MEIEA Journal Vol 2 No 1  © 2002 Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association All rights reserved

Book Reviews

Dick Weissman

University of Colorado at Denver

Payola In The Music Industry: A History, 1880-1991

by Kerry Seagrave

Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland & Co., 1994

Anyone working in the music industry over a number of years has witnessed the emergence of payola in media coverage. Most of us date it all to the early days of rock and roll, and some of the colorful promotion people that represented the small and aggressive rock and roll independents. Dannen and Knoedelseder’s books certainly provided up-date details of how payola functioned in the era of the trans-national record company, but Seagrave’s book adds a broader historical perspective. He describes the many borderline practices of music publishers, paying artists to record songs, placing claques at performances to applaud vigorously when a song was performed, giving royalties to artists who had no hand in writing a song, etc. Other colorful activities included giving patrons lyric sheets to songs so that they could sing along, paying off organ grinders to perform specific songs, and paying off record companies and piano roll manufacturers to place their songs on the side of hits.

One of the themes that emerges in this book is that attempts to control payola by music publishers seemed to invariably fail. Periodically the federal government has entered the picture, held hearings and denounced the lack of ethics in the business, and publishers would promise to do better. After the hearings ended though, it was back to business as usual.

The familiar story of the Dick Clark and Alan Fried hearings is re-told here, with considerable documentation on the precise nature of the payola these gentlemen were taking. The author makes the point that as the industry grew major companies used payola as a means of marginalizing smaller labels who simply couldn’t afford to compete.

On the subject of Joe Isgro and the network of independent promotion operatives, the book re-tells the story presented in the books cited above. These materials are told in a more lively way in the other books, because Seagrave has relied entirely on library research for his information. Seagrave’s book not been widely publicized, and I have seen no mention of it anywhere in the media. This book is an exhaustive and interesting study for anyone interested in the history of payola.

Dance of Life: Popular Music and Politics in Southeast Asia

by Craig A. Lockhard

Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1998

Although the United States remains the world’s largest market for recordings, its market share has diminished over the years. Consequently, it is important that music business instructors develop a perspective about music in different parts of the world. Lockard’s book provides ample information about how popular music has developed in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Although the focus of the book is on the relationship between music and social change, there is a wealth of information about popular artists’ musical styles, as well as the role of record companies in these countries. It is enlightening, if embarrassing, to read about dozens of musical styles such as Thai lukkroong or the Indonesian wayang, that are known primarily to ethnomusicologists in our culture. The evolution of these styles, and their relationship to pop and rock music, provides a fascinating tableau for the popular music of the late twentieth century.

The author has included English translations of many provocative lyrics and there is an extensive integration of the music with the various theories of cultural study of music that are currently extant. Since much of the music discussed is either unavailable in this country or difficult to find, it is unfortunate that a CD of the examples was not included with the book. Nevertheless, anyone interested in the world music business will find this book invaluable in his or her work and thought.