Did the title of this post leave you feeling perplexed and confused? Well, then you know how Michael Reidy, of the band School of Pisces, felt when he noticed that his album had been removed from iTunes. School of Pisces recorded their first EP, “This Is A Subliminal Message…”, this year and set about distributing it through the usual digital sources. But, last week, Apple (the biggest retailer of digital music since 2008) took the album off their metaphorical digital shelves. Why, you may ask? Because Apple does not allow material with subliminal content.
That’s right—the early 1990’s controversy about subliminal messages in music is still an influence on Apple’s content rules two decades later. Not that that’s a bad thing. Apple is just making sure that young kids aren’t manipulated by hidden sinister messages, hypnotic guitar riffs, or satanic drum fills. But, that doesn’t seem to apply to Michael Reidy and School of Pisces—since no one (not angry parents, not confused teenagers, not even Apple themselves) has actually accused their album of containing any subliminal messages. Apple pulled the album simply because it contains the word “subliminal” in the title.
And thus begins the free speech battle between the small Massachusetts-based alternative band and the multi-billion dollar music corporation.
Reidy argues that Apple is being selective with their policy. A quick search of the iTunes store will show that Apple sells many songs, apps, and audiobooks that use the word subliminal. These include one album titled “Subliminal,” nine albums by the band “Subliminal,” and eight songs titled “Subliminal” (one of which, from the band They Might Be Giants, contains lyrics hidden in reverse). Some of these apps and audiobooks even claim to influence the consumer with those very subliminal messages that Apple claims to ban. So, why has “This Is A Subliminal Message…” been removed from the store?
No one seems to know for sure—least of all, Michael Reidy who says, “All I want is an even playing field. If they want to remove everyone that uses the word subliminal... that's fine. Completely ridiculous, but fine. But don't single me out.” He has written an appeal to Steve Jobs—but Reidy (who, ironically, makes all of his music on a Mac computer) has heard nothing yet.
Now it’s up to fans and strangers to show some support. A Facebook petition has been created to encourage Apple to address their content policy rules. Do we really want to live in a world where “Chocolate Starfish & The Hot Dog Flavored Water” is an acceptable album title but “This Is A Subliminal Message…” isn't?
Photo above: School of Pisces heroically contemplating free speech. (by Matt Cullen of Free Images Now)