Now Hiring: Payola Interns

This might be a stretch to be considered true L.A. news, but I know a few of the readers here work for the company mentioned…

The Consumerist is reporting that those wiley marketing geniuses at Epic Records have been trying to hire unpaid student stooges interns to plant reviews on MySpace and blogs…

“Do you blog, have lots of firends at your MySpace page, and love music?” asked the ad at
Epic Records, a subsidiary of Sony BMG, “is looking for skilled, motivated interns to promote artists on social networking sites like MySpace, Purevolume, Facebook and others.”
In return for selling out and buying in, you get college credit and a tick point for your resume, which should be very useful should you be seeking a job in the future requiring little to no integrity, like marketing.

The ad has since been pulled, but the Consumerist has a link to the Google cache.

Remember that Sony BMG recently settled a class action suit against them for installing malicious anti-piracy spyware on the computers of people who legally purchased their music. Oh, how I love companies that show respect for their consumers.

11 thoughts on “Now Hiring: Payola Interns”

  1. what they’re asking people to do isn’t really payola as you state it. i mean, it’s not exactly the most honest way to go about marketing, but then again, it’s marketing. there isn’t really that much honest about it in the first place. odds are that these kids are more than happy to be shills to the corporation that puts out their favorite bad pop/punk/emo/whatever acts (ohmigod, Epic, please don’t put out another Say Anything record. . .please)

    I also think comparing “interns” who do little write-ups about bands they most likely already like and the SonyBMG rootkit fiasco is like comparing someone stepping on your toe and someone shooting you in the face. While I agree that it’s stupid, I have to say that you’re not quite looking at this in perspective.

  2. Benhigh, you make one good point and one bad point. This is not really payola much at all, it’s creative marketing. It’s an internship. An exchange of services for different services. It’s really the foundation of American laissez-faire industry.

    Also, how can there NOT be another SayAnything record? They are Los Angeles’ finest band since The Doors. Max and the boys deserve better.

  3. Ben, my point isn’t that what Epic is asking students to do is the same as Payola, but it certainly encourages the practice… a quid pro quo where they get something (college credit) in exchange for spreading positive reviews and buzz about their artists. Maybe it isn’t the same as a bribe because they call it an “internship” but it certainly isn’t legitimate marketing – even if “everyone” does it.

    And the Sony BMG rootkit fiasco is entirely different that paying for planted reviews, but its damn indicative that Sony Music has little respect for its consumers.

  4. truth. i mean, that rootkit thing was deplorable and i hope they haven’t heard the last about that. they’ve made it more than clear that they have very little interest in doing anything more than taking your money. it’d be easier if they put out more good records though. ..

  5. But David, how is that any different than being a paid publicist? You trade cash for your efforts or you trade college credit. It’s publicity.

  6. Because publicists are open about being publicists.

    Maybe I’m assuming to much, but I don’t think that Epic’s interns were going to be asked to point out that they’re working for Epic marketing while using their contacts and networks.

  7. I was just thinking the other day that I wish IMDB had some automatic flag for first time posters. Like the first five times you post, it says “new member” next to your user name. You’d think that some of these people would eventually build up a profile, but mostly, it’s new peeps signed up to shill everytime. Go to any really bad new film and look at the “OMG IT’S THE BEST MOVIE EVER” posts. You can always tell the shills, and if you click on their names, you can see they joined IMDB just to post once. HMMM.

    It’s really just stupid.

  8. This is called an “eteam” and loads of bands and labels have them. This sort of thing happens at all the major labels and is in no way unique to Epic, Columbia, SonyBMG or any of those guys. It’s just a cheap way to get grassroots promotion, and really not that big of a deal.

    I mean, if you see someone say “Check out the new fallout boy video stream” on their myspace blog, why does it matter if they really like the band or not. It seems pretty harmless to me.

    As for them being interns, that’s kind of another story. I know that regular eteam members get prizes and stuff for putting up a lot of posts. I guess an intern gets credit. Sounds pretty boring to me, but I’m certainly not outraged about it.

  9. There’s a difference between being part of a street team or e-team for a band you like, and shilling for bands you barely know or dislike.

    I doubt that Epic was actively seeking interns to put links on their sites, so much as engaging in “blog seeding”, or “live spamming” by entering chat rooms, message boards, or comment threads for the sake of blindly endorsing a band in exchange for college credit.

    Heck, some people think spamming is okay too.

  10. oh oh, check this out, i was reading the work of carl wilson and found this excerpt here:

    “Pay-for-play, according to Kerry Segrave’s study Payola in the Music Industry: A History, 1880-1991 and Frederic Dannen’s expos√© Hit Men, predates not only radio but the record player, too. It goes back at least to the 1880s, when publishers would funnel kickbacks to singers to promote sheet-music sales of certain songs. Soon “song pluggers” were being paid to swagger into saloons and pound out marketable tunes on the piano, whistle them in diners or belt them out in five-and-dimes. In vaudeville audiences, paid-off plants would sing along to specified songs to make them seem popular (just as “viral” agents are hired to phone in requests today).”

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