The following article exerpt regarding the Wal-Mart chain is from our friends at Rock and Rap Confidential:
"EVIL EMPIRE.... "Wal-Mart's CD Standards Are Changing Pop Music," Neil Strauss's excellent piece in the November 12 New York Times, details how the bully-boy Arkansas-based retailer throws its weight around. Wal-Mart's explicit censorship policy bans all music carrying a warning label along with, for example, all Beavis and Butthead merchandise (including the new soundtrack album). With its 2,300 stores, which last year sold 52 million CDs, Wal-Mart is the biggest music retailer in the country and that fact alone is the biggest impetus toward record company and artist self-censorship.
"Because of Wal-Mart's clout," Strauss writes, "record labels and bands will design different covers and booklets, omit songs from their albums, electronically mask objectionable words and even change lyrics in order to gain a place on Wal-Mart's shelves."
John Mellencamp, who had to airbrush Jesus and the devil from the cover of his new album in order to get Wal-Mart's approval, joins a long list of artists ranging from Beck to Outkast who've had to hack up their art to reach their audience. Wal-Mart makes sure that, in hundreds of cities, they are the only place for fans to shop by selling music at or below cost and driving independent stores out of business.
In a prepared statement issued the same day as the Times piece, Wal-Mart denied that it has any impact on music, while making it quite clear how restrictive its standards are. Spokesperson Betsy Riethemeyer (501-273-8510) claims that Wal-Mart is simply "family oriented." The way Wal-Mart treats its employees, whose families depend on them to survive, indicates otherwise. Wal-Mart defied the embargo of Haiti's Military regime; it pays its workers there just 14 cents an hour. When Wal-Mart bought the Woolco chain in Canada, it immediately eliminated 1,500 jobs. In the U.S., most Wal-Mart workers are minimum wage part-timers with no benefits, and full-timers are charged so much for their benefits that many decline them.
When a mega-corporation like Wal-Mart decides to resrict sales to that which is deemed "safe" by someone within that company, it has the SAME chilling effect on the music community as a full governmental legislative attack would. It basically works as a corporate mechanism to keep the music industry in line, creating a situation where the artists face economic ruin if they dare cross Wal-Mart's "line in the family-values sand." It is corporate censorship just as strong as governmental censorship, and it goes completely against the SPIRIT of freedom this country was founded on while not directly violating the Constitution. We feel it to be very important that the phrase "corporate censorship" begin to take root in our daily political vocabulary as this is the wave of the future that will stifle our freedoms as surely as the government could ever do.
What we are facing is the self-appointed moral guardians in the Christian Coalition, the American Family Association, and others are successfully working around the Constitution of the United States to achieve their goals by finding allies among powerful corporations and by getting politicians to use their "bully pulpit" to intimidate the entertainment industry into submission. If every record store refuses to stock a product, it is just as censored as if the government did it themselves, but this way they get around those "nasty" court rulings that strike down their efforts in the interest of preserving freedom and those Constitutional rights that "seem to keep getting in the way."
We urge all music fans to show your support for the artists by joining us in our national boycott of the Wal-Mart chain and any other music-selling chain that attempts to restrict access to music in any way or attempts to exert their moral influence over the entire music community. Please sign our "Boycott Wal-Mart" petition and/or write them personally at the following address: Mr. David Glass, President - Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. - P.O. Box 116, Bentonville, AR 72712-9956. Wal-Mart has the right to run their business as they see fit, but we have the right to not shop there if we disagree with their policies. If enough people refuse to shop there, then Wal-Mart will surely fail, and then Maybe their plave in the free-market system can be filled with a more free-speech friendly company.
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