First, let me be clear. I’m not at all trying to get into or start a political conversation as a) I’m tired, and have been tired since 2012, of hearing about politics, the people and even issues and b) I try to stay out of political conflicts with my friends and family. Any comments that have to do with endorsement of or to talk crap about any of the candidates (even if it’s positive about the one that I personally like and want to win) outside of just a mention to this article, will be deleted.
Now, the reason I’m posting this is just that I found it an interesting read. It’s about what can artists actually do to enforce their demands that candidates stop using their music for celebrations or to make a point. It really goes beyond politics, but it seems that politics are the most polarizing of circumstances and we’re in the heat of the political season.
I give FULL credit to Travis M Andrews and The Washington Post for the article. It isn’t mine, it’s theirs. I’ll post part of it here, but I recommend that you read the whole thing.
“As reality television star and real estate mogul Donald Trump took to the stage at Trump Tower on Tuesday to deliver his victory speech, a familiar tune filled the room: ‘Start Me Up,’ that rough, thumping anthem by the Rolling Stones. (Perhaps Trump hadn’t listened to the final two lines of the song beforehand, which Salon reported had to be cut for their raunchiness during the band’s Super Bowl appearance in 2006).
The song has a history of advertorial usage — it was the first Stones song used in a TV commercial when Microsoft co-opted it to sell its Windows 95 operating system, Business Insider reported — but the band might be more fond of Bill Gates than of Trump. On Wednesday, it released a statement that read, ‘The Rolling Stones have never given permission to the Trump campaign to use their songs and have requested that they cease all use immediately,’ Entertainment Weekly reported.
It’s far from the first time this sort of thing has happened. Numerous examples have appeared in this election season alone. Trump’s candidacy kicked off with Canadian rocker Neil Young blasting the businessman-turned-politician for using ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ during his candidacy announcement. Adele and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler have both demanded Trump stop using their music, the Associated Press reported.
And a glance at history reveals many more examples.
Perhaps the most notable one is Bruce Springsteen versus President Ronald Reagan. During his successful run for reelection in 1984, Reagan announced to a crowd in New Jersey, ‘America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside our hearts. It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen,’ CNN reported.
He was referencing ‘Born in the U.S.A.,’ which he had requested to use in his campaign, only to be denied by Springsteen. The New Jersey rocker was so angry, the previously apolitical rock star began speaking out against Reagan.
‘I think people have a need to feel good about the country they live in. But what’s happening, I think, is that that need — which is a good thing — is getting manipulated and exploited,’ Springsteen told Rolling Stone, regarding the candidate’s request.”
The article (which you should read all of here), goes on to talk about other artists in the modern era that have demanded that candidates not use their material on the campaign trail. Then the question is posed as to whether there’s any recourse if the candidate refuses to stop using it. Here’s that part of the article:
“With that in mind, do bands have any true recourse to stop politicians, aside from making public statements and hoping to shame them into pulling the songs from their campaigns? As it turns out, the answer to that question is both yes and no.
First, it depends on how the songs are used. Most of the complaints listed above are for politicians using their songs at campaign rallies, which the Associated Press reports is legally okay so long as either the political organization or the venue acquires a ‘blanket license’ for an artist’s entire catalogue from ASCAP and BMI — both of these are non-profit performing rights organizations that license music and distribute royalties.”
The article goes on: “Then, there’s what the song’s usage might denote. Musicians can (and have) sued politicians for false advertising claiming that the song makes it seem as if the musician has endorsed a particular candidate, the New York Times reported. The ‘right of publicity’ also potentially allows an artist to protect his or her image in the public realm.
‘It’s untested in the political realm,’ Iser told Rolling Stone. ‘Even if Donald Trump has the ASCAP right to use a Neil Young song, does Neil have the right to nevertheless go after him on right of publicity? I say he does.’
An ‘explainer’ released by ASCAP states, ‘As a general rule, a campaign should be aware that, in most cases, the more closely a song is tied to the ‘image’ or message of the campaign, the more likely it is that the recording artist or songwriter of the song could object to the song’s usage in the campaign.’
It remains a legal gray area, but lawsuits against politicians have become more common since 2008.”
Now, I’ve never had the pleasure or displeasure of having a song played at a political rally or equivalent. I don’t really know how I’d feel about having that happen. If it were a candidate that I can’t get behind, don’t like their platform or think they’re completely wrong for the country, then I would probably want to disassociate myself. If I agree with them, I may go along with it. But, hey!? Who wouldn’t want to have that kind of publicity if you’re in the business of publicity? Again, if it was the candidate that I support and believe in. I’m wondering if candidates shouldn’t hire artists to write them songs specifically for them? That would give them exclusivity and work for the artist, am I right?
To my music friends (or even my friends who aren’t musical but wish they were), would you let your music be used by a candidate that you don’t agree with? Do you weigh the royalties vs. integrity (if you think that’s what would be compromised)? Do you weigh the publicity vs. damage? I’m sure you do, but would you allow them to use it? I’m just interested.
Again, FULL credit to Travis M Andrews and The Washington Post for the article which you should read in its entirety, here.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Because nobody sued, the candidates always thought they could get away with it, and they still think that today,” – Lawrence Iser