In 1990, music executive Jeff Ayeroff had been growing increasingly frustrated at the effort by Washington politicians to censor artists in his industry.

Then he decided to get even.

Using MTV and the hottest pop star of the moment, Madonna, his vengeance had a lasting impact.

Ayeroff, 73, grew up in a politically active household where he watched images of the civil rights struggle in the South play out on his black-and-white TV set. When he saw that the Parents Music Resource Center, led by a group of political wives including Tipper Gore, had succeeded in getting record labels to affix parental warnings on albums that contained sexually explicit or violent lyrics, the playbook was all too familiar to him.

“It was always good fodder for politicians to take…