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Artistic expression explores various themes and styles, including explicit content that may not be suitable for all listeners. As a music artist, you might find yourself questioning whether or not to include a “Parental Advisory Explicit Content” label on your album.
Let’s look at the pros and cons associated with adding an explicit content label so you can make an informed decision that aligns with your artistic vision and target audience’s expectations.
History of the parental advisory explicit content label
The parental advisory label came into existence in the 1980s. Led by the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), the movement aimed to raise awareness and avoid having young fans hear potentially offensive or inappropriate material.
The label was officially introduced by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 1985. The introduction of the label marked a shift in the music industry and led to broad debates about censorship, artistic freedom, and parental responsibility.
How do I know if I need the label on my album cover?
When making an album, it can be hard to determine whether or not to include a parental advisory logo on your album. Consider these factors:
- Familiarize yourself with the legal requirements in your country or region. Different jurisdictions may have specific guidelines and regulations regarding explicit content labels.
- Evaluate the content of your album. Are there explicit lyrics, themes, or strong language that might be deemed inappropriate for certain audiences? Analyzing your music’s content will help you assess whether a parental advisory logo is necessary to provide a fair warning to potential listeners.
- Consider your target audience. Understanding your audience’s preferences and sensitivities will help you make an informed decision. If your music primarily targets adult listeners who are accustomed to explicit content, the need for a parental advisory label may be less pressing. However, if your music caters to a wide range of audiences, including younger listeners, the label becomes more crucial in conveying the nature of your content.
What kinds of language would suggest that I use a parental advisory label?
So, what makes a song explicit? “Explicit content” is a pretty broad term. What might be “explicit” for one person may not be for another, but generally speaking, if the kind of language listed below is prevalent in your music, you should consider using a parental advisory explicit content label on your album.
- Use of profanity, racial slurs, or derogatory terms
- References to or explicit descriptions of sexual activity or sexual acts
- Descriptions of violent acts or the glorification of violence
- Descriptions of or references to the use of drugs or alcohol
What are the pros and cons of using the label?
Pros of using the parental advisory label include:
- Consumer awareness. The explicit content label serves as a clear indicator to parents and consumers about the presence of explicit or potentially offensive material. It allows individuals to make informed decisions regarding their media choices and can prevent children from being exposed to age-inappropriate content.
- Market segmentation. The warning label enables consumers who prefer explicit or edgier content to easily identify and access the media they desire. It allows artists and content creators to target specific audiences who appreciate and seek out explicit material.
- Badge of honor. While the label intends to warn listeners, it can also be interpreted as a badge of honor or a symbol of edginess by certain artists. They view the warning label as a testament to their artistic freedom and refusal to conform to societal norms. For these artists, the parental advisory label becomes a statement of authenticity and rebelliousness, attracting a specific audience that appreciates their boldness.
- Empowers parental guidance. The presence of the parental advisory label allows for informed parental guidance and involvement in monitoring the media consumed by their children. It can encourage discussion about explicit content and serve as a tool for parents to gauge the suitability of music for their children and their media consumption.
- Subjectivity. The criteria for applying the explicit content label can be subjective, leading to inconsistencies in its application. Different individuals or entities may interpret explicit content differently, which can result in confusion or disputes regarding the labeling process.
- Censorship concerns. Some argue that the explicit content label can lead to unnecessary censorship or restrictions on artistic expression. Critics argue that labeling music or media as explicit may deter potential listeners or limit the exposure and distribution of certain works.
- Misleading or ineffective. The explicit content label does not provide specific details about the nature of explicit content, such as the specific strong language or themes involved. This lack of specificity can sometimes result in the label being either too broad or not fully indicative of the content, potentially misleading consumers.
- Stigmatization. The explicit content label may create a stigma around artists or media labeled as such, potentially affecting their reputation or limiting their opportunities for exposure and mainstream success.
How to Add the Parental Advisory Label on Your Album
If you decide to proceed with including a parental advisory explicit content label on your album, it’s important to understand the process and ensure compliance.
- Familiarize yourself with the guidelines. When making your album cover, research the guidelines provided by relevant authorities in your country or region. Understand the specific criteria that determine whether your album requires the label. These guidelines may vary, so ensure you have the most up-to-date information to avoid any legal issues.
- Use the label. Either use the official Parental Advisory label adopted by the RIAA, or you can design your own version. There is no official mandate that you need to use the RIAA’s label. If designing your own, create a unique design that represents your brand and style. The label should be clear, legible, and noticeable on the album cover to effectively convey the necessary warning. Disc Makers’ design services have several versions of commonly used explicit content labels that we can incorporate into your cover design should you need it.
- Placement and visibility. Ensure that the label is prominently displayed on your album cover. It should be easily recognizable and visible to potential listeners. Most commonly, the label is placed on the bottom right corner of the cover, but consult the guidelines to determine the appropriate placement for your specific region. Adhering to the placement guidelines will ensure consistency and compliance with industry standards.
- Communicate with distributors and platforms. Inform your distributors, streaming platforms, and other relevant parties about the presence of the parental advisory label. This helps ensure accurate categorization and appropriate warnings for potential listeners. Provide them with the necessary information to properly label and classify your album to reach the intended audience.
Philip Kinsher is a writer, editor, and musician with a predilection for YA Sci-fi Fantasy books and rock and roll. And golf and pickleball.
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