As each presidential hopeful takes their turn crafting a successful campaign, one issue seems to continuously arise: controversy over the music used in political campaigns. Most recently, Republican hopeful Donald Trump has been under fire for his unauthorized use of popular music during his rallies.
Oftentimes popular musicians have been up in arms over the use of their work in political campaigns, especially if the artist does not support the candidate in question. In fact, there have been several cases in which artists have sued political campaigns over the unauthorized use of their content.
In 2008, singer Jackson Browne filed a lawsuit against Republican presidential nominee John McCain, the Ohio Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee for unauthorized use of “Running on Empty” in a television commercial mocking President Barack Obama’s energy policy.
“There’s no copyright difference between using a song to sell cars or by people running for president,” said Browne’s attorney Lawrence Y. Iser in a statement to the LA Times. “The music industry continues to suffer due to lack of respect for intellectual property rights, and a candidate for president has a duty to lead by example and ensuring their campaign does as well.”
Fast forward to June of 2015, Trump first found himself in hot water when rock and roll legend Neil Young discovered the Republican candidate was using his song “Rockin’ in the Free World” in the campaign.
“Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President,” stated Young’ manager in a statement. He concluded by saying that Trump was “not authorized” to use the song.
Though representatives for Trump claimed they had been granted permission to use the song via a licensing agreement with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), a performance-rights organization, Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski removed the song from the campaign.
However, Trump’s political playlist still was not quite perfect. During his rallies, Trump repeatedly played the song “Leader of the Pack,” by popular 1960’s girl group the Shangri-Las.
“I recently attended a Trump rally for one of my classes and the same five songs were played repeatedly for hours,” said Aisling McEntegart, senior. “”Leader of the Pack’ was played quite a few times, and I didn’t quite understand it’s place in his campaign.”
Lead singer of the Shangri-Las, Mary Weiss quickly took to Facebook to vent her frustration at Trump, who has been using the song without permission.
“I do not want anyone to think that I would in any way, shape or form endorse this man. A letter will be sent, but if you hear one of our songs at any of his engagements, please note I did not and never would authorize it,” wrote Weiss. “Actually I throw up in my mouth a little knowing that this is being done! Of all the people…I will never endorse hatred of any groups of people and would never give my permission to use this song.”
Funnily enough, it does not seem as though the Trump campaign thoroughly listened to the lyrics of this track prior to adding it to the rally playlist. At the end of the song, the so-called “Leader of the Pack” rides off into the night, resulting in a fatal motorcycle crash. “Leader of the pack, now he’s gone” – solid planning, Trump campaign, solid planning.