The Competitive Effects of “Consideration Payments”: Lessons from Radio Payola.
Adam D. Rennhoff
It is not uncommon for upstream manufacturers to make payments to downstream firms in order to obtain preferential treatment. These payments may generally be called “consideration payments.” Examples of this include the slotting allowance payments often discussed in the grocery, pharmaceutical, and consumer electronics industries. Payola in the radio industry shares many of the same characteristics as slotting allowances. The prohibition of radio payola in 1960 gives us an opportunity to empirically examine the effect that these payments had on the record labels using them and on overall product variety. We construct a unique variety measure based on the musical styles of Billboard chart artists and supplement this with information on radio airplay from Billboard charts to evaluate the effects of payola. We find that the prohibition of payola reduced musical variety and overall record sales, but may have helped increase access for smaller record labels. These findings support the theory that payola payments, which may impose a non-trivial financial burden on the record label, serve to reduce the radio station’s risk.
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