The Pros and Cons of Music Censorship
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Many bills have been passed to stop explicit messages in music from getting out. Censorship limits the amount of lyrics that get out to the community about violence. (History of Music Censorship) It may also limit anything in music that a community might find offensive to its values or beliefs. The lyrics presented in some songs are not appropriate for young adults. Some say music censorship goes against the First Amendment. It stops artists from expressing how they may feel. The profit on albums often goes down because of censorship. Censorship constantly targets rap and hip hop, and they are usually hit the hardest. (Forms of Music Censorship)
What are some forms of music censorship?
By 1985 some censorship groups began to form, and during that time warning labels came to exist. (History of Music Censorship) Album covers that were explicit were either changed or banned. Many retail stores began to limit the sales of music that they found to be offensive. Radio shows such as WBLS and KACE will also ban songs that have to do with violence. In the 1960's Kingsmen's songs by the Rolling Stones were banned from the radio because of the sexual behavior presented in their songs. Some other forms of music censorship include parental advisory labels, banned covers or concerts, rating systems, and banned clothing. (Forms of Music Censorship)
What is the history behind music censorship?
Censorship has been around since the development of music. Throughout history pro-censorship groups, retailers, schools, parents, and legislators have found ways to censor music. (History of music censorship) Many artists have been sued because parents thought the music influenced their children to form certain acts. (Censorship in Music) We know of music censorship mainly because of the development of rock and roll during the 1950's. By 1980's censorship reached new dimensions. In 1992, the Erotic Bill law passed the "adult only" label on certain recordings. While people stand for music censorship, American Civil Rights Union fight to make them understand that musicians have First Amendment rights.
What makes Wal-Mart different from other stores?
Wal-Mart is the leading seller of pop music in the United States. They refuse the stock of music with explicit lyrics and artwork. Many rap and rock artists have cleaned up lyrics to meet Wal-Mart's standards. Other major stores such as Blockbuster and Kmart have joined Wal-Mart's procedures. John Mellencamp's latest CD, "Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky", has been censored to meet Wal-Mart's criteria.
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Wal-Mart has found themselves listening more to their customers instead of the vendors. They see this "target marketing", and not as "prior restaurant". (Rolfe)
What are warning labels and how are they helpful?
Warning labels are put on certain products to show as potentially dangerous such as tobacco companies do. The Leiberman bill puts labels on all entertainment products. This isn't considered a form of censorship, but a tool for parents to use to raise their children up to be good citizens. (Addicted to Moise) Some music is just not appropriate for minors to buy in the stores. Members of Congress have been working hard to keep warning labels in affect. McCain stated, "Parents need help, and our biggest responsibility is to our children." They labeling will alert consumers first. For the labeling system, the music industry is the most problematic. (Addicted to Noise)
What are some arguments against gangsta rap and heavy metal?
Some of the music presented by artists today are said to be very explicit and degrading to people. A series of television ads have been designed to alert parents about the existence of obscene music. The ads also encourage people to speak out against the music in the communities. Delores Tucker, William Bennette, Sam Nunn, and Senator Joseph Lieberman all came together to attack obscene music. This group came together to try and stop the promotion and legitimization of drug use in the music markets. Some of the music was said to be blatantly pro-drug lyrics. MCA and Interscope records are also attacked for releasing misogynists, murderous, and hateful music. On music in general anything offensive to anyone should be removed completely. (Know your enemies)
Music hasn’t changed since the days when the Beatles shocked the world. What has changed is that popular music lyrics have become much more explicit.
Hip hop and other genres have received criticism for lyrics with graphic references to drugs, sex, violence, and hate aimed at women, minorities, gays and lesbians. Pop stars such as Katy Perry may be marketed under a “girl power” guise—but what they are really selling to their mostly pre-pubescent audiences is adult sexuality.
To censor or not to censor? This is the thorny question many parents face when their children bring home music they find offensive. Where the line is drawn is largely dependent on family values and the maturity and temperament of the child. For families with both older and younger children, parents may want to designate the more explicit music their teens listen to as “iPod only”.
