Center. The agreement specified that music releases containing explicit lyrics, in-
cluding explicit depictions of violence and sexually explicit material, be identified so
that parents can make intelligent listening choices for their children.
In 1990, after communicating with parents, record companies, and retailers we es-
tablished through the RIAA, a voluntary, uniform Parental Advisory logo and uni-
form terms for its placement. The black-and-white logo, shown here, is standard in
size, color and placement. It is affixed to the bottom right comer of an album, cas-
sette or CD's permanent packaging — ^underneath the cellophane shrink wrap. The
label measures 1 inch by Va inch on cassettes and CD jewel boxes and IVa inch by
1 inch on albums.
The standardized label was implemented to increase overall consumer awareness
of the advisory sticker and provide parents with an easily identifiable means of sin-
gling out "explicit" recordings. Each record company, in consultation with tiie artist,
determines which of their recordings will display the logo.
Madam Chairwoman, labeling "explicit" product is the commitment we made in
1985, it is our practice today, and our promise for tomorrow.
With that in mind, let me now outline four positive steps we have taken as an
industry since the day of the last hearing, February 11.
First, we have reminded the music community — both our member companies and
independent labels — that proper adherence to the Parental Advisory Program is the
best way to exercise artistic rights while exercising social responsibUity.
At our last meeting, you held up examples of some explicit sound recordings that
had deviated fi-om the program. In one instance the warning sticker was smaller
than it, should have been, in another, the sticker was missing altogether.
In response, the RIAA sent a memorandum to the heads of more than 250 mem-
ber labels reminding them of the importance of proper use and placement of the
logo. Enclosed with the memorandum was a fact sheet describing the exact size and
placement on both CD and cassette packaging. The memorandum was also sent to
the National Association of Independent Record Distributors & Manufacturers en-
couraging them to send the material to their member companies, who are generally
Madam Chairwoman, the Parental Advisory Program is an effective tool. There
should be little doubt as to how seriously the industry takes this program.
The Parental Advisory Program is a positive response of the music industry as
responsible corporate citizens to provide useful information to parents or guardians.
In so doing, the Parental Advisory Program places the decision on who and what
to hear, where it belongs with the family or guardian.
The second step — and perhaps the most difficult to take was a change in RIAA
policy regarding the Parental Advisory Program. Since 1985, we opposed the use of
the sticker by record retailers as a basis for instituting restrictive sales policies,
such as a requirement that individuals be at least 18 years old to purchase record-
ings that carry the warning label. At the time, we felt that the sticker was designed
to give parents information as to the music contained within the recording, and was
not intended to direct sales policies of retailers.
We now see the benefits of local record retailers using the label to make informed
decisions concerning the types of recordings they should make available to their
community. It is a difficult, but appropriate, activity for some retailers, and we sup-
port our customers.
The third step we have taken is to educate parents about the Parental Advisory
Program. Labeling — of any kind — ^is only as effective as parents or guardians choose
to make it. Given this fact, the RIAA has recently embarked on a comprehensive
consumer awareness campaign to enlighten parents about the program. Through
television, radio and print media, we will encourage parents to use lyrics as a jump-
ing off point for dialogue with their children. For only through the open discussion
of difficult issues and topics do we clarify values.
Our proactive media campaign will endeavor to engage parents in the music buy-
ing habits of their children, thus empowering parents — not the government — with
the task of defining famDy values.
The final, and perhaps most important, step taken by the industry has been an
internal one. The RIAA has initiated a dialogue with our member companies and
their artists to advise them of the concerns expressed by legislators, political lead-
ers, and parents about this issue. This dialogue has led to a greater understanding
within the companies of the seriousness of these concerns and to more discussions
within the broader community. Suggestions have included setting up forums for dia-
logue with artists and kids, supporting artists and record companies in their efforts
to play a positive role in the political process by encouraging young people to reg-
ister and vote, organizing voter-registration drives with Rock the Vote at summer
concerts, and other activities. Our member companies do not underestimate the sig-
nificance and importance of their social responsibility and their role as good cor-
Madam Chairwoman, the recording industry stands ready to dedicate its re-
sources to the communities which support us. But I fear we stand with a precious
few. Far too many people are confused. Too many people focus on the s3rmptoms of
violence and not Uie disease.
