loop of Avril Lavigne.

labelguy said...

You are sooooo right about the labels today. There used to be label heads like Herb Alpert, Jerry Moss, Mo Ostin that were music guys who worked their way up the ranks. They signed artists based on music and promoted them that way, too. Today you have exactly what you said, trust funders like Edgar Bronfman who has used his Seagrams family money to buy his way into the music business. The major labels today are indistinguishable from the radio station companies. They are owned by family fortunes and not by broadcasters and pioneers.
Spitzer is just another fly on you know what trying to make a name for himself although I don't think Kristen was the one he had in mind.

Anonymous said...

Hillary will end up going lez. First her guy is caught 'not having sex' with his intern and now she just lost a super delegate because this guy couldnt keep his pants on.

One thing you can say is that poliitcal sexual scandals are non-partisan. Everyones doing it.

Anonymous said...

Hillary will end up going lez. First her guy is caught 'not having sex' with his intern and now she just lost a super delegate because this guy couldnt keep his pants on.

One thing you can say is that poliitcal sexual scandals are non-partisan. Everyones doing it.

deepthroat11 said...

Gorman,you don't know the half of it. Nothing has changed. The labels still get what they want on the radio. Now they go through the consultants and pay them. In turn the consultants tell the radio stations they no longer have to pay their fee and they will do it for free. I am sure you have encountered some of this with your work. The group GMs get praise from their superiors by saving money on consultanting fees and are treated as heroes. The labels still get their music on the radio by forcing the airplay issue. It is not hard to figure out either. Look at who the consultants are and what stations they consult and you will easily see the pattern. I know first hand. We are playing at least six tracks that are consultant driven.

Anonymous said...

Elliot Spitzer was good for those of us who remember good radio before Randy Michaels turned the industry into a payola machines. Spitzer did take it to the extreme by making it difficult for a station to a promotion for a song already being played. If a station adds a track they should be able to get a promotion. That is not stealing since the end benefit is to the listeners. The problem we have is that politics forces everyone to be on one side or the other. Spitzer did a lot of good for radio and artists and just took it to the extreme. I do not like the mob mentality trying to bring him down. Clinton did not resign. I don;t think Sptizer should either.

Anonymous said...

How could a politian like Spitzer who knows where all the bodies are buried be so dumb as to set himself up with a high priced call girl? Did he think others werent watching?

Anonymous said...

Dammit, Elliot.

If you needed a hooker why didn't you just call us?

Signed,

Your friends in the music industry

Anonymous said...

The wife and children are collateral damage. The same rules that apply to those who worked for labels that were guilty by association. Those that took the biggest hit for payola were the underlings. The "designers" got a way scott free at both radio and records. Remember that. Sptizer solved nothing.

poule said...

Obama has to have a real big smile on his face today. Hil just lost another super delegate.

Anonymous said...

Wow...an entire post where you didn't once attack Clear Channel or the 96 TCA. That may be a first.

The funny part is that when he went on his crusade, the conventional wisdom was that payola didn't exist before 1996 or CC, and that consolidation had made it possible. That was a lie, as Dick Clark can attest.

Anonymous said...

Elliot Spitzer might have had some legitimate gripes regarding payola but to pass himself off as some kind of crusading saint was a little much. Did he not think that perhaps the radio and record industry would find his weakness, in this case with hookers, and expose it? Spitzer was stupid. No other word for it. He set himself up. The would have been better off using his hands.

Radio Guy II said...

Spitzer may have been right to go after pay for play but he was wrong to go after stations wanting to do concerts, promotions, fly aways, to promote an artist/song. There is a difference. Someone like Dave Universal was taking the spoils for himself whereas there were plenty of stations that wanted to reward its listeners. Sptizer was tougher on those doing real promotions than the companies that cut deals with McClusky for Chrissakes! Spitzer was 70% opportunist, 30% sincere. It was the 70% that got him screwed in more ways than one.

samson said...

gorman: you missed the real story today. eff spitzer. the real story is about your bud randy 'payola prince' michaels hiring lee abrams to work w/him @ the tribune. two peas in a pod. two rats in a cage. two snakes in a pit. lee & randy could you ask for anything more? i thought the tribune people were effed with randy. now they will really get effed by abrams. yeah if lee abrams invented album rock that means chun king invented chinese. spitzer was out getting tail he probably wasnt getting @ home. doesnt make it right. his wife looked like an ice queen.

Bill Clinton said...

As president I’ll make prostitution legal. We can regulate the industry and collect unpaid taxes. And that’s good for the economy. It’s legal to buy cancer sticks. And alcohol that’s responsible for breaking up marriages and killing millions. My VP will be Clear Channel’s John Hogan. JH is very highly qualified when it comes to screwing people.

Vote Bill Clinton for president.. I’m back baby..

Anonymous said...

Spitzer in trouble?


Does this mean Diana Laird gets her Tv back?

Anonymous said...

NEIL AND THE SHOCKING PINKS! I was absolutely convinced there was not another soul on this planet that even heard of that album.

I know this has nothing to do with Elliot Spitzer.

Anonymous said...

legal payola = clean coal

where is george orwell when you really need him?

spitzer probably investigated prostitues when he was ag so he could pick out the best of the bunch.

according to new york magazine's web site he liked them kinky.

Anonymous said...

The story is amazing. How Spitzer could go after prostitutes and travel agencies selling sex vacations and live this double life. You do have to take note that Spitzer fell short of getting real charges against the sex workers and travel agencies he went after. Maybe the guy was such a sex freak he figured that by fronting himself as a straight-laced crime fighter no one would suspect his double life. I also heard Spitzer's hate for the music industry may have stemmed from when he had a band and couldn't get signed when he was younger and this was his way of getting even and his campaign and payola which was so open when Randy Michaels ran Clear Channel served as an easy way for Spitzer to attack radio and records.

Anonymous said...

He spent $80,000 on hookers and twat....err, I mean WHAT did it get him? Unemployed! $80,000 could have bought him a lot of fine toupees!

Anonymous said...

Spitzer is just another politician with a god complex. So great, so powerful, so much smarter than everybody else. HE makes the rules. But just once I would like to see one of these wives throw their husband's stuff out of the window on TV instead of standing there like a faded Stepford wife who is past her prime and has hit the wall. Milk him, bilk him and throw the cheating bastard out. If you women are gullible enough to believe he'll ever be happy with you after romping with $5000 hookers, then you're probably dumb enough to believe that TCA96 was good for radio and the public airwaves. Hey, it's a media blog. Just trying not to stray too far off topic. (the TCA reference was for you Gman, BNA forever, Lush)