REM, Pearl Jam, dozens of artists demand an end to the use of political songs

What are Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Lionel Richie, Courtney Love, Panic doing! on the Disco, Pearl Jam, Sia, Aerosmith, Lorde and Linkin Park have in common? Probably among many other things, a clear one is the desire of politicians to keep their dirty hands off their music. (Unless, perhaps, they kindly ask.)

Those and dozens of other artists have sent their signatures to an open letter from the Artist Rights Alliance, addressed to the National, Democratic and Republican, Congressional and Senate committees, calling on all parties to end the appropriation of popular songs for political purposes without authorization. .

“No politician benefits by forcing a popular artist to publicly repudiate and reject him,” the letter says. “However, these unnecessary controversies inevitably keep even the most reluctant or apolitical artists from the sidelines, forcing them to explain ways they disagree with candidates who misuse their music. And on social media and in culture in general, it’s the politicians who generally end up on the wrong side of those stories. ”

Others who added their signatures to the letter include Green Day, REM, Sheryl Crow, T Bone Burnett, the Kurt Cobain estate, Blondie, Jason Isbell, Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash, and Lykke Li. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards signed individually. Steven Tyler is on board as a signatory under both his own name and that of Aerosmith.

“It’s an issue that has come up in previous election cycles,” says Ted Kalo, executive director of the Artists Rights Alliance. Variety“But it has happened much more frequently in this cycle, and that caught our attention. At a time when Americans are coming together to defend their rights and demand more from politicians and big institutions, the energy to not endure it was overwhelming. Instead of just taking this a little at a time, we felt it was time to tackle this problem in numbers with a simple request: ask for and receive permission first. ”

The subject has been a hot topic in recent times, with artists no longer thinking that raising their hands is the best they can do to prevent their music from playing in campaign rallies and political videos. The Rolling Stones have been working with both ASCAP and BMI to point out that political uses require a separate license from normal site permits, and Neil Young only this week threatened to sue the president if he continues to use his songs at campaign events.

Kalo says ARA staff and the ARA board drafted the letter, “consulting with experienced managers and industry attorneys who have been following this issue for years. Manager and attorney Bertis Downs has a long-standing interest in this issue and was instrumental in giving us feedback. ”

She adds, “Rosanne (Cash) is a tireless advocate and helped with this, as did other members of the ARA Board. REM was the first outside of ARA’s membership to sign: its participation in anything sends a signal of the importance of a problem. A network of industry managers spread the word among the artists. This problem, focus, and time resonated and simply skyrocketed.

“Artists have never been so aware of their rights and the need to defend each other and stay together,” says Kalo. “This letter is a tap on the shoulder, asking campaigns to do the right thing. If that hit on the shoulder fails to get the attention of the campaigns, I have no doubt that the response will be met with a considerable increase in outrage and concerted activism. “

Here is the complete letter:

Dear Campaign Committees:

As artists, activists, and citizens, we ask that you pledge that all supporting candidates seek the consent of prominent artists and songwriters before using their music on political campaigns and stages. 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 artist’s expression in a high-risk public manner.

This is not a new problem. Or a supporter. Each election cycle brings stories of artists and composers frustrated in seeing that their work is used in settings that suggest the endorsement or support of political candidates without their permission or consent.

Being inadvertently drawn into politics in this way can compromise an artist’s personal values ​​while disappointing and alienating fans, at great moral and financial cost. For artists who choose to engage politically in campaigns or other contexts, this type 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 it without permission deviates that value.

The legal risks are clear. The uses of the music campaign may violate federal and (in some cases) state copyrights in both sound recordings and musical compositions. Depending on the technology used to copy and transmit these works, multiple exclusive copyrights may be infringed, including performance and reproduction. In addition, these uses have an impact on creators’ advertising and brand rights, which can create exposure for trademark infringement, dilution or fogging under the Lanham Act and lead to false endorsement, conversion and other rights claims. customary and legal. When it comes to commercials or campaign advertisements, a number of additional campaign fundraising rules and regulations (including undisclosed and potentially illegal “in-kind” contributions), finance and communications may be violated.

More importantly, falsely implying the endorsement or support of an artist or composer is dishonest and immoral. It undermines the campaign process, confuses the voting public, and ultimately distorts the elections. It should be anathema to any honest candidate to play with this kind of uncertainty or to falsely leave the impression of the support of an artist or composer.

Like all other citizens, artists have the fundamental right to control their work and make free decisions regarding their political expression and participation. Using your work for political purposes without your consent fundamentally violates those rights, an invasion of the most sacred and even sacred personal interests.

No politician benefits by forcing a popular artist to publicly repudiate and reject them. However, these unnecessary controversies inevitably bring out even the most reluctant or apolitical artists, forcing them to explain ways in which they disagree with candidates who misuse their music. And on social media and in culture in general, it is politicians who generally end up on the wrong side of those stories.

For all of these reasons, we urge you to establish clear policies that require campaigns endorsed by your committees to seek the consent of prominent recording artists, songwriters, and copyright owners before publicly using your music in a political or campaign setting. Funding, logistical support, and participation in committee programs, operations, and events must be contingent on this promise, and its terms must be clearly established in writing in its statutes, operating guidelines, campaign manuals, or when establishing other rules. relevant, support requirements or conditions.

Please let us know before August 10th how you plan to achieve these changes.



Alanis Morissette

Amanda Shires

Ancient future

Andrew McMahon

Artists Rights Alliance


Beth Nielsen Chapman


Butch Walker


Callie Khouri

Courtney Love

Cyndi Lauper

Dan Navarro

Daniel Martin Moore

Duke fakir

Elizabeth Cook

Elton John

Elvis Costello

Erin McKeown

fall out Boy

Grant-Lee Phillips

Green Day

Gretchen peters

Ivan Barias

Jason Isbell


Joe Perry

John McCrea

John Mellencamp

Keith Richards

Kurt Cobain estate

Lera Lynn

Lionel richie

Linkin Park


Lykke Li

Maggie Vail

Mary Gauthier

Matt Nathanson

Matthew Montfort

Michelle Branch

Mick jagger

Okkervil river

pearl jam

Panic! At the disco

Patrick Carney

rapid eye movement

Regina Spektor

Rosanne Cash

Sheryl Crow


Steven Tyler

T Bone Burnett

Tift Merritt

Thomas manzi

To train