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)

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 The payola scandal of the 1950s, where radio DJs in the US were paid to play records, was one of the first big shots. Christopher Null, WIRED, 7 Feb. 2024 There remain battles to be fought, whisper campaigns to be hatched, payola scandals to be investigated. Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times, 19 Jan. 2024 Government lawyers allege that Google protects its franchise through a form of payola, shelling out billions of dollars annually to be the default search engine on the iPhone and on web browsers such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox. Paul Wiseman, Fortune, 12 Sep. 2023 At the time, the regulatory agency was reeling from payola scandals, involving bribes paid to disc jockeys in exchange for promotion of certain records, and rigged quiz shows. Adam Bernstein, Washington Post, 6 May 2023 Despite the risk, payola continued. Michael Goldberg, Rolling Stone, 19 May 2022 The Discovery Mode feature, which is somewhat reminiscent of a payola – currency in exchange for plays – creates an interesting business case for artists and labels alike. Jacqueline Schneider, Forbes, 9 Mar. 2023 Or the payola allegations (2011). Dan Snierson,, 11 Jan. 2023 When payola Demoraea retired. Laura Johnston, cleveland, 7 June 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'payola.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 May. 2024.

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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