The Wages of Spin – Synopsis

The Wages of Spin chronicles the Philadelphia music scene from 1952-1963. The documentary is the first honest, comprehensive look at the Philadelphia music industry, centering on the creation, growth and popularity of Bandstand. It looks behind the curtain at the inner workings of the music industry in Philadelphia during this time period. The narrative is propelled principally through interviews and histories from the people who lived it, performers, dancers and those waiting in the wings.

Created in Philadelphia by Triangle Productions, Bandstand was a radio program that was adapted for television. Originally hosted by Bob Horn the show captured the attention of the youth in the Delaware Valley. Horn’s career was short-lived, however. He soon ran into legal problems, including an arrest under the influence of alcohol as well as accusations of improper conduct with a teenager on the show. A young booth announcer, Dick Clark, was given command of the show that would influence teens, and the music industry for decades to come.

The music industry was by no means a paragon of American business ethics. Underhanded practices, rife with conflicts of interest, were the standard for the day. Payola! As the dirty business of making hits and selling records went on everyone had their hands out. Clark emerged at a unique time in American cultural and economic history, saw an unprecedented opportunity and exploited it. Talent was a secondary consideration in the system of graft and legalized corruption that prevailed at the time.

The Payola Hearings on Capitol Hill attempted to shed light on the shady dealings of the music industry. The complex web of integrated business enterprises that Clark and his colleagues spun in order to maximize their own wealth at the expense of young talent was exposed for the first time. Despite revelations of kick-backs and pay-offs throughout the industry, Clark emerged from the situation unscathed.

Was it legal? Was it ethical? Was it moral? Watch the whole story, and then you decide.