Musical blasts from the past are arriving in cardboard boxes at schools, colleges, and libraries across the United States this summer, an unexpected boost to the music resources available to their students and patrons.
But schools have found some of the material inappropriate for students, or in overabundant quantities.
Thousands of music CDs are being sent, free of charge, by the music-recording industry, to 43 states as part of a $78 million legal settlement. The deal, reached July 9, 2003, resolves charges that distributors allegedly fixed prices of compact discs sold at nontraditional music outlets, such as Target and Wal-Mart stores, from 1995 through 2000.
Washington state, one of the first states to be sent the CDs, is directing 72,800 of its total of 115,000 to K-12 schools. Further distribution is being handled by the state’s nine Educational Service Districts, which will send them to schools.
In the states that have been the first to receive the shipments, the CDs have generally been welcomed, but educators have raised eyebrows at some titles and some of the quantities received.
In Washington state, for example, Educational Service District 121, which serves 35 school districts in the Puget Sound area, received more than 1,300 copies of Whitney Houston’s 1991 rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” according to district spokeswoman Kerry MacDonald.
In addition, some educational service districts received music that was “inappropriate for children—they had warning labels on them, for adult lyrics and so forth,” said Gary Larson, a spokesman for state Attorney General Christine O. Gregoire.
“We especially said we don’t want those things to be included in our allotment,” he said.
Mr. Larson said that his office is setting up an e-mail list to assist schools and libraries in trading excess or unwanted titles with one another.
Brad Naioni, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office in New York, which was one of the lead states in negotiating the CD settlement, said schools and libraries there are allowed to sell their CDs “as long as the money is used for music education.”
Meanwhile, at Educational Service District 113 in Olympia, Wash., staff members spent several days in late June sorting through 5,000 CDs, preparing boxes to be sent to their 45 school districts, which together serve 65,000 students.
“We had classical, country, jazz, popular, easy-listening; foreign, like Latin and African,” said Lynne Forbush, a district media technician. “We received a whole box set of Gene Autry, which was before my time. ... We got another nice one on the Supremes.”
Many titles seemed culled from the music industry’s warehouses, but Ms. Forbush said, “I didn’t expect to receive the top 100 CDs the record companies were selling.”
But the collection also included recent hip-hop titles that many students may enjoy, she added.
Plus, she said, just about any title would be welcome in schools, because teachers often use their own money to buy music recordings for their classrooms.
And music “is probably nonexistent in their school libraries,” Ms. Forbush said.
The settlement specified different musical categories and titles, including classical, rock, jazz, and Latin. The value of the $78 million CD giveaway was calculated at 20 percent below the manufacturers’ suggested retail prices.
A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2004 edition of Education Week as Settlement Sends Music CDs To Schools Nationwide