If I may, let me elaborate on a few examples of what our artists have done to
address the root causes and issues about whicn they rap. For example:
— KRS 1, Chuck D, and Ice Cube are stars of the lecture circuit. They spend half
their time discussing topics such as practicing safe sex, not using drugs, getting a
college education, giving back to the commumt^ and stopping gang violence before
such audiences as inner city elementary and high schools kids and inmates at cor-
— Self Destruction, Public Enemy, Queen Latifah and Boogie Down Productions
are just a few of the rap artists who helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars
for a special fund, within the Stop the Violence Movement, geared specificfdly at
fighting black-on-black crime.
— Ice Cube initiated the Brotherhood Crusade, a nonprofit organization set up
aft;er the LA riots to help rebuild minority communities and provide aid to the
homeless and the elderly. He's also a major contributor to Books Plus, an African-
American literacy program.
— Many rap artists including Ice T and Easy-E contributed to the making of
"We're All in the Same Gang", a single and video intended to deglamorize gang vio-
— ^And a great number of rap artists have participated in voter registration drives
with the NAACP, Rock the Vote and others to encourage kids to participate in the
It should be obvious from their lyrics that these young men and women are pas-
sionate about what they feel, and many of them translate that passion into time,
effort and money spent trying to make a difference in a world that we — all of us
here today — ^have created. These artists use their influential role, as well as their
economic power, to make innumerable positive contributions to their communities.
Because of our shared sense of responsibility, the recording industry has stepped
up to the plate to tackle the disease and not only the symptoms.
We respect your role as a vocal advocate for the welfare of Americans with this
testimony, Madam Chairwoman, we want to indicate our willingness to work with
you, through our member companies and the artists, in this endeavor.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
Mrs. Collins. Your time has expired, and more that you might
want to say can come out in the question and answer session.
Let me oegin the questioning at this point in time. When you
first began your testimony, you mentioned something about 90 per-
cent. Did you say that the RIAA does 90 percent of the sales of
Ms. Rosen. Our members distribute and manufacture about 90
percent of the records sold in the United States.
Mrs. Collins. So you have a major responsibility then in what
happens in the recording industry in the sale and distribution of
records in our country. You would certainly agree with that, be-
cause you have 90 percent of those sales, right?
Ms. Rosen. Well, the individual companies have them. I am not
clear what you mean.
Mrs. Collins. If you are the major vehicle through which records
are sold, distributed, it would seem to me — and some steps that
you have already taken have been very positive steps, but certainly
your input with the recording companies themselves would be
very — we have a vote on the Floor of the House of Representatives,
so we are going to go and vote, and we will recess for 10 minutes.
Mrs. Collins. This hearing will reconvene.
Ms. Rosen, I was just about to ask you that, since the RIAA sells
or distributes 90 percent of the record sales in the country, it would
seem to me that your suggestions to the record makers would be
of considerable importance, and so my question is going to be then,
are you advising or discouraging your members from releasing
music that is highly misogynistic and highly violent?
Ms. Rosen. I should clarify our role. We don't actually produce
or distribute the music at the RIAA. The individual member record
labels produce the music and distribute the music.
However, having said that, I think that we have played a posi-
tive role in bringing the individual companies together to talk
about these issues and to highlight the concerns that have been ex-
Mrs. Collins. And what has happened as a result of the meet-
ings that you have had where you have pulled the industry to-
gether and discussed this?
Ms. Rosen. We have created this task force that I mentioned in
my testimony. The task force is comprised of the most senior Afri-
can American executives in the industry, women, other executives
working with rap music, and our intention has been to create a dia-
logue. We were intending to set up forums for communication with
kids, with artists, and community leaders and policy makers. We
are looking for ways to further support artists in their own efforts
to play a positive role. We are looking at doing voter registration
at rap concerts all summer, and
Mrs. Collins. All that is good PR, but what are you doing about
getting these lyrics out of the records, if you can?
