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The 1950’s Payola scandal in radio affected the influence of rock ‘n’ roll disc jockeys (DJ) on music choice and potential phonograph record sales. Various broadcast historians who studied radio concluded the situation worsened for black performers after DJs lost their power to promote certain types of music with increased airplay. Program Directors and Record executives reportedly asserted greater influence and the music created by African-American singers was pushed to the margins, thus reducing opportunities for financial success and future opportunities. This study used data from Billboard magazine’s annual Top-100 ranking system, from 1956 to 1963, to test whether the number and percentage of black singers who made the list dropped after Congress held hearings focused on Payola in 1959. Findings suggest black performers fared just as well in the early ‘60s as they did during the heyday of the influential DJ. In fact, the mean for both songs and performers actually grew after the scandal, although t-tests indicated a lack of statistical significance.


This paper was presented at the Broadcast Education Association 2019 Conference. For more information on the Broadcast Education Association, visit