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New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer may now be readying a case against music industry payments that are costing the industry tens of millions of dollars

Promoters pay radio stations annual fees for advance copies of playlists and bill record companies for each new song played, running up a tab that costs the industry tens of millions of dollars annually. Financial woes and piracy have caused the labels to cut back on such payments.

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is reportedly looking into music industry payments to radio stations for playing songs.

Spitzer’s office has served subpoenas on major record labels for contracts, billing records and other data related to business done with middlemen who promote songs to radio programmers, The New York Times reported yesterday.

The payola law, a federal statute established nearly a half century ago, bars broadcasters from taking money or goods for playing specific songs.

But the big labels — the Universal Music Group, Sony (NYSE: SNE) BMG Music Entertainment, the EMI Group and the Warner Music Group — continue a decades-long practice that skirts the law.

Independent promoters pay radio stations annual fees for advance copies of playlists and then bill record companies for each new song played, running up a tab that costs the industry tens of millions of dollars annually.

But financial woes and online music piracy have caused the labels to cut back on such payments. One promoter says the investigation is “20 years too late,” predicting that Spitzer won’t find anything.

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