Paying radio stations to play certain artists’ music or to have them in heavy rotation is a practice that has been banned in the industry. The term ‘payola’ or pay-for-play deals are not only illegal but is disapproved. A recent report by Rolling Stone published an expose where they aired out the teams of a number of top-selling artists. According to the publication, these artist’s labels have been making shady deals with certain radio stations.

Artists reportedly impacted in the alleged scheme include:

  • Shawn Mendes
  • Dua Lipa
  • Halsey
  • Ellie Goulding
  • 5 Seconds of Summer
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Panic! At The Disco

The publication claims that they obtained over 2,500 text message between various industry professionals and Steve Zap, an independent radio promoter. Zap used to work for labels like MCA Records, Virgin Records, and Warner Records.

Among the text messages obtained by the outlet were some from Elektra Records‘ senior VP of radio promotion, Mitch Mills, who texted Zap about how Panic! At The Disco had been receiving fewer radio plays. He texted: “Stevie … [down] 11 in panic. I just did a 2k deal with you … I need Panic back up.”

The radio promoter was allegedly even more explicit when record companies refused to pay to play music. Another text from Zap to a station employee ordered them not to take directions from one particular record company that wasn’t paying them. It says: “Please don’t let Interscope dictate anything to you. They don’t pay me s**t.”

The artists themselves didn’t had anything to do with the promoter and his alleged dealings with record labels, but he is said to have helped increase visibility for artists like Ed Sheeran Marshmello, Halsey, Backstreet Boys, Ellie Goulding, Shawn Mendes, Panic! At the Disco, and Dua Lipa.