MUSIC INDUSTRY POWER BROKERS: WHAT ARE THEY AFRAID OF?
by Kenny Moore
In my two and a half years as Rock Out Censorship's Florida Representative, I have devoted an enormous amount of effort and energy towards establishing the Rock Out Censorship information booth as a permanent fixture at concerts as a means by which we can get the average rock and roll fan involved and informed about the censorship issue. In this time, I have met quite a few genuinely cool people within the music industry (you all know who you are, so I'll refrain from turning this into a credits article) that truly are supportive of our efforts and are willing to go out an a limb to see that we are able to continue our efforts. These are the people who actually care more about music and freedom than a bunch of rules and regulations.
It was after 1-1/2 years of relentless effort that I received a call from Amy Bailey (Axl Rose's stepsister) from the Guns 'N' Roses tour in Ireland. After several phone calls and information packages mailed to G N'R management and MCA Concerts, Rock Out Censorship was invited to be a part of the 1992 Guns 'N' Roses/Metallica summer stadium tour along with numerous other organizations such as Greenpeace, NORML, PETA, Rock The Vote, Amnesty International, Surfrider Foundation, and others. We accomplished a great deal, but in the months during this tour and following this tour, we have met a few of the people on the other side of the coin in the music business--the weasels, These are the corporate maggots that could care less about music, freedom, the fans, or anything other than their wallets and overinflated power egos.
It started in Detroit where Pontiac Silverdome officials refused to allow us to bring in any merchandise and frankly weren't too thrilled about even allowing us to set up at all. It was through our merchandise that we were able to afford travel expenses to participate on this tour. Often, we had to sleep in the car because of incidents like Detroit or on nights where we took in a minimal amount of donations. After Detroit, we had another more serious situation at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Stadium officials threatened to call in the police to have us removed from the facility and to confiscate all our materials if we set up our booths. We were told that our sitting up also violated union contracts and that the unions were threatening to shut down the show if we were allowed to set up these booths. It wasn't until midway through the show that things were cleared up and even then, we had to be careful about adhering to various rules established in how we conducted the booth. I was told later by Tom Maher with GNR management that on more than a few occasions, it came down to the band refusing to play unless their organizations were accommodated by the venue. When faced with a decision between a riot or accommodating us, most venues bit their lip and grudgingly allowed us in. The problem we are facing now is that few groups have the willingness to go to bat for us as Guns N' Roses did to see to it that the venues do not shut us out. The venues are now seeing that if they deliberately make everything into a problem, then the bands will decide that having groups like Rock Out Censorship, NORML, etc. at their shows is more of a hassle than it is worth, I will say that this is not going on at all venues and that many of the people we deal with are totally hospitable and truly great to work with. It is the growing few that for whatever reason wish to keep us out--whether it's politics, power, greed, just plain ignorance, or a combination of the four--that are threatening the success of this organization. We have absolutely no power to muscle our way in unless the band takes a strong stand and insists that we be allowed to do our thing.
Another more recent incident occurred at a show at the Lee County Civic Center in Ft. Myers, FL with Def Leppard. ROC was approved by Def Leppard's management to set up at the Florida dates with the band. The previous night, we ran the booth with no problems at their St. Petersburg, FL show. But then, after driving three hours from Orlando to Ft. Myers, I was told by the Executive Director of the Lee County Civic Center that we could not set up our booth regardless of what band management told us. He cited the fact that we did not give the venue two weeks notice as one reason, but considering the fact that ROC did not get approval from Def Leppard's management until the day before, this was an impossible request. His other reason was the fact that we did not allow the pro-censorship side a chance to set up a table as well to rebut our opinions (a ridiculous excuse because this man knows that no pro-censorship group would even show their face inside a metal show--they may protest outside, but if they came in with a booth, fans would eat them alive). These policies that he cited had NEVER been in place before...as a matter of fact, we had set up at the Lee County Civic Center with no problems at a Tesla show a few months prior. We feel that the REAL reason we were denied by the venue lies in another statement made by the same director. He told us later that a booth such as ours would not be good to have with the way the political scene in Ft. Myers is and that he'd be worried about his job if he allowed us in. We were told by Def Leppard's management that they simply approved us on their end, but that it was our responsibility to deal with the venues. It has been our experience, though, that when given the decision, many venues choose not to allow us to set up, which makes me ask "WHAT ARE THEY AFRAID OF?"
One concern given is that our donations for merchandise competes with the band's merchandise. This concern couldn't be further from the truth, I invite any venue official or any merchandise company that is worried about loss of sales to look through ROC's checkbooks and records and find the true reality for themselves. Nobody is making money that threatens band merchandise. We simply cover our expenses to run the organization (this doesn't all happen for free) and the few times we do make a little at these shows, it goes into expanding the organization.
We were recently approved for several shows with the Poison/Damn Yankees tour, but venue and merchandise contracts were cited to restrict us to no merchandise. This puts ROC in an interesting "catch-22." If we say, we won't do shows without merchandise, then we'll be criticized for being "in it for the money." However, if we establish a precedent that we are able to do shows without merchandise to cover expenses, then this organization will quickly disappear and there will be no newspapers or information to pass out to people or actions taken to protect Freedom of Speech because we'll exhaust all our resources on shows. So, we are faced with a no-win situation simply because a few people with power can't stand the fact that we are "moving in on their turf"' as they see it, despite the fact that we can prove to anyone that this is not the case. My best guess for the real reason that we are not welcome at some shows, despite band approval, is that nobody is padding their wallet through our presence and nobody is controlling what we present to the concert going public. There are some people in charge of things that do not want you, the fans, to have access to the information that we provide. They are afraid of an educated public. The only want to take your money, provide you with a show, and send you home entertained. There are many bands that would like to make a change in this society. We are an organization that, in our small way, can help make some change, but too many corporate maggots in the music industry are hindering our efforts by putting up smokescreens to keep us out. I would like to ask all bands that REALLY want us to succeed in establishing a strong anti-censorship group nationwide to stand up to these power hungry clowns and help us fight. We can't win without support. It's up to what kind of anti-censorship group you would like to see--one that is universally supported by the music industry and channels all its energy toward kicking ass, at keeping the pro-censorship side at bay, or one that is constantly having to fight for its survival, devoting all too much energy into keeping people from within the music industry from killing our efforts.
And so, lastly, I would like to close this editorial by offering sincere thanks to the genuinely cool people mentioned at the beginning. We are counting on your continued support in building the ROC Army. If it wasn't for people like you we'd have never taken it this far. However, we never thought we'd find so much resistance from people within an industry we are trying to help protect, but such is reality. Thanks again to all those who have helped, and to those who oppose-FUCK YOU!, we're going to do it anyway.