Ms. Rosen. Well, frankly, Mrs. Collins, I think that what has
happened is that the sensitivity and the public communication has
had a positive impact. I mean we have an increasing amount of
artists like Queen Latifah and Salt-N-Pepa and others
Mrs. Collins. Well, you mentioned those, but they are the art-
ists themselves, but what is the record manufacturing industry
doing, the recording studios, what are they doing?
Ms. Rosen. I don't think that you will see the industry getting
together to decide what artists should and shouldn't say. Those de-
cisions will continue to be made by individual artists.
Mrs. Collins. Well, that is not what the Wall Street Journal
said. The Wall Street Journal said and this young lady — where is
that article that Mr. Steams referred to? And I know you are
aware of it — that she had good clean lyrics, she had a good beat;
I mean it was great music that she was doing; her name was
Boss — and that the recording studio told her that unless she used
bad language and dirtied up her music, that she wasn't going any-
place. She said, "I tried the straight, nice girl approach; it didn't
work." So now she sings rap songs such as "A Blind Date with
Boss" in which she acts out the seduction and murder of her date,
Ms. Rosen. I don't know which to deal with first.
Mrs. Collins. Well, just deal with the right answer, the correct
Ms. Rosen. Well, there are a couple of pieces there. The story of
Boss is a little misleading in that Wall Street Journal article.
The reality is that the company that eventuallv signed Boss, Def
Jam, had no idea that she was an artist that had a different vision
before they were presented with Boss. She came to them as a rap-
per with her music already prepared, and they signed her and
worked with her that way. They had no idea that she was circulat-
ing as — a different kind of music, and that is just the truth. There
was no image that she had that some record company told her to
Mrs. Collins. Well, that is not the story that is here. I know you
have read this. A year after arriving in Los Angeles, Ms. Laws and
Ms. Moores — Ms. Laws is Boss — and this is another lady, Ms.
Moores — walked into the office of two producers, Tracy Kendrick
and Courtney Branch. They insisted someone listen to them rap or
they wouldn't leave, says Ms. Kendrich. He and Mr. Branch lis-
tened and immediately began working with them, helping them
polish their material and giving them a place to live, and in the
meantime he talked about how they should dress in order to be
more effective on their records.
Ms. Rosen. Well, Mrs. Collins, all I can tell you is that if you
would like a clarification of Boss's career, I will try and arrange for
her to make a statement to you directly about the facts of her life,
but I would just encourage you to understand that the story is a
Mrs. Collins. Well, it may be misleading, but I also think that
the RIAA has a responsibility and certainly can carry a lot of lever-
age in this issue that is here. The issue is whether or not we
should have these lyrics that are just terrible here and that I be-
lieve that if you are a distributor of 90 percent of the record sales
in this country, which are a lot of record sales, no doubt that you
certainly have a great deal that you can say and do to encourage
the record companies to clean up their act, because their act is very
dirty at this point in time.
Now you say in your written statement down here, you said the
standardized label was implemented to increase overall consumer
awareness of the advisory sticker and provide parents with an
easy, identifiable means of singling out explicit lyrics.
How many parents do you think buy this music for their kids?
The average kid that I ever heard of in my life was the kid who
got an allowance or who works for his money end went to the
record store and bought a record, and you know that as well as I
So in order to say, "Well, it is fully the parents' responsibility",
just does not hold water. It is not fully the parents' responsibility.
I believe it is the adults' responsibility and those who are in the
industry making money off of these lyrics that these kids are buy-
ing with their money.
Ms. Rosen. Well, I think we just heard three really intelligent
young people talk about their own understanding of the music and
talk about how this music has fostered a dialogue within their own
I mean the fact is, TV shows are happening, In the Mix is doing
stories, kids are talking, and music is stimulating a dialogue
through a vehicle they are comfortable with. The idea that sexism
and misogyny or violence are unique to musical expression by art-
ists in society just doesn't hold. It is going to happen with art if
it happens in society.
