Music in Presidential Campaigns

For centuries, music has served as an integral component of the political process. It has transcended almost every aspect of presidential campaigns, playing a critical role in television and radio advertisements, national conventions, and rallies. Music has in fact become so pervasive that it has simply become an assumed, almost overlooked, facet of campaigns. Music, and the powerful effect that it can have on the voter, first became apparent to me during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO. On the final night of the convention, Barack Obama entered onto Invesco Field to accept his party’s nomination for president. As he emerged, the entire stadium erupted into applause, complemented by the inspirational tune of U2’s City of Blinding Lights. (See video below)

On that historic night, I watched Obama accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for President with several friends of mine. Many of them were avid supporters of John McCain, and one was even a Ralph Nader enthusiast. However, despite the vast differences in our respective political ideals, we were unified in our collective feeling of inspiration that derived from that famous uplifting tune in the background. It was that incredible moment that sparked my interest for music in presidential campaigns.

While music has the power to shape emotions and inspire masses, it can also burden a campaign with vast legal liability. My initial research into the subject of music in campaigns exposed an ongoing debate between free speech advocates and individuals with strict interpretations of copyright law. The issue at hand was whether or not campaigns can utilize a musician’s work without their permission. In my paper I hope to explore this question, and the implications this issue has on presidential campaigns.

Overall, I would like to trace the use of music in presidential campaigns through American electoral history, evaluate the efficacy of music by examining statistical data, and discuss the various legal issues associated with music in campaigns.

If anyone has any questions or suggestions please let me know!

This entry was posted in 2012-2013 General, Campaigns, Communication and Elections and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Music in Presidential Campaigns

  1. Kirstin says:

    I love the idea for this topic. I was interested in similar copyright issues once I read an article in SPIN magazine years ago about using music as a form of torture at Guantanamo Bay.

    Here’s the article:
    Here’s another about artists speaking out:

    While GITMO is not your focus, you might come across some of the legal arguments that went on. There was the issue of the music being used for purposes it was never intended for. The same could be said for campaigns, I’m sure…especially if a Democratic artist’s music is used to inspire and garner support for a Republican candidate.

    Anyways…Very interesting 😀 I’d be interested to read what your final analysis is since that SPIN article was the inspiration for one of the most meaningful and depressing research projects I have ever undertaken.

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