Backstage: Will Sony’s deceit and bribes finally end? | iLounge Backstage


Backstage: Will Sony’s deceit and bribes finally end?

Only a brief entry on this one, because the news stories today handled it pretty well: New York’s Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who ranks quite high on my list of do-gooders, has forced Sony to fess up that it had been bribing radio stations, orchestrating fake call-in campaigns to simulate listener demand, and setting up fake contest giveaways for listeners that actually went to station employees. MTV does a good job outlining the story here, but in three words, “big, big sigh.”

I say this, Sony, because I used to respect you so much, and because I keep on praying that Howard Stringer will listen: clean up this garbage already. How many divisions of your company need to be shamed by investigations and revelations like these before someone at the top decides that enough’s enough, the old tricks haven’t been working for a long time, and a return to your roots is now absolutely necessary?

Even after being ripped off by poorly-made PlayStations and misled by movie critics your company invented, your old customers still want their old Sony back. They want a Sony that cares again about making products that last. A Sony that gets public attention through innovation rather than graft or intimidation. The old Sony - the one everyone knew as a humble but consistently excellent Japanese giant, rather than a cesspool of two-bit hustlers willing to deceive and manipulate the media, customers, and anyone else for the sake of a few bucks. Clean it up. We’ll come back. Really.

And we’ll even help you sort out the organizational bad seeds who are making this sort of stuff happen. They’re well-known in media circles. Better people will make better decisions and ultimately a better Sony. Seize the opportunity. Please.

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As much as their pricing policies drive me nuts, Sony’s music division definitely not the only record company that’s doing this.

“Independent Promoters” were basically a third party that attempted to re-legalize payola (the term for money paid to DJ’s for airplay deals, which was banned in the ‘50s) by having the money not directly change hands between the record labels and the song-choosers.

Every major record label paid millions to these “Independent Promoters” to get their songs added at radio stations (particularly Clear Channel and Infinity stations). The examples of Sony’s giveways are more egregious because they were directly linked to the record company, but they’re likely not alone.

Elliot Spitzer is after the entire music industry for this obnoxious practice, and the other three major record labels are going to settle with him right quick after one broke ranks and settled.

Pointing fingers at Sony here is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. The real problem is the joke that radio has turned into in the last 10 years after all this payola, and in the end, that’s actually helping iPod sales.

Posted by Ellen on July 26, 2005 at 11:42 AM (CDT)


Admittedly, I’ve never been one to buy the argument that something’s right or smart just because everyone’s doing it. (I know you’re not directly making that claim, but you’re almost dismissing Sony’s behavior on the grounds that it’s not unusual.) So yes, Sony’s probably not the only company involved in this, just as it’s not the only electronics company to make certain products that routinely break within the first year of ownership. But what used to make Sony great was that it was bigger than such lowly practices, and stood out from competitors as a consequence.

Fact is, Sony spent tens of thousands of dollars - probably more - using illegal promotional tactics rather than the myriad creative and legal ones they could have used for the same money. They employed people to call radio stations and pretend to be listeners instead of employing the same people to go out and legitimately spread the word about their musicians. They’re also coughing up $10 million under this settlement,  a drop in the bucket to a huge company, but an amount that could have been spent on legitimate promotional activities. Ask consumers whether that $10m is better spent this way, or as a subsidy to reduce the prices of CDs for promising Sony recording artists?

Anyway, I’ve just seen too much of this sort of sleaziness from Sony in recent years, and I continue to hope that the company is forced back on track by the new regime.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on July 26, 2005 at 7:36 PM (CDT)


I wasn’t dismissing what Sony did, I was saying that singling them out misses the point. All four major record labels engage in these shady practices, and it’s a huge part of what makes trying to find a decent radio station a miserable, frustrating experience.

It might be that Sony’s electronics division used to go the extra mile, but since it became a multimedia conglomerate, it started acting like one: Caring about nothing but making shareholders happy by moving more product at a lower cost to the company. And that happened years and years ago.

The music industry is desperately in need of reform, and Spitzer’s investigation is helping by bringing Sony’s ridiculous practices out into the light of day. But until ALL record labels stop pulling crap like this, there’s going to be significant mistrust on the part of the public.

What I’m saying is that my question is similar to the title of this article, just broader, since I’ve got no special place in my heart for the quality of electronics that Sony used to make. I just want to know: When will the music industry’s deceit and bribes finally end?

Posted by Ellen on July 28, 2005 at 3:28 AM (CDT)


American companies doing buisiness in a corrupt 3rd world country need bribes in the budget, it’s part of doing business.

I guess the Japanesse see us that way.  And now they’re being shaken down by the local government for $10mil.  It’s all part of buisness in America.

If it pervasive as Ellen believes, then its the radio stations that need to be cleaned up.  This is why I bought an IPod, broadcast radio sucks.  Not to mention the noticable quality difference between digital and FM radio.

Posted by __redruM in Gaithersburg, MD on July 28, 2005 at 11:19 AM (CDT)


This just reinforces my belief that Sony is evil. They are quickly going the way of Disney, if you ask me.

Posted by Joshdude in Long Beach, CA on July 29, 2005 at 4:00 AM (CDT)


Payola has been a part of the music business for a long time. It just became harder to spot after the scandals of the 1950s.  Even back in high school in the ‘70s there was “interest” from the record labels with our broadcast radio education program. There had been talk about kickbacks to faculty, if not the school board and system, presumably under the guise of “contributing to the betterment of our public school system”.

As for Sony itself being the root of the “evil” have to remember that Sony bought their way into the music content business when they acquired CBS Records years ago. They relied on the old guard of CBS Music in establishing the prescence of Sony Music. The rotten system that they were caught redhanded at doing now has always been there; only the faces are different.

This certainly doesn’t absolve Sony Corp. from any of the wrongdoings, but to say that Sony the Company was the originating source of this payola scandal seems premature to me. How much they knew of what Sony Music was doing is unclear, but it does seem that they certainly SHOULD HAVE been watching the activities of Sony Music better, but then the bulk of this operation is primarily based here in the U.S., half a world away from Tokyo.

Posted by flatline response on July 31, 2005 at 8:18 AM (CDT)

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