At President Donald Trump's campaign rally at the Target Center in Minneapolis Thursday night, thousands of supporters in red "Make America Great Again" hats listened along to Prince's "Purple Rain" despite the Trump campaign agreeing one year ago to cease playing the late superstar's music.
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In a tweet following the rally Thursday night, the official Twitter account for Prince's estate said attorney Megan Newton, on behalf of the Trump campaign, had promised to stop playing Prince's music during rallies and other events a year ago. The estate even attached Newton's letter from Oct. 15, 2018, to prove it.
“President Trump played Prince’s 'Purple Rain' tonight at a campaign event in Minneapolis despite confirming a year ago that the campaign would not use Prince’s music,” the tweet said. “The Prince Estate will never give permission to President Trump to use Prince’s songs."
President Trump played Prince’s “Purple Rain” tonight at a campaign event in Minneapolis despite confirming a year ago that the campaign would not use Prince’s music. The Prince Estate will never give permission to President Trump to use Prince’s songs. pic.twitter.com/FuMUPzSWOe
— Prince (@prince) October 11, 2019
Newton, a Washington-based attorney who has represented a GOP super PAC in the past, wrote in the 2018 letter, "Without admitting liability, and to avoid any future dispute, we write to confirm that the Campaign will not use Prince's music in connection with its activities going forward."
Several Prince fans took to Twitter to voice their opposition, noting that Prince was a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and was close with former President Barack Obama. Prince famously fought to maintain tight control over his music rights during his career.
This is foul, an absolute travesty! Thou shall NOT play any Prince at a Trump rally. Ever. https://t.co/c5TK0HMuyw— Trevon D Logan (@TrevonDLogan) October 11, 2019
“We were paying respect to a great artist in his hometown,” a senior campaign official told ABC News.
This is not the first time, however, that a musician has asked the president to stop playing his or her music.
Just last week, Trump tweeted a video set to Nickelback's "Photograph" that was removed from Twitter after a copyright complaint from the owner.
A year ago singer and entrepreneur Rihanna also demanded the Trump campaign to stop playing her hit "Please Don't Stop the Music" at what she called "tragic rallies." A month prior to her complaint, Pharrell Williams issued a cease-and-desist letter to Trump after his upbeat song "Happy" was played at a rally in Indiana hours after a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
From the outset, the Trump campaign has faced opposition to its song choices.
At Trump's official campaign announcement in 2015, the then-candidate descended a golden escalator in Trump Tower with Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" blaring in the background. Young responded on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" by saying Trump's “misogyny” and “racism" were not rocking him politically, but that he'd happily grant permission to Sen. Bernie Sanders to play his music. Even after Young issued a cease-and-desist, the Trump campaign continued using his music. Neil eventually relented, saying, "Once the music goes out, everybody can use it for anything."
When the president asked Elton John to perform at his inauguration, the music icon politely declined, saying he did not feel it was appropriate to play at the inauguration of an American president since he is a British citizen. That rejection hasn't stopped Trump from weaving "Tiny Dancer" and "Rocket Man" into his campaign rally playlist and saying on more than one occasion that his attendance at arena-events have shattered John's records.
Politicians generally have the right to use songs at rallies if they have a "blanket license" for the artist's catalog from one of the four U.S. performing rights organizations that licenses songs. However, artists can opt out of these licenses, and others have sued under the belief it's false advertising to suggest they endorse a candidate who plays their music.
"As a general rule, a campaign should be aware that, in most cases, the more closely a song is tied to the 'image' or message of the campaign, the more likely it is that the recording artist or songwriter of the song could object to the song's usage in the campaign," according to American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Politicians often comply with these requests because negative publicity from a popular artist outweighs the benefits of playing their music -- but President Trump does not seem concerned. Despite The Rolling Stones repeatedly asking Trump to stop playing their music, he ends almost every campaign rally with the song "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
The list of other artists who have voiced opposition to the president's campaign using their work includes Adele, Queen, Steven Tyler, R.E.M. and Guns N'Roses.
Prince died in 2016 at the age of 57. A large part of his movie "Purple Rain" was filmed at First Avenue, a nightclub which sits across the street from the Target Center where Trump's Thursday rally was held. First Avenue said in a tweet that it will donate all profits from Thursday night's business to Planned Parenthood.