halsey twenty one pilots
[Photos via Halsey/Aiden Cullen, twenty one pilots/Spotify]

It looks like a lot of record labels are in some hot water. A report has been published that claims various labels have been making illegal pay-for-play deals for artists including Halsey, twenty one pilots and Panic! At The Disco.

According to the report, these shady deals have been going down behind closed doors with certain labels and one independent radio promoter.

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The industry doesn’t allow radio stations to be paid to play certain artists. However, that apparently hasn’t stopped labels from doing these dealings under the table. This week, Rolling Stone released a story that claims various labels are taking part in these banned deals.

Rolling Stone‘s report aired out the dirty laundry of some of the highest-selling artists’ teams including Halsey and Dua Lipa. The publication claims that it has obtained over 2,500 text messages that feature correspondence between industry professionals and Steve Zap, an independent radio promoter.

Zap previously worked for record labels including MCA Records, Warner Records and Virgin Records. He now oversees various radio stations as a promoter. The texts allegedly show Zap telling radio stations to not take orders from labels because “they don’t pay me shit.” However, he still billed other individuals for music rotations in certain time slots.

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Rolling Stone also reports that Zap instructed a station to take plays from certain artists to help boost other songs. One particular example is with Panic! At The Disco and Marshmello.

“Can we take off Panic till Sunday. Help Marshmello go 1,” Zap reportedly texted.

Another leaked text shows an exchange between Mitch Mills, a senior vice president of radio promotion at Elektra Records, and Zap. According to the leaked message, Mills was worried about Panic! receiving fewer plays than they had the previous week on a station Zap oversaw.

“Stevie … [down] 11 in panic,” Mills wrote. “I just did a 2k deal with you … I need Panic back up.”

Zap, however, denies all allegations. He says that these leaked text messages were sent out by a former employee who recently lost their job. As well, he further says that everything he does is “always within legal bounds.”

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“I try to sell radio station program directors on the merits of my clients’ music, and to make friends with program directors at various stations — always within legal bounds.”

Zap also says that these leaked messages don’t support the accusations that he exchanged airplay for money.

“You say that I requested airplay and awarded [a station] with ‘consideration,’ and that such linkage is established by text messages,” Zap says. “The actual texts, though, do not support your characterizations. In the texts, no specific consideration is linked with any specific instance of airplay. Therefore, allegations that I purchased airplay through quid pro quo agreements would be reckless and extremely damaging.”

Despite the claims, the artists themselves reportedly aren’t involved in the alleged dealings. However, quite a few of them are mentioned in Rolling Stone‘s report including Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding and Backstreet Boys. As well, it is likely that even more artists may have benefitted from these dealings.

Rolling Stone‘s full report is available to read here.

What are your thoughts on Rolling Stone‘s new report? Do you this Halsey, twenty one pilots and Panic! At The Disco’s labels paid for radio play? Let us know in the comments below.