January 1996

Truth and Consequences:
What We Do Makes a Difference, Whether We Admit It or Not

by Paul D. Lehrman

There's an ad that's been running in some of the trades lately that rubs me entirely the wrong way. No, it doesn't feature female body parts or underclothing, or close-ups of bodily secretions. We all have opinions on those ads, and mine are that they are silly, but hardly worth getting riled up over. The one that gets me says something like, to paraphrase broadly, "While the nation was engrossed in a dumb, sordid, real-life legal soap opera, fascists sneaked in and took over your government. But it's not our fault, we just wrote the soundtrack."

The ad, not surprisingly, is for a music company. Their point is that whatever happens, they can write appropriate music for its presentation on television. In fact, it's their "responsibility" to do so. Now, I've done some business with this company, and they do terrific work, and I have a lot of respect for them. The message in the ad is completely honest -- no matter what's going on, when it comes to reporting it, they want a piece of the action.

But what bothers me is its "We're just hired hands!" subtext. Strange things are happening in this society as we approach the milennium, and those of us who work in the entertainment and information fields (remember when they were separate?) aren't just observers -- we have tremendous influence over the way people perceive what's going on. Whatever we do, whether it's records, commercials, soundtracks, broadcast, or video games, we don't work in a vacuum. Which leads to a very, very complicated question: Do we, as engineers, producers, editors, and musicians, have any responsibility for the effect on society of the work that we do?

The rest of this column, along with 56 more, is now available in The Insider Audio Bathroom Reader, published by Thomson Course Technology PTR.

Copyright ©2006 by Paul D. Lehrman