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BMG Focuses Lyric Warnings
Starting in July, music buyers will get a lot more than just a “parental advisory” on BMG Entertainment records that contain explicit lyrics.
The major-label group, whose artists include Pink, Outkast and the Strokes, is planning the industry’s first ratings system that offers specific printed warnings for explicit, violent or profane lyrics. BMG will also use the warnings in its print and television advertising.
Program will extend to BMG’s Arista, RCA and BMG Latin divisions, as well as J Records, its joint venture label with veteran exec Clive Davis. The first of the new warning labels will go on “May Day,” the latest CD from rap act Lady May, due out July 31.
“We just had the feeling that it was time for us to be more responsive,” said BMG chief of distribution Pete Jones. “We thought that there needed to be movement, and we felt it was time to take a leadership position in that regard.”
BMG’s new plan comes just weeks before the expected release of a new report from the Federal Trade Commission about the marketing of explicit media of all types to kids.
Congress held hearings on the subject last spring and shortly afterward upbraided the music business for not acting on its concerns about records with explicit lyrics being promoted to minors.
The current warning system — a label on certain CDs that simply says “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics”– was adopted by the industry in 1985 after a protracted campaign led by Tipper Gore, wife of then-Tennessee Sen. Al Gore.
But lawmakers last year complained that the old labels were overly broad, offered little deterrent to young buyers and rarely if ever were extended to ads in print and on TV.
Several senators, including Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), have argued that an age-specific ratings system would be more appropriate.
But Jones said BMG opposes such a plan.
“It’s not for us to judge what size fits everybody of a certain age,” he said. “You can’t always correlate age and maturity.”