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How Politicians Use Music As Part of Their Campaign Strategy

Image via Flickr/Mark Taylor (CC BY 2.0)
Donald Trump is known to pump up the crowd with controversial campaign music when he enters and exits the stage.

From Texas Standard:

Tuesday it was the iconic song from Rocky – “Eye of the Tiger” – used at the Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee rally.

On Wednesday Donald Trump, another Republican hopeful, was lambasted by R.E.M’s Michael Stipe for walking on stage to “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”

Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp have also called out presidential candidates for using their music on the campaign trail without authorization.

Dana Gorzelany-Mostak is an Assistant Professor of Music at Georgia College. She writes about music and American presidential politics. She says that the music candidates pick to walk out and rock out to isn’t an afterthought. In fact, sometimes the soundtracks go through extensive vetting processes.

“Some teams spend a lot of time and energy developing a music strategy, and others do not,” Gorzelany-Mostak says. “One example might be Hillary Clinton in her 2008 primary campaign. Apparently she had a whole group assembled that put music through a rigorous vetting process to determine what would be played at her rallies. But other candidates… selections are made on an ad hoc basis.”

One of the main objectives is to get the crowd riled up and ready to rock. But do candidates ever think about what the ramifications might be if the performer or the songwriter’s politics don’t square with the politician's own? Gorzelany-Mostak says yes.

“Even when politicians go through the legal channels that are necessary to secure the rights to music, I think they still have an awareness that the artists may indeed respond negatively,” she says. “I think in the case of Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee – who are the two recent examples that come to mind – I think their entire reputations as candidates are built upon the fact that they’re not afraid of taking unpopular positions.

Read more on Texas Standard.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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