Over the weekend, The Tragically Hip guitarist Paul Langlois blasted the Conservative Party of Canada following unconfirmed reports that the band’s music was used without permission at a campaign event featuring Pierre Poilievre.
Nevertheless, the band stated Monday that the Hamilton venue that hosted the event had a license to play a broad range of Canadian music, including songs by The Tragically Hip.
“It’s (and has at all times been) our expectation that brands, political parties, or public figures wishing to make use of our music for a campaign first seek our approval,” the statement said.
“After we began to see posts and tweets from the event this weekend, the specifics were unclear. It has now been confirmed that Saturday’s event took place in a venue licensed by SOCAN, which suggests the venue pays a fee to make sure artists and musicians are compensated appropriately when music is played on site. As such, specific permissions weren’t required on this case.”
The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), is a Canadian performance rights organization that represents the performing rights of greater than 135,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers.
“We didn’t have the complete details in our earlier posts — and now consider this matter resolved,” the statement added.
The controversy bubbled up over the weekend, when users on social media identified that the Hip’s music was being played within the background of a “meet and greet” with Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre, hosted on the Grand Olympia Hospitality and Convention Centre in Hamilton on Saturday. One video from the event circulated during which the Hip’s 1992 song “Fifty-Mission Cap” is playing within the background.
Langlois responded to a fan on Twitter, saying the band was not aware that that they had given the Conservatives permission to make use of the song, calling it “highly offensive.”
On Sunday, he released an extra statement.
“We’ve got at all times been highly offended by anybody who doesn’t ask for our permission to make use of our music for a brand, a political party, or a public figure of any sort. It’s just common courtesy to ask, and it applies to anyone and everybody.”
Langlois’s statements caused a little bit of a furor on Twitter.
“I can respect any artist who doesn’t want their art exploited, especially ideologically,” wrote one user.
Loads of others criticized Langlois’s position.
How can an election campaign get a performer’s permission to make use of a song?
Based on Music Canada, which represents Sony Music Entertainment Canada, Universal Music Canada and Warner Music Canada, there are several things an election campaign should consider before using a preferred song at a rally or political event.
“The general public use of recorded music in Canada requires obtaining crucial licenses and permissions,” the organization’s website states. “Users must either be certain that required licenses have been obtained for taking part in music at a live event or including it in a broadcast or web spot and that required consents are obtained from the suitable rights holders, or satisfy themselves that no license is required within the circumstances.”
Playing recorded music in public requires two licenses, the web site states: one covering the musical work and one covering the artist’s recording of the work. “Each are typically obtained by the venue and billed to the campaign.”
Within the case at hand, the Grand Olympia Convention Centre in Hamilton had a SOCAN license, which suggests the venue, not the Conservative Party, needed to hunt explicit permission to play music by artists who’re a part of the organization.
The same controversy occured in 2014, when Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman called out Prime Minister Stephen Harper for using the Bachman-Turner Overdrive classic “Taking Care of Business” at a campaign rally.
Nevertheless, Bachman backpedalled after a Conservative Party spokesperson confirmed that that they had paid the suitable licensing fees to SOCAN.
An extended history of musicians objecting to politicians using their songs
There’s an extended history of artists calling out politicians for using their music at campaign events or rallies without permission.
Essentially the most famous case occured within the mid-Eighties, when Bruce Springsteen objected to U.S. President Ronald Reagan request to make use of “Born in the usA.” during his re-election campaign.
Springsteen told Rolling Stone, “I feel people have a must feel good in regards to the country they live in. But what’s happening, I feel, is that that need – which is a superb thing – is getting manipulated and exploited.”
In 2008, U.S. Senator John McCain unsuccessfully attempted to make use of Abba’s “Take A Probability On Me” during his presidential campaign. “We played it a pair times and it’s my understanding [Abba] went berserk,” McCain said.
In 2020, Neil Young sued Donald Trump’s reelection campaign for copyright infringement for the previous President’s repeated use of the songs “Rockin’ within the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk.” Within the lawsuit, Young sought to distance himself from “a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”
Last yr, rapper Dr Dre sent a cease-and-desist letter to controversial U.S. politician Marjorie Taylor Greene, after she used one in all his songs in a promotional video. “I don’t license my music to politicians, especially someone as divisive and hateful as this one,” Dr. Dre said in a press release.