With so much of this music within easy within listening – or downloading – range, discussions with children about explicit lyrics should start sooner, rather than later. It is important that adults talk with their kids about the types of lyrics they find offensive – and explain why. As children get older, encourage discussion and debate on these issues to provide them with opportunities to reflect not only on stereotyping and violence in music recordings and videos – but in other media as well.
Parental Advisory Labels
In 1990, the U.S. recording industry introduced Parent Advisory labels to identify music containing explicit lyrics, including depictions of violence and sex. Parental Advisory labels are printed at the bottom right of a CD’s cover; they are found in the same place in the album art included with digital downloads. 
For consumers, the system has its drawbacks. Companies and artists voluntarily label their products, so customers can’t automatically assume that music without a label will be appropriate for all ages. 
The retail industry is also inconsistent in dealing with Parental Advisory labels. Some stores have policies forbidding the sale of labeled music to kids younger than 18. A few retail chains, such as K-Mart and Wal-Mart, will not carry stickered products, while others have no restrictions to stop children of any age from purchasing CDs with advisory labels. Digital downloads, of course, have no age restrictions, though some retailers such as iTunes offer “clean” versions of songs with explicit lyrics. Generally, parents should be especially mindful of the music their children are downloading.
Critics charge that although the music industry warns parents of inappropriate lyrics with labels, at the same time it’s aggressively marketing explicit music to young people. In December 2009, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report showing how media industries, including the music industry, aggressively market media meant for adults to young children. The report showed that albums containing explicit content were frequently advertised on TV shows and websites popular with youth. 
Music videos are a powerful medium because they combine the energy of music with the power of visual images. While kids often don’t pay a lot of attention to the lyrics of their favourite songs, the visual images that accompany the same music on TV or the Internet have a much greater impact because they are impossible to ignore.
Many Canadian radio stations will not play music with explicit lyrics, but young children can easily access music by controversial artists by watching their music videos online.
Music videos have frequently been criticized for heavily sexualized portrayals of women: a 2012 study found that this was common even when the musicians themselves were female. 
We can encourage older kids to analyze the dominant messages in music videos by asking these questions:
- What are the similarities between videos? What are the differences?
- How are the following people depicted in videos?
- visible minorities
- authority figures
- What lifestyle choices are promoted in these videos, in terms of tobacco and alcohol use, or sexual activity?
- Is the video an effective marketing tool for the artist?
- What trends in popular culture have been inspired by these videos?
Negative Effects of Music
For kids with a healthy self-image and varied interests, music probably has little or no influence on their values and lifestyle choices. However, violent, racist, homophobic or sexist lyrics in music may impact some youth: research shows possible correlations between a teenager’s preference for certain musical genres and risky behaviours. 
There is evidence that listening to music with sexual content in the lyrics makes teenagers more likely to start having sex earlier than their peers.  Music also contains a lot of commercial content, mostly in the form of product placement (both in lyrics and in videos),  much of which is for alcohol.  While research hasn’t yet shown consistent effects of lyrics or music on teens’ personalities, one study found that listening to songs with “pro-social” lyrics made teens more likely to behave in helpful and compassionate ways. 
[i] Cole, Tom. “You Ask, We Answer: ‘Parental Advisory Labels’ – The Criteria and the History.” NPR Music, October 29 2010.
[iii] Marketing Violent Content to Children: A Sixth Follow-up Review of Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries. Federal Trade Commission, December 2009.
[iv] Frisby, Cynthia and Jennifer Stevens Audrey. Race and Genre in the Use of Sexual Objectification in Female Artists’ Videos. Howard Journal of Communications (23) 1, 2012.
[v] American Academy of Paediatrics. Bad rap: Can music lyrics with negative references affect kids’ behavior? Ma AAP News 2009; 30:24
[vi] Primack, Brian. Exposure to Sexual Lyrics and Sexual Experience Among Urban Adolescents. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 36, Issue 4 , Pages 317-323, April 2009
[vii] Chang, Samantha. “Product Placement Deals Thrive in Music Videos.” Billboard, November 23 2003.
[viii] Kopun, Francine. “Study Finds Rappers Promote Name-Brand Alcohol to Young Fans.” The Toronto Star, October 20 2011.
[ix] Greitemeyer, Tobias. Effects of Songs with Prosocial Lyrics on Prosocial Behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, November 2009.