Michigan state senator takes concert-rating bill on another tour

Friday, February 12, 1999

A Michigan state senator recently introduced a bill that would, if passed, require parental warnings on tickets and advertising for concerts by performers whose albums have earned advisory stickers.

Sen. Dale Shugars, R-Portage, who has sponsored similar concert-rating bills in two previous legislative sessions, expects this third try to be successful.

“I don't anticipated that there's going to be much criticism,” said Mark Lemoine, spokesman for Shugars. “We're just echoing the voluntary system the recording industry has already put into place. Hopefully, we can give parents one more tool to get information about music and entertainment their children are seeking.”

Shugars' original bill would have allowed Michigan cities and towns to designate certain music performances as “harmful to minors.” To attend, concert-goers under 18 would have had to be accompanied by an adult.

Under pressure from venue operators, the music industry and the American Civil Liberties Union, Shugars reworked the bill so that it merely required the venue operator to place the warning on all tickets and advertising for the “harmful” performance.

The new bill, SB 239, doesn't specify the exact advisory label concert promoters must use. But Lemoine said that the bill would require promoters to use the parental-advisory logo from the Recording Industry Association of America voluntary program.

Lemoine also said the bill would affect only those artists who had released albums with parental advisory labels in the five years preceding a performance.

Venue operators and promoters could face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $5,000 fine or both if they fail to attach the advisory.

The bill is before the Committee on Local, Urban and State Affairs.

Nina Crowley, executive director of the Massachusetts Music Industry Coalition, says Shugars should to give up on his “faulty” bill. She says that after revamping the bill four times, the senator has worked in even more problems.

“The bill outlines provisions for a concert at which a performer's 'recorded music will be performed,'” Crowley said. “Can one then assume that if a performer plans only to provide 'live' music rather than 'recorded' music, then that performance is exempt from this bill?”

Crowley says the bill places liability with a venue operator even when fault lies with other people responsible for promoting or advertising the event.

“The bill has been riddled with inconsistencies and illogical definitions of criminal acts throughout its two-year history,” Crowley said. “It is time that Sen. Shugars' constituents and colleagues made it clear that these inept attempts at censorship should be stopped once and for all.”

But Lemoine dismisses the censorship arguments, saying the recording industry — not Michigan lawmakers — labels music.

“And it's the recording industry that will make the determination which music receives these concert labels,” he said. “We're extending what they have already decided, they being the experts on this subject. If they have determined that the music is worthy of a parental warning, then the concert should be labeled likewise.”