Several Musicians Are Demanding Politicians Ask Permission First Before Using Their Songs At Campaign Rallies
Anyone who has ever sat through a high school student council assembly can tell you that music is a big part of the political campaign experience. How else would I know that the 11th-grade student running for student council treasurer was willing to work all day without Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” blasting through the gymnasium’s speaker system? It’s the same reason why higher-profile politicians will pumping high-energy tunes at their rallies. It gets the people all excited for policy discussions and audience Q&A. The only problem is, some musicians don’t want their music associated with certain politicians. Like Rihanna with Donald Trump. Or R.E.M with Donald Trump. Or Pharrell Williams with Donald Trump. Or Ozzy Osbourne with Donald Trump. I’m sure I’m missing about 200 more examples involving Donald Trump, but you get the picture.
The point here is, there’s a whole lot of entertainers who would rather use their writing skills for composing lyrics and not cease-and-desist letters. Which is why they have come together to demand that politicians require explicit permission first before pressing play on a song at a campaign rally.
According to Billboard, the demand was submitted on behalf of musicians by Artist Rights Coalition, a not-for-profit advocacy group that deals primarily with fair compensation and intellectual property protection for artists. They called on the American Democratic Party and the American Republican Party to agree to establish clear policies in regards to campaign music use. The conditions requested by the ARC are that major political parties seek consent from “featured recording artists, songwriters, and copyright owners before publicly using their music in a political or campaign setting.” Billboard points out that the ARC most likely chose this moment to discuss music rights because America is less than 100 days away from the 2020 election, which means there will be more campaign events.
The biggest reason they’re requesting for musical consent is because a song choice could result in an embarrassing public relations situation, or worse, a messy lawsuit.
“This is the only way to effectively protect your candidates from legal risk, unnecessary public controversy, and the moral quagmire that comes from falsely claiming or implying an artist’s support or distorting an artists’ expression in such a high stakes public way.”
This is more than just politely asking permission, the letter explains. At its heart is the question of artistic integrity, and where a songwriter or artist’s music is used to falsely imply endorsement for one party or candidate, the situation can quickly turn legal.
The ARC also argues that it’s not fair for a deceased artist’s estate to have to fight a politician in court over the use of a song. For example, Prince’s estate was pissed that – you guessed it – Trump had used “Purple Rain” at a 2018 rally in Missouri, and they threatened legal action. The ARC stressed that it’s not right to drag an artist or artists into politics that they might not subscribe to. It’s also misleading to rally attendees who might hear a song, and think that the artist has endorsed said candidate.
The letter was signed by numerous musicians, songwriters, and copyright holders, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Sia, Regina Spektor, R.E.M, Lorde, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Rosanne Cash, Lionel Richie, Pearl Jam, and Green Day. They’re demanding a decision by August 10th. This letter comes about a month after Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones slapped at Donald Trump for using “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma last month. They claimed that Trump wasn’t authorized to play the song, and that it would “constitute a breach of its licensing agreement.” The Rolling Stones also threatened that if Trump kept using it, his campaign would “face a lawsuit for breaking the embargo and playing music that has not been licensed.”
I don’t know why Trump continues to use music made by artists that don’t like him. Besides, he’s got plenty of musicians who would happily lend their music, and with songs that better suit his campaign. Like Trump supporter Kid Rock. Plus, Kid has a song called “Cold and Empty,” and I challenge you to find a title that more accurately describes the attendance of Trump’s recent rallies.