pay·​o·​la | \ pā-ˈō-lə How to pronounce payola (audio) \

Definition of payola

: undercover or indirect payment (as to a disc jockey) for a commercial favor (as for promoting a particular recording)

Examples of payola in a Sentence

These radio disc jockeys accepted payola to play particular songs. payola in the music industry
Recent Examples on the Web And since the 1960s, this practice, known as payola, has been regulated by the federal government. Billboard, 28 June 2021 For Holter, all the discussion about fractions of pennies, parity and payola, while crucial, is less a concern than Spotify’s power and potential consequences for musicians. Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr. 2021 Still, rolling out a new set of payola demands in the middle of a global pandemic that has working artists struggling to stay afloat marks a new low. The Artist Rights Alliance, Rolling Stone, 18 May 2021 In an industry once plagued by payola and still poisoned by cronyism, there needs to be transparency about the Rock Hall process to insure credibility. Jon Bream, Star Tribune, 13 May 2021 Artist advocate Krukowski describes the offering as a new kind of payola. Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr. 2021 Joi’s recorded performances embodied all the funkiness my little soul had been waiting for at a time when Black radio was pinned under the thumb of payola. Longreads, 27 Apr. 2020 Rolling Stone magazine in August published an article alleging payola lives on through independent middlemen who purportedly use cash-transfer apps and corporate accounts to move money in exchange for radio airplay. Anne Steele, WSJ, 22 Jan. 2020 Even trash disposal hasn’t escaped political payola. Jane Ferguson, The New Yorker, 12 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'payola.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of payola

1938, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for payola

pay entry 1 + -ola (as in Pianola, trademark for a player piano)

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Dictionary Entries Near payola

pay off


pay one's last respects

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Cite this Entry

“Payola.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for payola



English Language Learners Definition of payola

: money that is paid to someone for illegally helping to sell or advertise a product
: the illegal practice of giving or receiving payola


pay·​o·​la | \ pā-ˈō-lə How to pronounce payola (audio) \

Legal Definition of payola

: a secret or indirect payment (as to a disc jockey) for a commercial favor (as for promoting a particular record)

More from Merriam-Webster on payola Encyclopedia article about payola


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