EMI Last To Settle

EMI Music North America has agreed to pay $3.75 million to resolve a pay-for-play investigation into radio air time sold or traded to benefit artists, making it the last of four companies to settle as part of a two-year investigation by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

“When a record label engages in an elaborate scheme to purchase air time for its artists, it violates state and federal law and presents consumers with a skewed picture of the country’s proclaimed ‘best’ and ‘most popular’ music,” Spitzer said.

After the settlement was announced June 15th, Spitzer said one deal included tickets to a Rolling Stones concert in Toronto that were given to a radio program director for personal use.

The Watertown, N.Y., radio exec was willing to offer “what it takes for us to get them,” according to Spitzer’s investigation. In exchange for the ducats, Virgin Records received airplay for the Stones and The Exies.

Other pay-for-play artists included Coldplay and Norah Jones.

“EMI is pleased to have resolved these radio promotion matters with the New York State Attorney General with this agreement,” the company said in a statement, which neither agreed with nor disputed Spitzer’s allegations. “In addition to voluntarily adopting strict policies last year, we have been working cooperatively with the attorney general to reinforce these policies.”

EMI agreed to reform its practices and pay $3.75 million. The penalties will be distributed through the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to nonprofit groups in New York to fund music education and appreciation programs.

Settlement documents released June 15th by Spitzer were more detailed than those made public in his previous pay-for-play investigations, according to the Los Angeles Times. They reportedly included the names of radio programmers who allegedly had solicited bribes and the titles of two top EMI label execs.

The documents also named radio employees and stations owned by Clear Channel Communications and CBS Radio, fueling speculation that Spitzer might be trying to push those companies into settlement as well, the Times said.

Spitzer launched a nationwide investigation into alleged wrongdoing by music and radio companies in 2004.

In May, Universal Music Group, the world’s largest record company, agreed in May to pay $12 million to settle a payola case that claimed the company provided vacations, electronics and other bribes to increase radio play, Spitzer said.

Sony’s music arm has agreed to pay $10 million, and Warner Music Group agreed to pay a $5 million settlement.