At least two major record companies appear to have defected from a compromise record industry plan to voluntarily label albums with potentially offensive lyrics as the battle over sexually explicit music has escalated.
Danny Goldberg, president of Gold Mountain Records and chairman of a new anticensorship group called Musical Majority, said the two companies -- MCA Records and A&M Records -- had joined his group's efforts to bar any warning labels from popular albums. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) had listed the companies two months ago among 24 that had agreed to put stickers saying "parental guidance: explicit lyrics" on albums they thought might offend some buyers.
Trish Heimers, spokeswoman for the RIAA in New York, said today that she could not comment on the reports of the defections, and that she still had the two companies on her list of those joining in the voluntary program. She said some albums with the warning stickers were already in stores.
But a spokesman for MCA Records president Irving Azoff confirmed that Azoff had told the entertainment industry paper Daily Variety, "We can't get stores to stock records with stickers . . . Some of our biggest customers say they'd be under too much pressure . . . that they don't want the calls from the women and the Moral Majority.
"This is a major business decision as well as a personal one . . . There are obvious censorship reasons for not stickering as well. Who knows where to draw the line?" Azoff was quoted as saying.
The RIAA sticker plan had come this summer in response to a major campaign by the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), a Washington-based group concerned about music lyrics they say glorify sex, drugs, violence and the occult. Along with the national PTA, the PMRC, whose members include Tipper Gore, wife of Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.), had testified about their concerns before a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee last month. No legislation is pending.
Opponents of labeling were cheered by public statements by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley Monday opposing record labeling. Bradley, the leading Democratic candidate for California governor, said placing an "X" label on a record album "will do nothing but attract children to the 'forbidden fruit' ".
Heimers said that the RIAA board discussed the sticker program at a meeting yesterday, but that she would not comment on the results of that meeting until next week.
Goldberg said the other companies joining his group in opposition to labeling and rating records were: Geffen, Island, IRS, Tommy Boy, Modern and his own Gold Mountain label. He said the Musical Majority includes recording artists, managers, radio programmers and other music industry workers.
Parents active in the effort to label records say they have no desire to censor lyrics, only to provide information to parents who would prefer that their children not listen to records that celebrate certain sexual or violent acts.
Goldberg called the association compromise plan for voluntary sticker labeling "outrageous concessions." He said "individual artists and managers are calling their companies and saying, 'You're not going to sticker my record. It's just blacklisting by another name.' "