The Tipper Sticker and the Filthy Fifteen

Most music lovers have come across the Parental Advisory: Explicit Contents sticker at one point or another. When I was a rebellious (well actually I was quite nice) teenager back in 1991 it was something like a “seal of approval” for serious music: Nirvana had it, Red Hot Chili Peppers had it, heck any album with the sticker was worthy of my dollars (Danish kroners).

It wasn’t until I attended a spoken words event with Jello Biafra, that I became aware of what the purpose of the sticker actually was: To warn parents not to buy the music if they had any regard for their childrens’ mental health. Biafra called it the “Tipper Sticker”- named after Tipper Gore, the wife of Al Gore, who had headed the Parents Music Resource Center, which launched an initiative to label music in order to protect the children from sexual or drug related lyrics from the likes of Prince, Madonna or even John Denver.

The warning to the music industry was: Regulate yourselves or we will do it for you. And thus the sticker came into being. The effect of the sticker has on the one hand been that some retailers will not sell albums labelled with the sticker – and on the other hand, that a sticker ensures bigger sales to white surburban kids out to enrage their parents.

Is the label still relevant in a web 2.0 setting, where music is sold online? Sure, and they even have “clean” and “non-clean” versions of the albums available. I wish they would do the same with album with left-wing political content. A “Che-free” version and a “Che-filled” version?

Want to know more? Here is a list of the Filthy Fifteen, that the PMRC was most interested in warning about.

Hat tip to Nick Gillespie.

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