You Can Use More Than Policy To Determine How Much A Candidate Supports Arts And Artists

Traditionally, one of the most common methods to help determine a political candidate’s views on arts and culture is to examine his/her proposed Arts and Culture policy along with the individuals appointed as official advisors. But there’s another obvious benchmark that often gets overlooked: how candidates treat artists and their work when campaigning.

Adaptistration People 146Simply put, if a candidate values artists and the work they create, they should have no trouble leading by example and obtaining all related permissions and licenses prior to using those works for promoting their candidacy.

One of the most commonly used art forms during campaigns is music and to that end, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) provides a very clear set of guidelines for using music in political campaigns. They even provide an easy-to-find FAQ document on that very topic.

The current US presidential campaign has attracted attention to this subject thanks to a parade of musical artists expressing intense public dismay over Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump using their music and/or recordings for his campaign. It’s a very long list of very angry artists, a quick Google search will produce no shortage of resources but one that stands out is an article by Justin Carissimo from the 7/23/2016 edition of The Independent.

Everyone from metal heads like Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) through the estate of deceased tenor Luciano Pavarotti are none too pleased.

So yes, official arts and culture policies and the advisors selected to help author them are important, but don’t overlook a candidate’s actions during his/her campaign.

After all, Mark Twain once said “action speaks louder than words…but not nearly as often” and presidential campaigns only come around once every four years so don’t miss your chance.

In the meantime, enjoy this segment from the 7/24/2016 episode of Last Week with John Oliver which does a terrific job examining the topic.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “You Can Use More Than Policy To Determine How Much A Candidate Supports Arts And Artists

  1. The fact that these uses are “unauthorized” (not sanctioned by the songwriters or artists) does not make them illegal. The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia have blanket licenses from all three U.S. performance rights organizations. This allows them to “perform” these recordings in almost any context. Outside the United States, there is a concept in copyright called “moral rights” which do allow creators to prevent uses with which they have idealogical differences. We don’t really have moral rights in the U.S.

    The musicians can complain in the press. They can also send angry letters on law firm letterhead. Unfortunately, that’s about all they’re empowered to do at the moment.

    The only way I can see this making sense is if we all agree that the Trump campaign is basically a circus. Circuses, like operas and ballets, are not covered by PRO blanket licenses and require a direct Grand Rights license from the publisher.

    • I was wondering if someone would bring those issues up and yes, there is a good bit of area that can be interpreted one way or another and for the individual artists and/or license owner, pursuing action against a candidate usually incurs a good bit of time and expense so you typically only see the larger, more financially successful artists opt for that direction.

      And contrary to something like “moral rights” is the “false endorsement” angle a song owner can use to help file a claim. But again, all that is an express train to Lawyerville and may not be something the artist wishes to pursue. Instead, the public outrage option becomes increasingly attractive.

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