pay·​o·​la pā-ˈō-lə How to pronounce payola (audio)
: undercover or indirect payment (as to a disc jockey) for a commercial favor (as for promoting a particular recording)

Example Sentences

These radio disc jockeys accepted payola to play particular songs. payola in the music industry
Recent Examples on the Web What started as modest compensation shilling for a local car dealer or pizza parlor has quickly become unapologetic recruiting payola in the win-at-all-costs world of college football and men’s basketball. Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 Apr. 2022 In the label’s early days, the music industry practice later known as payola—paying DJs to play your records—was not only legal but common. Bryan Greene, Smithsonian Magazine, 23 Feb. 2022 The line between these two had been continuously blurring through decades of mergers and vertical integrations (and vast amounts of payola) until listeners had enough. Danny Garcia, Rolling Stone, 7 Jan. 2022 The parents, Singer, and college coaches played a direct role in the scandal, while negligent admissions officials and campus shakedown artists helped create the culture in which sleazoids like Singer and payola parents operated. Frederick Hess, Forbes, 12 Oct. 2021 Industry insiders, with their truffle-pig noses for sniffing out scandal from the air, suspected more to the story, perhaps involving prostitution, large-scale payola, or a hard-drug racket. Amy X. Wang, Rolling Stone, 9 Sep. 2021 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 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1938, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of payola was in 1938

Dictionary Entries Near payola

Cite this Entry

“Payola.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Legal Definition



pay·​o·​la pā-ˈō-lə How to pronounce payola (audio)
: a secret or indirect payment (as to a disc jockey) for a commercial favor (as for promoting a particular record)

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