Music collides with campaigns


Every four years we get to experience another presidential election and all of the joys that come with it.

That was sarcasm.

What we do get to experience is the amount of arguing between politicians and celebrities over endorsements. Nowhere is this more of a prob- lem than in music.

Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, was issued a cease- and-desist by rock legend Queen after he used “We Are The Champions” at the Republican National Convention earlier this year. Brian May, Queen guitarist, issued a statement clearing things up.

“Regardless of our views on Mr. Trump’s platform, it has always been against our policy to allow Queen music to be used as a political campaigning tool.”

Although Queen claims to not want its songs used for political purposes, regardless of views, it’s just one band on a very short list of those that don’t play favorites when it comes to unauthorized use of music in a political campaign.

Trump also got into trouble with music earlier in his campaign, after us- ing Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” at a rally. Young, a longtime Democrat, supported Bernie Sanders and ordered Trump to stop using his music. Trump’s campaign team said that a license was obtained to use the song from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, a performing rights organization. These organizations collect money from the use of an artist’s music and distribute it to the appropriate songwriters and publishers.

Although this license is important, it doesn’t guarantee permission to use a song for a political campaign. Many states give artists the right to deny this kind of use. A candidate can have the proper license but still not be allowed to use the music.

Most artists who object to their music being used in campaigns have historically only stopped one party’s use and allowed the other’s.

According to research done by, Republican candidates have been stopped from using music 33 times since 1984. The recent Queen incident, and one from The Rolling Stones, makes that number 35. How many times have Democrat candidates been stopped from using music? Two.

Both of those cases were the other rare examples of not playing favorites. Iconic Stax Records group Sam & Dave asked Bob Dole to stop using “Soul Man” in 1996 and surviving member Sam Moore asked Barack Obama to stop using “Hold On, I’m Coming” in 2008.

Sting ends our short list by asking both George W. Bush and Al Gore to stop using “Brand New Day” in 2000.

Assuming that Queen isn’t the only band that claims to not want its music used for political purposes, why is there such a big difference in the two numbers? I don’t know if you’ve ever seen footage of political ral- lies, but Democrats use music just as much as Republicans. Some claim it shows false endorsement. If that’s so, why not stop everyone from using your music until you actually decide to endorse a candidate?

You can’t have it both ways. Either you’re against politicians using your songs or you’re biased. I’m not saying one’s right and one’s wrong — I’m saying you have to be consistent with your outrage. And as I pointed out in a previous article, politics and rock n’ roll shouldn’t mix.

So don’t preach. Just shut up and play.