Green’s Dictionary of Slang

payola n.

[SE pay + -ola sfx; esp. common in the record business where disc jockeys are offered massive inducements to push a certain record or artist. Major scandals in the US c.1959 supposedly ended payola, but some believe that the practice persists]

1. (orig. US) the practice (ostensibly illegal and generally denied by its practitioners) of bribing (with cash or kind) those with access to the public to tout a product.

[US]Variety 19 Oct. 41: The payola element had made their deals with bandleaders on the expectation that they continue to get 19c, thereby making it profitable to do business with the plug at a rate of around 10c a point [OED].
[US]L. Pound ‘Guide to Variety’ AS XV:2 205/1: payola. Bribery, the unethical practice of exploitation.
[US]Time 23 Feb. 56/3: A world where cut-ins (giving a performer a share of a song’s profits), hot stoves (open bribes) and other forms of payola were standing operating procedure .
[US]H. Ellison Rockabilly (1963) 143: This was going to hit every lousy penny-ante fan-mag in the country unless the payola was spread thick as peanut butter.
[US]Newsweek 30 July 62: Witnesses who will be granted immunity for telling what they know about payola and drugola.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.
[UK]Guardian Guide 19–25 June 4: There was a strong whiff of payola in Clark’s playlist.
[UK]J. Niven Kill Your Friends (2009) 71: The good old days of the fifties — the golden era of payola.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[UK]Variety 19 Oct. 41: The payola element had made their deals with bandleaders on the expectation that they continue to get 19c, thereby making it profitable to do business with the plug at a rate of around 10c a point [OED].
[UK]N. Cohn Awopbop. (1970) 53: Most of the shenanigans took place in Philadelphia [...] until its status was destroyed by the payola scandal.