Trump Campaign Was Legally Allowed To Use Neil Young’s Music At Rally, But Doing So Was Kind Of Dumb

It seems like every presidential election cycle, which comes around far too often and lasts for far too long for my taste, there inevitably ends up being some kind of row between some musicians and some politicians over music used at campaign events. The targets of these disputes tend to be Republican candidates, due to the political demographics of musicians as a general thing, but Democrats have been targeted as well. And, as we’ve mentioned in the past, other than creating a stir in the media and hoping the target campaign relents, there’s roughly shit-all these musicians can do about it. But that stir can often times be enough, especially if the musician uses the opportunity to pimp a rival candidate.

Like Bernie Sanders, for example. Apparently when walking ego Donald Trump decided that he was going to announce his candidacy for President of these United States, his campaign decided to use Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” at the event. Neil not only wasn’t pleased, but he used the opportunity to boost the candidate he does endorse.

“Donald Trump was not authorized to use ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ in his presidential candidacy announcement,” said Young’s manager in a statement. “Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States Of America.”

As it turned out, as it usually does, Trump was authorized to use Young’s music through an ASCAP license. That said, maybe it’s time politicians learned to take the extra step and clear things with musicians before using their music, if for no other reason than to protect against the backlash becoming an advertisement for a rival campaign. Campaigns are very much like brands, after all, and the last thing a brand wants to do is get a competitor’s name in circulation. That’s got to be doubly so when the rival “brand” is someone like Bernie Sanders who, think whatever you like of him, is starving for more name-recognition on the national level. A couple of simple phone calls from the campaign office would likely inoculate against this sort of thing happening, where now every quote from Young on this dust-up mentions Young’s support of Sanders.

All that being said, Young has somehow managed to make Trump the sympathetic figure in this whole story.

A press secretary for the real estate mogul said Wednesday that Trump would respect the wishes of Neil Young and no longer use “Rockin’ In the Free World,” which Trump featured Tuesday during his announcement that he was seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for president. Trump press secretary Hope Hicks said Wednesday that “despite Neil’s differing political views, Mr. Trump likes Neil very much.”

It’s a good way to spin the ending of this story for Trump’s team, appearing so reasonable and agreeable to Young’s antics, which come off looking petty. Still, no reason to let your campaign’s music choice give the artist an opportunity to pimp Bernie Sanders. There are enough conservative musicians out there making music.

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