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Cumulus to Leave Liaison Off Payroll

Times Staff Writer

Cumulus Media Inc., one of the nation’s biggest radio chains, has decided not to hire an independent record promoter as an employee, company officials said Tuesday.

The move follows a report in The Times on Tuesday that Atlanta-based Cumulus was considering adding the promoter to its payroll as an in-house liaison to record labels. The idea troubled some record executives, who said making the executive a full-time employee would cross the line in the already controversial relationship between labels and radio stations.

Federal law prohibits broadcasters from accepting money in exchange for airplay without disclosing such deals to listeners, a practice called payola. Labels have sidestepped the law by paying middlemen to push songs to programmers. These independent promoters pay broadcasters annual fees that they say are not tied to airplay of songs, but bill record labels for each song added to a station’s playlist.

Label executives balked, however, at the idea of paying a Cumulus employee directly each time a song was added. Cumulus executive John Dickey said Tuesday that after the expiration of his chain’s deal with another promotion firm at year’s end, he expected promoter John Kilgo to establish his own independent business to pitch labels’ songs to Cumulus, instead of joining the firm’s payroll.

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