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Payola is the illegal practice of accepting a bribe in exchange for radio airplay. Criminal investigation of payola scams first rocked the music industry in the 1950's, and they continue to the present day as Sony Wega TVs and case after case of butt-ugly Nike Huaraches keep finding their way into the unfurnished shitbox apartments of Midwestern overnight DJs.

Payola and The Best Show

Tom has been frequently accused by Gordon from South Dakota of accepting payola from a number of musicians, including:

The Guided by Voices

The New Porn O' Graphers

The D.C. Snipers

The Yo La Tengos

David Bowie

The Rolling Stones

The Volcano Suns

Gordon asserts that, except in the case of payola, none of these bands would ever be played on the radio because their music is so terrible. Gordon regards the Rolling Stones and Bowie to be less terrible, but questions why Tom would play such old music unless he were accepting a bribe. Gordon has cited Matador, Merge, and Touch & Go as labels that are giving Tom cash for spins.

Tom has responded to these accusations by telling Gordon and his listeners that he only plays what he likes, and that many of these bands are not in a financial position to offer payola. Specifically, he offered that one of the D.C. Snipers drove a toilet paper truck as his day job. However, Tom's claims of innocence have become suspect after an on-air phone call from Nils Bernstein, Artist Liaison and Director of Publicity at Matador Records, who seemed to confirm that Tom was indeed on the take. Nils suggested that he had sent Tom a check--which Tom had cashed--with the understanding that he would then play tracks from the new Cat Power record.