Mrs. Collins. Do you believe that the record industry has a re-
sponsibility to the consumer?
Ms. Rosen. Yes, and I believe we are fulfilling that responsibility
with the parental advisory logo.
Mrs. Collins. What do you think that responsibility is?
Ms. Rosen. The parental advisory logo will enlighten consumers
when music is of an explicit nature.
Mrs. Collins. Why hasn't it done so up to this point?
Ms. Rosen. Well, it does so.
Mrs. Collins. No, it doesn't.
Ms. Rosen. I don't understand. It does. It is there. It has been
there since 1991.
Mrs. Collins. And it has been overlooked. As you say in your
statement, it was too small and in some instances was placed else-
where on the tape, and you know that to be true.
Ms. Rosen. No. I said that we recognized that there have been
a couple of isolated incidents where the sticker was used improp-
erly. But I think the reality is that people have not felt that the
sticker wasn't used. I think the reality is, people don't like the
music, and so whether or not it is labeled really isn't the issue.
Mrs. Collins. Mr. Stearns.
Mr. Stearns. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
Let me just say as an opening comment, Ms. Rosen, I appreciate
in your opening statement where you said that the Recording In-
dustry Association of America is now presently charting a course
for the future, social responsibility. That is what I understand you
to say, and of course, we would like to hear a little bit more about
what is happening in that area.
I want to ask you the same question that I asked the young peo-
ple in the first panel. Don Cornelius advocated a more stringent
system of record labeling than the current parental advisory. He is
in the industry, a host of Soul Train. So what is your opinion about
what he has said?
Ms. Rosen. Well, I don't think a rating system is practical for
a couple of reasons. Number one, if the purpose of the rating sys-
tem is to prevent kids from getting music, it is just not going to
happen. Music isn't like, you know, a chair, it is copyable. This
music started in the trunks of people's cars, in the home taping
machines, and kids distribute music to each other. So I think it the
goal is to do that, then the goal can't be reached.
I think the second problem, and one Mr. Eley, I think, can re-
spond to significantly better than I, is really the subjective nature
of ratings. Unlike video, which is the most common analogy that
we receive about ratings, where you really have a visual picture
and an audio script and you can put it together and there is not
much left to the imagination, it is all right there, music is much
more subjective. The combination of lyrics and musical composition
allow for numerous interpretations, and I think that is something
that would make a rating system extraordinarily difficult.
Mr. Stearns. Mr. Eley?
Mr. Eley. Yes, I do believe that you would run into a problem.
I alluded earlier to Queen Latifah. How would you rate a record
that, while it does use an expletive, does in fact promote a positive
thought, a positive attitude? She uses the expletive but not in the
context of what is commonly accepted as vulgarity, but we know
that the expletive is generally used in that manner.
Mr. Stearns. Don Cornelius also said and testified that gangsta
rap albums are bought outside the normal retail channels. Is this
Mr. Eley. Sir, I think — Representative — that therein lies the
construction of what has come to be the problem. If we were stop-
ping this because it had begun mainstream, then we would be look-
ing at something different entirely. This music was popular pre-
cisely because it was not available. This music was not on the mar-
ket and then taken off. This music found its way into mainstream
America because there are children out there who finally started
talking to one another in languages, unfortunately, that they could
understand, and that is our problem. It is largely societal as well.
Mr. Stearns. Let me follow up. What is the demographics of a
buyer of gangsta rap? Is there any demographic information avail-
Mr. Eley. You know, sir, I would like to get you some specific
information, but if I might, just from experience, just let me say
I know at 18, 19, 20 years old, we work with a lot of young people
in our offices, interns, mostly college educated. They listen to it.
But I was surprised to find — I work on weekends in a record
shop — that 32, 33-year-old bus drivers, workers, come in and they
buy it; they also are purchasers of rap music. I guess a generation
has grown up with that rap music.
