Finger Pointing At Sony

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was careful not to name names in his 11-month investigation that found payola was commonplace at Sony BMG Music Entertainment and other labels. But inquiring minds can always count on the news media.

A December 4th report in the Los Angeles Times, based on information from seven current and former Sony BMG executives who chose to remain anonymous, claims Columbia Records Executive VP of Creative Marketing & Promotion Charlie Walk and his boss, Sony Music Label Group U.S. Chief Executive Don Ienner, “tolerated and condoned pay-for-play.”

Lawyers for the two denied the allegations.

A Sony BMG spokesman was quoted in the paper as saying, “After a long, in-depth investigation by the attorney general’s office, this whole matter was resolved months ago. It’s unfortunate that malicious gossip and false allegations by anonymous sources are now being used to damage the reputations of good and honest people.”

The label settled the Spitzer case in July by admitting misconduct, shelling out $10 million and agreeing to bring in a compliance officer to monitor promotion.

Then indie label TSR Records filed a lawsuit against the corporation in October, claiming Sony BMG broke antitrust laws by giving bribes in exchange for pay.

Just days before the Times article was published, Ienner announced a reshuffling of the chain of command at Columbia and Epic Records, including a promotion for Walk.

Columbia Records Chairman Will Botwin has stepped down after less than a year in the post and Steve Barnett, president of Epic Records, has moved into that position. Walk has replaced Barnett at Epic.

Michele Anthony has been promoted to president of Sony Music Label Group U.S. in addition to her duties as company COO.

Lisa Ellis has been named president of Sony Urban Music after holding down the GM position, and Tony Donnarumma, SMLG executive VP of sales, has been named Columbia Records GM.