Indie Sues Sony BMG

TSR Records, a Tarzana, Calif.-based independent label, filed a lawsuit October 18th against Sony BMG Music Entertainment, claiming the company broke antitrust laws by giving bribes in exchange for airplay.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, builds its case on Sony BMG’s “pay for play” civil settlement in July with New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer, according to the Los Angeles Times. The company agreed to pay $10 million to settle allegations that it had used improper practices, including payola.

Clear Channel Communications recently confirmed it fired two employees who were identified in the Sony BMG-Spitzer settlement as having accepted gifts.

In its claim, TSR, a new age and smooth jazz label with about $1 million in yearly revenue, reportedly alleges that pay-for-play actions by Sony BMG made it nearly impossible for independent labels to get airplay for their artists.

“The best way to sell albums is to get songs played on the radio,” TSR President Tom Hayden told the paper. “But we can’t afford to bribe programmers with plasma-screen TVs, so we’re shut out.”

TSR also contended that Sony BMG violated federal and California antitrust laws and improperly interfered with its business prospects, The New York Times said. The case seeks unspecified monetary damages and attorneys’ fees.

A Sony BMG spokesperson told Pollstar the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Federal law bans programmers from accepting gifts in exchange for airing specific songs unless the transaction is revealed to listeners.