Disk Jockeys Making That Money under the Table

By Alan Walsh

You may not feel the same way the next time you listen to your favorite song on the radio. While there are many things that go on behind the scenes in the music industry, you’ll be surprised to know that DJs on local stations like Hot 97 and Power 105 are getting paid up to $10,000 by record labels for songs to be placed in regular rotation.

It’s not uncommon for most DJs to get “contracts” for playing a specific song. The artist’s song will be played for a certain amount of spins, all while getting paid up front. If the song is played more times than the agreed amount, it’s not uncommon for the artist’s label to give a cash-in-hand payout as a sort of “thank you” for being so kind.

“It’s crazy,” said Jersey City-born rapper, Sam Black. “Sometimes you have to sit there and ask yourself how the hell these songs make it on the radio. Well, there’s a reason for that- the DJs are getting paid! If a celebrity DJ is spinning your record it’s a good indicator that you’re next in line to blow up out there in the spotlight.”

The music industry is one of the most cut-throat businesses in the world. One day, you can be on top of the world with the number one hit single, and the next, you can be right back at the bottom.

“The music business is a numbers game in reality,” says Fateen Reid, Manager at WhatevaOK Records. “It’s very rare for an unsigned artist to make it on their own in the music industry. We’re here to help them.”

This practice isn’t limited to the DJs at radio stations. More often than not, the DJs at night clubs get straight cash-to-hand payments when they spin an artist’s record there. In that setting, the people that visit the club are there for one thing- to party. Hearing the record becomes the soundtrack of the evening, and it’s a more effective way for them to remember that song over and over again in their heads.

Most record labels are pretty serious about the practice and it has been going on for years. The up-front payments are not illegal in any way whatsoever, but it can turn an average artist into a world-renown star in one night.

“It’s all about the best exposure possible,” said Black. “You can have the greatest track in the industry, but if no one hears it, then what good is it? We’re all out here to show the world all the long, hard hours that we spend in the studio creating perfection. But at the end of the day, we want to make as much money as possible. To make money, you have to spend money.”