Music vs Structures of Power


(Photo credited to Google Images)

Music has gone against the structures of power for years. Music is made by the people, and the “man” is who tries to shut the people down, to silence them. Without music how would one unwind, express their feelings, their emotions and put forth their opinions whether politically based or not? So, when did the trend of music vs structures of power begin? Perhaps during WW2, in a time where artist’s music was played and sold and controlled by someone other than the musician, and then that person went on to receive all the money for it. Before musicians were paid their royalties and other wages properly and ran their own career, (except for a manager) they were expected to go along with whatever was decided for them, and artist after artist were churned out; whatever marketing ploy that could make money for the ‘big guys’ was put forth. Once this wrongdoing was brought to attention, for a full year no unpaid musician’s music was aired on any radio, as a sort of stance against the industry and society itself perhaps, or maybe that’s going too far deep.

How do we understand popular music in terms of regulation?
Let’s go back to 1985. The beginning of Parental Advisory stickers occurred when a group made up mostly of middle-aged women, founded by the ‘Washington Wives’- about their husband’s connections with government- was created as an aim to increase parental control over the music available to their children. The ‘Parental Music Resource Centre’ petitioned to have warning labels put onto records or singles which included supposed ‘explicit content’ such as drugs, violence, sex, occult etc. This had an enormous impact on record sales since some stores refused to sell any records that featured this sticker thus affecting the artist’s income and career, however it did have an unintended adverse effect for bands such as Motley Crue, who’s record sales increased; lead singer Vince Neil was quoted as saying in 2001 “Once you put that sticker on, that parental-warning sticker, that album took off,” To further their grasp on the younger generation, the P.M.R.C compiled a list of banned songs of that time.

A list entitled the ‘Filthy Fifteen’ was created, this list included 15 songs which the P.R.M.C deemed most objectionable: in no order, the list goes as follows:
1. Eat Me Alive – Judas Priest…………………….(profane or sexually explicit)
2. Bastard – Motley Crue…………………………..(violent)
3. Darling Nikki – Prince……………………………(profane or sexually explicit)
4. Sugar Walls – Sheena Easton………………….(profane or sexually explicit)
5. Animal (Fuck Like a Beast) – W.A.S.P………….(profane or sexually explicit)
6. Into the Coven – Mercyful Fate…………………(occult)
7. Strap On ‘Robbie Baby – Vanity………………..(profane or sexually explicit)
8. High and Dry – Def Leppard…………………….(drugs and alcohol)
9. We’re Not Gonna Take It – Twisted Sister…….(violent)
10. Dress You Up – Madonna……………………….(profane or sexually explicit)
11. She Bop – Cyndi Lauper…………………………(profane or sexually explicit)
12. Let Me Put My Love in You – AC/DC……………(profane or sexually explicit)
13. Trashed – Black Sabbath…………………………(drugs and alcohol)
14. In My House – Mary Jane Girls………………….(profane or sexually explicit)
15. Possessed – Venom………………………………(occult)

So why do politics get involved in music?
Is it because politicians are worried that music may be too influential to people and thus create some sort of political backlash? Music and art is what makes the world go around, without it, life would be mundane and “…consumed with labor, legal proceedings, payment deadlines and medical procedures” (‘Music and the Politics of Resistance” by Barrett Martin, 14/10/2013) Music, like humans, has evolved over time and so has societies reaction to certain kinds of music; take for instance, Rock & Roll. Arguably created at some point during the 1950’s, this genre has always been “…a form of musical resistance against entrenched power structures, and it’s also one of the greatest musical forms if it’s done with real intention.”

Music is the purest form of rebellion there is, and yet people still try to bring it down, in fact over the last thirty-odd years music has been blamed for many violent acts including but not limited to suicides, terrorist acts, murders and school shootings. One of the most prolific school shootings in American history was argued to have been strongly influenced by the music of none other than Marilyn Manson. The Columbine High School Massacre occurred on April 20th, 1999, and was conducted by ‘outcasts’ Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. This was not only a shooting, but a highly complex and well-planned attack that included a fire bomb to divert firefighters, propane tanks converted to bombs placed in the cafeteria, 99 explosive devices and even car bombs. Overall, twelve students and one teacher was murdered, whilst 24 people were injured. Afterwards, both Harris and Klebold committed suicide. A common view on this horrible event was that Marilyn Manson and his music was specifically to blame; that Manson’s perhaps ‘violent’ persona had influenced these boys to kill their fellow class mates. What mainly prompted this idea, was the fact that these boys were fans of Manson. And so, what? I’m a fan of him, does that give me a reason to kill? He may be a little on the dark side of things regarding his lyrics, music videos and choices of attire but he has never once condoned anything extremely violent, like that of the shooting, to be acceptable. Perhaps the reason why Manson was originally blamed is that society felt the need to pin it on someone; perhaps the public couldn’t accept that Harris and Klebold were products of a failed school system and were relentlessly bullied throughout their school years and with nothing being done to fix their situation, they found a way to get revenge.

Music is one of the only things you can have control over, you can choose what you listen to, if you wish to create your own, you can and you go can go and experience artists and bands live. But music is controlled. You only hear certain music on the radio or see certain music videos on television; certain things must be filtered as according to ‘bigger people’. Which is fair enough, some stuff is downright unacceptable. So even though the musician is the one creating the product, they don’t have much creative control over it. Take Elvis Presley for example, his manager “Colonel Tom” or Thomas Andrew Parker ran Presley’s entire career, and was very crucial to his success, yet the way in which he did it has been criticized over the years. Usually the royalties rewarded to large scale artists and their managers is divided into percentages of around 80-90% to artists and the rest to the management; Bruce Springsteen for instance could make $100 million in a year, and since he is such a huge artist his manager only receives 1% in royalties, which is still $1 million. However, regarding Elvis and the Colonel (who was his “sole and exclusive adviser, personal representative and manager”) the way in which their business was set up was that the royalties were almost 50/50, so they were paid about equal

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