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REM hit out at Donald Trump using their music (again)

By | Published on Friday 17 January 2020


At this point, I should really just have a template news story on hand for when musicians get cross about Donald Trump using their music at his political rallies. Just drop in the band names and hit send. Sadly, I’ve not done that, so I have to type out in full yet again that REM have hit out at Donald Trump for the rallies thing.

This has been an ongoing issue during Trump’s brief political career of course, with numerous artists complaining about their music being used without permission. The problem being that there’s not much you can do about someone playing your music at a public event – provided the venue has the appropriate public performance licences in place.

With the law generally on Trump’s side, it becomes more of a moral issue – is Trump willing to get permission from each artist whose music he wants to use ahead of time as a courtesy? Or stop using that music if and when an artist objects?

For the most part, Trump has done neither. A particular issue for him, of course, is that if he agreed not to use any music by artists who don’t support him, he wouldn’t have a very big pool of tracks left to choose from. Even some artists less on the anti-Trump end of the political spectrum have objected to their music soundtracking his campaign events.

Of the acts who have objected (and who are very much not Trump supporters), REM have been one of the most vocal. Back in 2015, more than a year before Trump became president, the band complained that he’d used their song ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ at a rally, and requested that he stop doing so.

Last year, the band did successfully get a Trump campaign video on Twitter taken down on copyright grounds, after it used the song ‘Everybody Hurts’ without permission. But their songs continue to play at Trump rallies – and more so now that Trump is gearing up his re-election campaign.

As a result, the band’s guitarist Mike Mills tweeted yesterday: “We are aware that the President Donald Trump continues to use our music at his rallies. We are exploring all legal avenues to prevent this, but if that’s not possible please know that we do not condone the use of our music by this fraud and con man”.

Given that the band – and others – have been exploring those legal avenues for at least five years now, I wouldn’t hold your breath that Trump is going to stop using their songs any time soon. Unless, of course, he loses the election and quits politics.