Wal-Mart: Market censors and market mechanisms

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Wal-Mart: Market censors and market mechanisms
Background information and articles on the biggest retailer in the US, who is often accused of censorship

In 1996, singer Sheryl Crow caused controversy with the lyrics “Watch out sister, Watch out brother, Watch out children while they kill each other, with a gun they bought at Wal-Mart discount store.”
Wal-Mart refused to sell the album unless she changed the lyric, but she refused and it stayed regardless of her losing album sales.
Other acts, who have been asked by Wal-Mart to change lyrics or song titles, include The Prodigy and Nirvana. The latter had the song title ‘Rape Me’ changed to ‘Waif Me’.

Background articles:

In some areas of the country, Wal-Mart is the only place to buy CDs or tapes. While it is well known that Wal-Mart doesn’t carry labeled CDs, the New York Times recently detailed in a front-page story how the chain and other big retailers are having an insidious effect on music and movie production. Like cancerous cells, adulterated censored CDs are proliferating in Wal-Mart’s bins, in many cases without being identified as such.

Read more: “Wal-Mart Blues”. Article from MetroActive (1999)


Wal-Mart refuses to sell any CD or tape with a parental warning sticker, even if it has been slapped on by mistake, as in the case of rapper Bizzy Bone, who was mistakenly accused of condoning school violence. Even after the error was explained — Bizzy raps so fast that the words are hard to make out — the store would not carry the CD. “Perception is reality,” a Wal-Mart spokesperson said.

Read more: Interview with Eric Nuzum (2001)


ROC calls for a national boycott of Wal-Mart:
“When a mega-corporation like Wal-Mart decides to restrict 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.”

Read more

Taboo Tunes: music censorship in the US
Taboo Tunes (2004) also focus on market censors and the role of Wal-Mart

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