Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dear Musicians: Once Again, Politicians Can Probably Play Your Songs At Events Without Your Permission

Election season is just starting to kickoff again, so of course we're going to get yet another series of stories about musicians complaining about politicians (that they disagree with) using their music at campaign events. You may recall that the Foo Fighters and Jackson Browne (among some others) got upset at John McCain for using their music, and the band Heart complained about Sarah Palin using one of the band's songs. Most of the complaints are about rally events, and almost all of the complaints are bogus. In cases where the music is used in a TV commercial (as was the case with Jackson Browne), the legalities are a little trickier (which is why McCain settled that lawsuit), but when it comes to events, the musicians are unlikely to get very far. That's because as long as the venue has the proper ASCAP/BMI licenses for public performance, they can play any covered songs they want. This has always been true.

So, for all the talk (as plenty of people have sent in) about Tom Petty complaining about Michele Bachmann using is song at campaign events, there's not much legal basis for the complaint. Ditto for the complaint (also against Bachmann) from Katrina and the Waves. This is probably why Bachmann seems to have ignored Petty and is still playing the music.

Of course, as we've pointed out before, even if there's no legal recourse, it still amazes us that Presidential candidates don't at least reach out to musicians first. Because otherwise, they're just opening up a huge opportunity for musicians to generate headlines about how much they dislike a particular politician. Why not find some musicians who support them and use their music?

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