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The Empire has a good understanding of the power of music on mental capacity and mood, and this area is a hot topic of study at several universities. It is well documented that music can play a key role in keeping people happy, and even power revolutions.
Naturally, the Empire, with its widespread use of propaganda, wouldn't let such a powerful force go unlicensed. Public performance of music is as tightly regulated as transportation and reproduction, not only for formal entertainment such as concerts, but also for day-to-day listening.
Workplaces which don't otherwise have sound conflicts are actively required to provide music for their employees for a certain number of hours each day, to keep energy up and unrest down. Libraries and places where people are sitting with paperwork have quiet background-quality music, public gathering places have more upbeat and louder performances. Hospitals have quiet music proven to promote healing. Most commercial buildings are designed such that music in a specific central location will serve multiple shops, but some are required to hire their own musicians. A musician for a certain number of hours is often included in a housing rental agreement, commercial or residential.
The Empire releases setlists every year, listing music approved for specific kinds of venue, and sometimes banning older pieces. Each year, the sheet music for newly approved songs is released, categorized by type. Musicians are required to play only songs that are approved, but can mix and match their sets from the many, many choices. They are allowed a certain level of personalization in their interpretation - but only that level and no more. The guild tests musicians periodically to make sure that they are playing the pieces accurately enough, and monitors use undercover musician guild consultants to randomly verify performances throughout their cities.
Most approved music comes from within the School of Culture (the Music branch), but independent musicians and Music Guild members also frequently compose music. They can submit their written scores to a board of approval within the School of Culture. The process is lengthy, but a judicious bribe can get a piece of music on a fast track to being reviewed (which still may take as long as a year!). Scores without lyrics are marginally easier to get approval for, but still must be vetted for specific venues. Alternate lyrics for existing music are also reviewed.
Recorded music is just being invented, and is of such poor quality still that it is not considered a licensed replacement for live performance. This means that musicians have a much wider range of employment opportunities in the Empire!
Street musicians are also encouraged, but tightly regulated; not only must they be properly licensed to perform (by the Musician's Guild), but they are required to play from the approved setlists, just as musicians at establishments are.
Underground musical establishments are widespread, playing music not on the setlists, with unapproved instruments, or unapproved arrangements of traditional music - even playing straight improvisation! It can be a tiny act of rebellion for a musician or group to play an unapproved song in the middle of their public act and hope that it goes unremarked.
In the last several years, enforcement of prescriptive music has been on an upswing. The Empire has been adding more music than usual to the banned list, and there are even members of the Council who are suggesting that patriotic music be made mandatory on every setlist, rather than simply an approved option. This tightening of restrictions has been unpopular, to say the least.
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