The Bones of Payola
**Our good friend Dan Adams Band has a very thoughtful rant about Bobby Bones being a “co-writer” in Nashville.
Music industry rant – sorry it’s long but I think a worthy discussion, and I hope you’ll chime in Music Friends:
On my drive into Austin this morning, I was listening to nationally syndicated country radio show “The Bobby Bones Show”. Bobby is currently the voice with the biggest reach in the country music industry – on the almost 70 stations his show is carried on. He’s already proven with artists Chris Jansen and Cam that he can single-handedly take a song from unknown to hit status just by spinning it on his show.
But here’s my issue….
This morning, Bobby was talking about having had artist/writer Kristian Bush at this home to write songs the previous evening. He went on to say that he also writes with hit writer Lee Miller, hit writer/artist Eric Paslay and others.
For years, country songwriters have tried to “write” directly with signed artists – even ones that have no writing skills – so that they are more likely to get a song recorded by that artist. In other words, as these artists are being pitched a ton of songs, the writers hope that “writing” with the artist (often meaning the artist sits in a room with talented writers who actually do the work, then include the artists’ name as a co-writer on the song) will give the artist and label financial incentive to choose the co-written song over all the others to be included on the album and released as a single. Publishing royalties that come from being a co-writer on a hit can equate to a tremendous amount of money. So, many times, artists who can’t actually write are being paid royalties as “writers” on their hits because it gave the songwriters an inside edge to include them as such.
SO, now back to the Bobby Bones rub. If Bobby is “co-writing” with hit writers and artists, this brings up an interesting question. Since he’s never spent years crafting his talents as a writer and paying dues, networking, etc in those circles, I can only assume that the incentive to for these people to “write” with him (or have him in the room while they are writing) is the same as why writers “write” with non-writing artists. BECAUSE NOW BOBBY BONES HAS A FINANCIAL INCENTIVE TO SPIN AND BREAK THESE SONGS ON A NATIONAL SCALE.
Essentially, he’ll be able to use his platform on radio to pay himself potentially hundreds of thousands in royalties on playing songs that he himself is listed as a writer on —- whether or not he actually wrote them. Actually that point is moot anyway. It’s a conflict of interest at best.
Folks, paying DJs for radio play is called Payola and it’s been against the law for decades.
As a writer like Paslay/Miller/Bush, I get it….you’re trying to give yourself any edge you can to make a better living. But, at the same time, integrity is called into question and there’s definitely not a level playing field where the cream will rise to the top…..ultimately, the quality of the music played on the huge iHeart Media country station lineup has the potential to suffer in favor of Bobby Bones lining his own pockets.
I’m just saying – as someone who has struggled in the music industry for nearly 20 years – it gets me pretty upset to hear crap like that out of Bobby or anyone in his position.
i’m a fan of his radio show. I know he’s worked his butt off in radio to get where he is. I respect the fact that he’s used his platform to bring to light folks like Cam (btw, did he co-write “Burning House”?).
Bobby should stick to radio and let songwriters stick to writing songs, because it’s a slippery, gray slope when the biggest mouth in country music has a royalty incentive to play his own songs over other songs.