Controversy arises in music when its content touches on issues of violence, sexuality, religion, or obscene language. Rap and hip hop have been blamed for increased street violence and shootings. Heavy metal is targeted as anti-religious. Sexually explicit lyrics are thought to lead to disrespect of women and increased sexuality in minors. Musicians have also been opposed for their image or actions. Elvis’s pelvis caused quite a stir in his day, just as the Satanic, androgynous image of Marilyn Manson, the political viewpoint of the Dixie Chicks, or bat-head-biting antics of Ozzy Osbourne have in recent years. Objecting parties attempt to curtail the spread of these allegedly dangerous ideas or images to vulnerable listeners or claim that such lyrics are indecent and have no value as a form of art. These groups seek to remove such offending music from the airwaves and store shelves so that further "damage" cannot be done.
Censorship occurs in a variety of forms, from private action to government sanctioning through entities like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). A concert may be cancelled because the band’s name invokes anti-religious ideas, or a radio station may be fined by the government because it played a song with allegedly indecent lyrics. Private actions taken to restrict music, while allowable, may have the undesirable effect of completely removing access to certain music. For example, if a Wal-Mart is the only place to buy CD’s in a small town, the private act of not carrying an "obscene" band in the store effectively prevents fans from acquiring the CD. All of these actions serve to restrict the expression of musical artists who may have valuable and genuine things to say through their art form.
Developments in technology have also created new issues, as music file sharing raises questions of copyright and presents new ways to circumvent restrictions. Although a song may be banned on the radio, file-sharing over the Internet makes it available for download to anyone. Federal statutes such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) seek to contain musical file sharing online.
The debate over the propriety of music censorship continues. For more information about music censorship, see the incidents and additional resources below.