Dancehall artiste Wayne Marshall has voiced the opinion that payola (pay for play) spans 80 per cent of the industry and silences talented artistes whilst supporting Chris Blackwell’s view that Jamaica’s golden era of music is finished.
“Payola is very prevalent part of the business now,” said Marshall who is in the Alliance group of artistes headed by Bounty Killer. “Money is all over the place on the charts, the radio stations … payola is all over and that contributes to the stagnant nature of the business.”
Payola had the effect of supporting the claim of Blackwell, who founded Island Records and was responsible for marketing reggae icon Bob Marley to the world.
“A foolish record will get played and pushed if a man has money behind it. So that is the record you will hear everyday, so Chris Blackwell will be thinking, What the hell (happened) to this music, man? The golden age is gone because the new number one record would be off-key in certain parts, the content has nothing significant,” he said.
Interestingly, 54 of the Top 100 Jamaican songs from 1962 are songs made in the 70s. The list was released in April by a panel of musicians and cultural officials led by the University of the West Indies.
The reggae-centric chart was dismissed by some, as it contained less than five dancehall songs. Others charged it reflected the declining quality of music.
Payola has long existed in the industry, but there isn’t any way to test the prevalence of this clandestine activity. Marhsall estimated that “80 per cent of the industry” operates on it. His evidence is the “stagnant” quality of popular music along with his insider knowledge. He said that songs may get airplay without pay in sections of the media but not others.
“A great song can get pushed by 60 per cent of the media without any money. Then the other 40 per cent is thinking…that the reason that it was played was due to money,” he said at the ongoing 34th Annual Conference of the Caribbean Studies Association in Jamaica. “Payola is so prevalent, they are thinking that (others) are getting paid to play it and say, ‘me nah go play it unless me get money’, and then a good record suffers.”
Marshall added that the industry is about money, “it’s not about talent again”.
He said that good artistes get pushed to the bottom of charts and excluded from prime time radio. “You have a lot of artistes out there that buss dem brain with good content, songs, melodies but never get the light of day because they don’t have the juice to even burn 5,000 CDs to put out.”
He added: “But if you do the research you find that this man has a big drugs man behind his career and him pay people and get plenty favours. If you aren’t talented it wont last but then if the money can last then (he will).”
His caveat was that artistes must support media in various ways outside of payola in order to influence play. Instead of pay for play utilise other models.
“I am not saying artistes should not support media. Because TV and radio play an important role in getting us out there. So if I feel like for all the work the media have done for me, I will give you a Christmas show or a gift, okay.”