Warner Communications and RCA/Ariola Records joined the ranks of MCA and Capitol Records yesterday in dropping ties with independent record promoters as investigation deepened into allegations of payola in the music industry.
The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents all major record companies, was subpoenaed, meanwhile, by a federal grand jury in New York to disclose all documents relating to "the role of independent promoters in the record industry."
The association, which must appear before the court Thursday, yesterday reiterated that it has "no knowledge" that any promoters are involved in any "illegal activity."
In addition to the grand jury investigations, an "NBC Nightly News" series last week reported allegations of connections between certain independent promoters and organized crime.
Warner had decided it was "the appropriate time" to drop the independent promoters, according to Warner Communications Vice President Geoffrey Holmes. He denied the recentsk,1 sw,-1 investigations of payola -- a practice in which promoters pay to have their clients given air play -- were the main reason for Warner's decision. But he said there was "no question" that the decision was influenced by "the events of last week . . . This obviously was the catalyst."
RCA/Ariola, the parent company for RCA and Arista Records, said its statement -- made later yesterday, after Warner's statement -- was "similar" to Warner's. "We know of no wrongdoing in the activities of the independent promotion firms we retained," said Robbin Ahrold, vice president of communications for RCA/Ariola.
"However, as a major distributor of recorded music, we are concerned about the perception of our industry by the public."
Neither RCA nor Warner knew of subpoenas submitted to them for the grand jury, their spokesmen said.
Officials from both Polygram Records and CBS Records said yesterday they are watching the situation before making any decisions on their respective independent promoters.
Capitol Industries-EMI and MCA Records had announced last week that they were dropping at least some independent promoters.
Ghasker Mennen, chairman and chief executive officer of Capitol-EMI, said his label was dropping all independent promoters to ensure that the company doesn't "unwittingly contribute to any problems that may exist."
The Recording Industry Association of America in its Friday statement declared "immediate and decisive corrective action" would be taken if law enforcement agencies informed the group of illegal acts.
"Until such time, we find it unjustified and distressing that the recording industry is so indiscriminately maligned by insidious innuendo," the statement said.
The dropping of independent promoters in favor of in-house promoters, said Holmes, has been something Warner has always welcomed. He pointed to 1981 when "we publicly disclosed and dropped independent promoters as an exclusive deal. We were the only ones that did it."
Holmes said Warner's sales and profitability went down after that action and "no one else in the industry was willing to go along with us."