not safe for workSo the artwork concept for my upcoming album is, let’s just say, “not safe for work”.

While I won’t reveal the details of the photo just yet, I will say that it does involve some non-sexual nudity. (It’s not me! Thank you very much.) The photo is intended to spark some discussion, but isn’t intended to be offensive for the sake of being offensive.

Given that I’m an indie artist with no record label, giant legal team, or marketing budget, this photo will pose an interesting “marketing challenge” in terms of how I will be able to promote and distribute this album.

So as I gear up to figure out how I’ll get the word out about my little album, I’ve got a few questions.

Will Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube allow me to use the artwork on their sites?
Will Apple allow the album artwork in their iTunes store?
Can I get away without a censored version of the artwork?

It appears as though the answer to all of these questions could be no. But there does appear to be some gray areas here.

Facebook Terms of Use:

“Photos and videos containing nudity… are not allowed on Facebook”

Well, that’s pretty black and white. Not much gray area (or areolas) there. However I did come across the covers of Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy and Jane’s Addiction Nothing’s Shocking on Facebook, both of which feature nudity and were considered quite offensive in their day. But there are a bunch of stories of “offensive” images being removed. Art school sketches and nude paintings have been removed, as well as photos of women who have undergone breast cancer surgery, and photos of women breast feeding. I guess as long as women continue to have boobs, there are going to be people who are offended by them. So I guess I can take my chances here and just see if the album artwork gets flagged.

Twitter Terms of Use:

“Twitter does remove obscene or pornographic images in either user profile pictures or user backgrounds.”

So a bit of a gray area on Twitter. Since my photo won’t be pornographic, it all comes down to how someone decides to define the word “obscene”. Reminds me of how former justice Potter Stewart of the US Supreme Court, when trying to define “what is obscene,” wrote, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced… [but] I know it when I see it.” So I guess I’ll take my chances here as well, and see if the artwork gets yanked.

“We do not regulate content on external (non-Twitter) websites, nor do we regulate Tweets that link to content on external websites, including pornography.”

Well that makes sense. I wonder if anyone actually thought Twitter would try to regulate content on non-Twitter websites?

YouTube Terms of Use:

“Most nudity is not allowed, particularly if it is in a sexual context. Generally if a video is intended to be sexually provocative, it is less likely to be acceptable for YouTube. There are exceptions for some educational, documentary, scientific, and artistic content, but only if that is the sole purpose of the video and it is not gratuitously graphic. For example, a documentary on breast cancer would be appropriate, but posting clips out of context from the documentary might not be.”

Ok, YouTube has the most specific definition here, but still obviously open to interpretation. I’d like to think that my imagery contains solely artistic content, but my guess is someone could flag it as offensive here as well. They do offer a lot of information on how and when videos could become age restricted.

“YouTube staff review flagged videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate our Community Guidelines. When they do, we remove them. Sometimes a video doesn’t violate our Community Guidelines, but may not be appropriate for everyone. These videos may be age-restricted.”

Can I assume that the worst case scenario here would be that a video that featured my album artwork could just be age-restricted? I guess that could work.


This one was a tough one to find answers to. I looked all over Apple’s site but couldn’t find any answers here. Apple does allow the album covers of many albums that were deemed offensive in the past… Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy, Jane’s Addition Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual, The Black Crowes Amorica, Roxy Music Country Life. But I wonder if those remain solely due to standing the test of time? When preparing to add State Shirt Let’s Get Bloody to iTunes, will the Apple censorship police come out in full force and ban my little album?


In addition to offering mp3 downloads on my own site, I may likely work with CDBaby to coordinate the digital distribution of my new album. They partner with a bunch of music sites (including iTunes) to distribute music. I couldn’t find anything specific on their website either. I guess I’ll send ’em an email, but until then I’ll just assume that nudity won’t be a problem!

Overall I’ve learned that there is no hard and fast rule. Most sites rely on users to flag content as offensive or inappropriate. “Offensive” is impossible to define, it’s different for everyone.  I’m interested to see how all of this plays out in the coming weeks! 🙂 What do you think?



4 Responses

  1. Interesting post this, as it’s something I’ve never really thought about. I bought Nothing’s Shocking at the time and I remember all the fuss about the cover, my copy came in a rubberised sleeve with a sticker of the silhouette of the girls on the front, I’ve still got it.
    The Dwarves are regulars on those ‘most offensive album covers EVER!’ lists that crop up every often, and a quick nosey shows them as pretty much all being on iTunes, although interestingly the cover of ‘Blood, Guts and Pussy’ is a cropped down version of the original. Whether that was done at the request of iTunes, or they just changed their cover art I don’t know.

  2. “The photo is intended to spark some discussion, but isn’t intended to be offensive for the sake of being offensive.” So if that’s the case, just be an artist and express yourself. All this business stuff will be secondary if the music, which I really look forward to hearing by the way, resonates with listeners. Some will ban, some may not – but, personally, if I truly enjoy a song and find something bothersome in the promotion, I ignore the promotion and enjoy the music. Or, if all else fails, just go all in on a cassette release?

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