WASHINGTON — Senate culture vultures picked at the 10-year-old record labeling system, implying it is not doing its job in protecting kids from obscene, racist, misogynistic and violent music lyrics.
“Even while industry executives assert that children are protected from this music, anecdotal evidence suggests that most hyper-violent albums are bought by children,” said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) in his opening statement. “There don’t seem to be many Marilyn Manson fans over the age of 20.”
Brownback said Tuesday’s hearing was informational only, and that he has no intention of introducing a bill in the near future.
The hearing was stacked with critics of the music industry, including Entertainment Monitor editor-in-chief Charlie Gilreath, who lambasted music industry execs for exploiting musicians, particularly rap music artists. “They are being exploited and it is a shame,” said Gilreath, who said the recording industry’s current labeling system has become a marketing device. “A child looking for hardcore rap records is not going to buy one that does not have (an advisory label) on it,” said Gilreath.
Also testifying was a school teacher from Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Ark., where 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson and his 11-year-old accomplice killed five people and injured 10 others. Teacher Debbie Pelley said at least part of the blame should be laid on the lyrics of rappers Tupac Shakur and Bone Thugs & Harmony. According to Johnson’s friends, the student had become a huge fan of Shakur’s and Bone Thugs’ in the months leading up to the shooting.
“Violent music is only one aspect of our culture, but a very significant one that seems to have gotten very little attention in the recent school tragedies. And Bone Thugs and Tupac are only two of the many musical groups that are affecting our youth,” Pelley said.
The only defender of the industry at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing was former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, who is president of JAMPAC — the Joint Artist & Music Promotions Political Action Committee.
Novoselic argued that it’s not music lyrics that are a problem, but underlying social issues and a world where technology is speeding the pace of life to a blur. “We have to move beyond the grainy black-and-white approach of blaming lyrics,” Novoselic said.
Recording Industry Assn. of America prez Hilary Rosen declined an invitation to attend the hearing, saying it was clear that Brownback was more interested in beating the culture war drum to “target” and “scapegoat” the music industry.
Also speaking at the press conference was Rock the Vote’s new prexy Seth Matlins. “It is not the job or responsibility … of public officials to dictate what music is good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate and what is ultimately worthy of being produced,” Matlins said.