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Are radio edits a necessary evil or detrimental to artistic integrity?

Occasionally, a music artist will release a song that is deemed unsuitable for radio play in its current form. It might contain profanity or profane subject material, have undesired instrumentation, or simply be too long for the radio to play. A new version of the song will be created as a "radio edit" that alters the original to meet governmental standards. These changes can range from inconsequential, like replacing one profane word with a sound effect, to substantial, such as replacement lyrics that completely change the original meaning of the song. Famous radio edits include Cee Lo Green’s "Forget You," d-12’s "Purple Hills," and Everlast’s "What’s It Like."

Usually these edits are not made by the artists themselves but by their record labels, broadcasters at the corporate level, or even individual radio stations. Whether minor or major, these changes produce a product that is not what the artist envisioned without the artists’ input. Without these changes, these songs would not play on the radio or in spaces that must abide by government guidelines relating to content standards. Is the radio edit process a necessary evil to becoming a successful artist? Or is the act of altering art in order to conform to public sensibilities harmful to the role of art in our contemporary culture that constantly encourages us to "express yourself?" Especially in the era of the internet and the seemingly endless ways to create and distribute art outside traditional distribution institutions, should corporations compromising an artist’s intended vision to please the masses be considered a malicious act? Or should this new-found freedom provided by the internet encourage society to support art as the artist creates it, even if it offends?

  • This is a fascinating point in the process of musical production that not many people consider. Much like the Hayes code of early Hollywood, such censorship can seem extreme and archaic in a modern society that no longer requires major industries to support success. The examples you give are telling ones since it's easy to classify which genres are more censored compared to others, which could be an interesting aspect to explore. This practice of radio edits may be a hangover of a previous era since tiktok seems to be the predominant platform dominating the music market today. Exploring the alternatives (youtube, tiktok, instagram etc.), which genres or artists are targeted, and the origins for WHY such edits were made, could be a good division of the topic. – LadyAcademia 10 months ago
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  • This is such an interesting thought! As a lifelong hater of radio edits, I’ve never thought of it this way - I would look into which artists get censored the most and their similarities (if any). – kelleykilgore 10 months ago
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  • It's also interesting to think of what music never lent itself to radio edits to begin with, and what music was particularly pushed into it. The metro area I'm from has a radio station which used to have a motto "All the best hits, without the rap." For the most part it was true, the station played pop music by all sorts of artists. But when Macklemore's Thrift Shop became big, the station played it, despite the song featuring rap... Race and politics clearly play a role in determining what music is deemed "appropriate", a role that for the most part likely goes unseen and unacknowledged, just as many people observe never thinking of the impact of radio edits. On a somewhat different note, I only recently discovered the song "I Dig Rock and Roll" by Peter, Paul, and Mary. For those unfamiliar with it, it seems to celebrate Rock and Roll while actually mocking it. It has a lyric incredibly relevant to this topic - "I think I could say something if you know what I mean/But if I really say it, the radio won't play it/Unless I lay it between the lines!" Very interesting lyric, it's stuck with me! – ronannar 7 months ago
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  • I agree that this topic is fascinating. I have never really thought about it, but just reading through the idea and the comments has me thinking of different ways things are edited and how heavily (and how times we might not know it because at some point we'd only ever heard it on the radio). Could be arguments that it's helped in cases, as well? Something like Let's Get It Started? How would that have been played in so many places without an edit? (And I suppose, is that right or wrong?) – rieder21 5 months ago
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