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Music Industry Unveils New Warning Label for Explicit Lyrics

May 9, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The recording industry Wednesday unveiled a uniform warning label for albums with explicit lyrics and expressed hope that an improved voluntary system will halt campaigns in some states for mandatory labeling.

The black-and-white stickers - reading ″PARENTAL ADVISORY - EXPLICIT LYRICS″ - will appear on the lower right-hand corner of the front of albums that might be objectionable because of lyrics dealing with sex, violence, suicide, drug abuse, bigotry or satanic worship.

The decision of whether to affix the labels will be left up to the recording companies and their individual artists, said Jay Berman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, whose members produce more than 90 percent of the records sold in the United States.

Berman said the warning labels will begin appearing on the outer packaging, under the cellophane wrap, of potentially offensive records, cassettes and compact discs reaching retail music stores in July.

The label size will range from 1 1/2 inches by 1 inch for albums and CD long boxes to 1 inch by a half-inch for cassettes and CD cases.

″We believe the uniform logo will enhance the existing voluntary system and better respond to the legitimate concerns of parents,″ Berman told a news conference Wednesday. ″Now that we have agreed on this new logo, it will be up to parents to use it as they see fit.″

People aged 10 through 19 accounted for nearly one-third of the $6.5 billion in total sales of recordings in 1988, according to industry figures.

Under a 1985 agreement between the record industry and the Parents’ Music Resource Center and the National PTA, which have led the fight against explicit lyrics, individual record companies were free to devise their own warning stickers or print lyrics on albums.

But erratic compliance and the lack of a standard label led to parental complaints, and bills were introduced in several states to require warning labels on albums containing explicit lyrics. The complaints have generally been about rap music and heavy metal records.

By Berman’s count, 16 of the 21 state legislatures considering such bills have backed down since the industry announced plans in late March for a standard voluntary warning label.

Berman’s trade association is still fighting mandatory labeling proposals in Missouri, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and Louisiana.

″Our members hope that this voluntary step by the recording industry will put the nightmare of governmental regulation behind us,″ said Mickey Granberg of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, the trade group of retailers and distributors.

Conceding ″this will not satisfy some people,″ Berman said most Americans favor a voluntary system of warning labels, contrary to the belief among some state legislators that ″a national movement of outraged parents is afoot.″

The new labeling system was applauded by the Parents’ Music Resource Center headed by Tipper Gore, wife of Sen. Albert Gore Jr., D-Tenn., and Ann Lynch, president of the National PTA. They urged an end to state efforts to require album labels.

″The music industry has affirmed its responsibility to alert consumers to graphic material in a way that fully protects the rights of the artists to express themselves freely while recognizing the rights of consumers to know the content of music products before purchase,″ Mrs. Gore said.

″We ask state legislators to consider dropping their legislation in favor of a voluntary system,″ said Mrs. Lynch.

″We clearly have demonstrated that music consumers, especially parents, want and need label information - not censorship,″ she said.

People for the American Way, a non-partisan liberal lobbying group, also endorsed the new warning label.

″Today’s announcement is good news for the First Amendment because it should put a halt to the far right drive for government-mandated record labeling,″ said Elliott Mincberg, legal director of People for the American Way Action Fund.

Also attending the recording industry’s news conference Wednesday was Daddy O, a member of the Stetsasonic rap group who said he was the father of five children.

″We don’t think the government should determine what our children listen to,″ he said, adding that ″we all think the label is cute.″

Berman said a nationwide telephone survey of 654 parents conducted in early April for his association showed that 52 percent favored voluntary warning labels by record companies and 24 percent favored government regulation.

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