Mr. Stearns. Ms. Rosen, anything you would like to add?
[Ms. Rosen shakes her head.]
Mr. Stearns. Perhaps, Mr. Eley, you might also comment about
this. When we were discussing this, the staff and I, we thought
that, you know, why is it that gangsta rap is so different from
other hard core types of music including heavy metal, grunge,
punk, and other kinds of music that predominantly are recorded by
white groups? I mean it is a more difficult question, but I think
maybe this goes along with what you are saying, why it was sold
and the outlet was so much different.
Mr. Eley. I am sorry, but I really want to understand you, be-
cause I want to give you the best answer I possibly can. Are you
speaking of the reaction to it?
Mr. Stearns. I am referring to the violent and the abusive lan-
guage that is in it.
Mr. Eley. Oh, well, I am not certain, in all due respect, that
there aren't lyrics in some of the hard metal stuff that aren't as
offensive and as pungent. My language was learned in Vietnam,
and some of that stuff in this music, I can't repeat in any of it.
Some of this is just tough language, and I have no idea.
Mr. Stearns. So the gangsta rap, the language is also, in your
opinion, seen in other types of music, too?
Mr. Eley. Yes.
Mr. Stearns. It appears, from our standpoint, it is predomi-
nantly in gangsta rap. Would you agree with that or not?
Mr. Eley. No, I wouldn't. I would have to differ with you on that.
Mr. Stearns. That is my time.
Well, if you will submit the typical demographics that you might
have, that would be helpful.
Mr. Eley. Surely.
Mr. Stearns. Let me ask you sort of a concluding question, both
of you. Some people have expressed concern about our interest in
this issue and have indicated that some critics of hip hop and
gangsta rap fail to acknowledge the effect of the artists' environ-
ment on their work. Are you concerned that we are even doing
hearings on this and that we are examining the issue of explicit
Mr. Eley. It all depends upon context. I happen to know and ad-
mire Congresswoman Collins' work. For many years I have known
that. So this would be entirely consistent for her. However, I think
that you have to be concerned about sending the wrong signal. If
you indicate that you can't come together for bans on PAC's or
guns or so many other things, to get together and agree that you
could ban a form of expression by a group — by groups that are pri-
marily black would send a wrong signal, yes.
Mr. Stearns. No one is talking about banning here. You under-
Mr. Eley. Well, yes, I do. It is just that I wanted to reiterate the
fear that is there, because that kind of information, that is what
flows. That is the kind of misinformation that derives from these
hearings. That is the fear of government.
Mr. Stearns. Ms. Rosen, do you share his same concern?
Ms. Rosen. Well, I share his view that the members of this com-
mittee have the best intentions and have done a lot of good work
over the years on these issues.
I think the concern within the music community and the broader
progressive community is that society is very conflicted about these
issues. Society does not agree on what causes violence. You can
look at the assault weapons vote on the House Floor today. To say
that if they can't agree that guns cause violence, then are we going
to agree that music causes violence? Sexism also and misogyny is
something that happens every day in society, 75 percent of all
crimes involving women are sexual assault or domestic violent
I think that it is important to have communication with the
media. I think that the entertainment industry offers a lot of com-
munication to demographics that other people don't reach. We rec-
ognize that music speaks to kids. On the other hand, I don't think
that we can always expect artists to live their life in a vacuum.
Mr. Stearns. The parental advisory that we have here, were you
against that when it was presented?
Ms. Rosen. No. In fact, we created it.
Mr. Stearns. So you are in favor of that, and you advocated that
from day one.
Ms. Rosen. Absolutely.
Mr. Stearns. And, Mr. Eley, do you also, for the record, say that
you advocate that?
Mr. Eley. Oh, yes, sir, absolutely.
Mr. Stearns. So both of you are, in a sense, saying that you
favor some restriction on the recording material by putting this.
You are on record as saying that.
Ms. Rosen. No. I am on record as saying that when artists