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MP3.com Steps Up Promotions

In a move well-heeled major labels will relish, MP3.com Friday launched Payola, a promotional tool for MP3.com artists that provides artists the opportunity to bid for positioning on an exclusive section of a genre page at MP3.com.

MP3.com (MPPP) has dubbed its new promotional feature Payola, which functions similarly to traditional online auctions. The top bidder at the end of each round wins a position on the Payola section of their genre page for one week.

The new promotional avenue has no direct relation to MP3.com's music charts, which are created based on the number of downloads, listens, CD sales and other measurements of consumer popularity.

"Payola evolved out of a desire to offer MP3.com artists more fun and exciting ways to advertise themselves and their music," said Michael Robertson, chairman and chief executive officer of MP3.com.

"Artists, labels, and even moms of artists can make their bids online, watch the bidding process and change their bids at any time. The 10 highest bidders will be featured on the Payola section of their genre page for one week, which is great exposure for artists."

MP3.com visitors can access the Payola auction from any of the 13 top-level music genre pages or by clicking here. Bidding for each of the 10 available Payola slots runs for one week and ends Wednesday at noon Pacific. Bidding starts at $1.

However, the tongue-in-cheek name for the auction has already raised hackles among musicians' feedback on the site who find the term "Payola" ugly and offensive.

A typical comment was: "'Payola, Paid Promotions' is an ugly, negative term. 'Sponsored Songs' sounds like what it is, a paid advertisement. As far as I am concerned, I bid for advertising space, a sponsorship. Mp3.com lists 'Sponsored Artists' on pages, why not 'Sponsored Songs'? What is the reasoning behind changing the name to Payola besides bullying by no talent MP3 whiners?"

Not everyone objects to the whimsical monicker, but more at issue may be that, in the long run, in any auction, independent musicians will not likely to be the highest bidders -- unless Donald Trump debuts as a singer - record labels will. "Payola" may thus be entirely the appropriate term. The question remains, will the Internet be truly the opportunity for independents to "make it on their own" or will it wind up as just another hunting ground for predatory record labels looking to clean up with a new set of marketing ploys?