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The Parents Music Resource Center And Music Today

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In society music is an extremely important form of art. It is one of the most sincere forms of expression. Music can influence people from many different backgrounds and cultures. Musicians have the same freedom of speech rights as any other United States citizen. In the mid 1980's rock musicians' rights were challenged with issues including censorship and first amendment guarantees.

"The PMRC (or Parents Music Resource Center) was a committee formed in 1985 by the wives of several congressmen. They included Tipper Gore, Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker, and Nancy Thurmond, wife of Senator Strom Thurmond. Their mission was to educate parents about "alarming trends" in popular music" (Encyclopedia, 11/22/04.)

Out of all the many styles of music in this particular case only rock music is mentioned. Society is always impacted by music. At the time, rock music was the most popular. This caused the affects to be much stronger. That is also why the PMRC directed the most attention toward rock, rather than country, hip-hop, blues, or dance music.

The PMRC easily became a national movement. All of the women involved had connections to the government, which gave them an added power and access to make the group national. "On or about May 31, 1985, the PMRC sent a letter to Stanley Gortikov, then president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), accusing the record industry of exposing the youth of America, to "sex, violence, and the glorification of drugs and alcohol"...The letter went on to demand a rating system for rock records similar to the MPAA rating system for films" (Zappa,1989.)

Frank Zappa was one of the first musicians to speak against the PMRC. He began by writing a letter to the music industry. His letter expressed his thoughts and feelings toward the whole situation. Within this open letter Zappa states, "A record company has the right to conduct its business and make a profit, but not at the expense of the people who make the product possible...someone still has to write and perform the music" (Zappa,1989.) Unfortunately, the letter did not make much of an impact. Zappa, then decided to take the issue a step further and wrote a letter to the president. The letter he wrote influenced a speech President Reagan gave on the situation. Which, later lead to public court hearings discussing the issues the PMRC raised.

"The Senate Hearing on record labeling, held on September 19, 1985, was arguably the best attended and media-covered hearing ever held before any Senate Committee" (Deflem,1993.) The RIAA and individual record companies wanted the situations to be dealt with as quickly as possible. They did not want to cause a lot of trouble. There were many musicians involved within the trial process. Some of the most famous witnesses were Frank Zappa, Dee Snider, John Denver, and Jello Biafra. During the hearing, there was a focus on fifteen different songs. The songs on the list were known as the "filthy fifteen." Some artists on the list were Prince, AC/DC, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Def Leppard, and Twisted Sister (Encyclopedia, 11/22/04.) Frank Zappa, was an interesting witness. His lyrics were never questioned. "None of the artists who made it onto the list which became know as The PMRC's Filthy Fifteen had anything in their lyrics even close to the stuff in my catalog, and yet, for some reason, I was never accused of being a 'violator'" (Zappa,1989.)

The First Amendment of the Constitution gives citizens the freedoms of religion, press, assembly, petition, and most important to the PMRC hearings, speech. Obscenity is not protected by the amendment and that is where a lot of controversy was caused. The line between what is obscene and what isn't obscene is hard to determine. Many proposals were made throughout the hearing, after all the debates, witnesses, and testimonials the case was finally settled. Even before the trial was complete the PMRC and RIAA had made a compromise. "Following the Hearing, on November 1 of 1985, the PMRC, and its ally the National Parents and Teachers Association, reached an agreement with the RIAA on the voluntary record label. The agreement stipulated that the printing of lyrics remained optional and, because of space limitations, cassettes were exempted, bearing only the imprint "see LP for lyrics". Since then, different record companies designed their own label containing the words "Parental Guidance - Explicit Lyrics" or some variation thereof" (Deflem,1993.)

"Many record stores refused to sell albums containing the label (most notably Wal-Mart) and others limited the sale of those albums to minors. The label became known as the "Tipper sticker". Some politicians attempted to criminalize the sale of explicit records to minors, and others went so far as to try to ban such records" (Encyclopedia,11/22/04.) "The activities of the PMRC and the record industry's response on the issue since then are not very clear. Some, usually smaller, companies have continued to refuse putting labels on records, and generally the response on the part of the musicians was not favorable, feeling that the RIAA had sold out...The sales of records, however, do not seem to have been affected" (Deflem,1993.)

Today it is common to see advisory stickers on CDs. However, they are not required, but suggested. There are no major consequences currently for not having labels on music. "Now the PMRC has moved into the world of video, complaining about television, home video and MTV" (Zappa,1989.) Currently there are not many mainstream organizations that have intentions like the PMRC. Most of the groups that permute censorship are a much smaller scale. It is not likely for them to gain any national status. These groups are unlikely to gain following because many musicians today make different versions of their record. These records come in a "clean" version with less obscenities and the regular version, including all obscenities. This is logical on behalf of the musicians. It is a large step forward in preventing anything like the PMRC happening again. Also, the different versions of records please the people who would be against obscenity.

"The music industry's self-regulation of lyrics through parental warning labels is drawing a not-so-fine line between black and white, an expert on music censorship says" (Dollarhide,11/23/04.) According to this source, in some situations today's music is being used to label more than content. "Most of today's CDs that carry the Parental Advisory label are from African-American rap and hip-hop artists" (Dollarhide, 11/23/04.) Not only does the censorship of music today create a racist



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