Payola is the age-old tactic of paying radio DJs to get your stuff heard. It’s straight up unfair. When all it takes is money to secure playlisting, the quality of the music suffers. Good stuff by upcoming producers and even professional DJs gets buried. The tastes of a handful of people dictate what’s being heard, rather than the ears of the people. Recently, DJ event brand leader Boiler Room has been coming under fire for their attempts to monetize their brand presence in a similar way.
The current feeling is that branded parties are selling out culture. Recently, a post by a Pittsburgh promoter went viral. In it, the ubiquitous Boiler Room requested that his local scene pay the brand in order to use their name on an independent event being organized by his team. Some consider this to be the equivalent of Uber-esque corporate franchising of regional pockets of culture.
But Boiler Room IS clearly cool enough to warrant this manoeuvre. Association with the brand results in more ticket sales. It results in nightlife attendance in smaller towns. It’s undoubtedly part of their long-term strategy to capitalize at this time on the branding they have done and the positive associations they have built. So what’s wrong with that?
Keep it rare
The reason that many DJs and promoters are reacting so negatively to the availability of the Boiler Room brand is because they feel that the brand names behind the event should be in some way invested. If the name of Boiler Room simply starts to become available for a fee, however small, it runs the risk of starting to represent the flood of undiscerning, commodified dance music. Pretty soon, there’s a Boiler Room party on every corner. It starts to lose scarcity and meaning.
Boiler Room has built an amazing brand. By capturing live video streaming they’ve brought the party into our living rooms. They’ve done some stinkers, but on the whole, they’ve contributed to our DJ culture. But how is that culture going to go forward if the majority of promoters and DJs are reacting negatively to this new ploy of earning on brand association alone? Payola always ends up killing musical independence. By watching how Boiler Room reacts to this community backlash in the coming months, we’ll know with more clarity where their loyalties lie. Get more into the DJ world. Head over to see the DJ programs and classes at DJ Courses Online.
John Bartmann is a music producer and DJ