It seems as though with the Rolling Stones and Neil Young on the verge of suing Donald Trump over using their songs during his campaign stumps is reaching a head. Billboard reported the Artist Rights Alliance (ARA) has written a letter “demanding politicians on both sides get clearance on the music they plug at their events and in advertisements.” The letter is addressed to “the Democratic and Republican National, Congressional, and Senatorial committees.”
High-profile artists who have signed the letter include Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Lionel Richie, R.E.M., Blondie, Rosanne Cash, Pearl Jam, Sheryl Crow, Green Day, Lorde, Sia, and Regina Spektor, among others.
The letter reads in part:
As artists, activists, and citizens, we ask you to pledge that all candidates you support will seek consent from featured recording artists and songwriters before using their music in campaign and political settings. . . 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 not a new problem. Or a partisan one. Every election cycle brings stories of artists and songwriters frustrated to find their work being used in settings that suggest endorsement or support of political candidates without their permission or consent. . . Being dragged unwillingly into politics in this way can compromise an artist’s personal values while disappointing and alienating fans — with great moral and economic cost. For artists that do choose to engage politically in campaigns or other contexts, this kind of unauthorized public use confuses their message and undermines their effectiveness.
Music tells powerful stories and drives emotional connection and engagement — that’s why campaigns use it, after all! But doing so without permission siphons away that value.