Eminem is demanding that Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy stop using “Lose Yourself” on campaign stops — and he’s invoking the unique rules of BMI’s special “political entities” license to do so.
In a letter obtained by Billboard, BMI formally asked Ramaswamy’s campaign last week to stop using Eminem’s music, less than two weeks after the candidate was captured in a viral video rapping the lyrics to the smash hit song at an event in Iowa.
The letter alerted the campaign that Eminem had invoked his rights under BMI’s Political Entities License, which allows an artist to immediately withdraw their music from the more than 20 million songs made available to political campaigns under the blanket license.
“This letter serves as notice that the Eminem Works are excluded from the Agreement effective immediately,” the group wrote in the letter. “BMI will consider any performance of the Eminem Works by the Vivek 2024 campaign from this date forward to be a material breach of the agreement for which BMI reserves all rights and remedies.”
A spokesman for the Ramaswamy campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.
Top artists have long chafed at the use of their music by politicians, particularly conservatives. Foo Fighters and John Mellencamp blasted John McCain for using their music during the 2008 presidential election, while Neil Young, Guns N’ Roses, Pharrell, Rihanna and the estate of Tom Petty have all spoken out about their music being used at campaign events for Donald Trump.
Like any other group hosting large public gatherings, political campaigns pay ASCAP and BMI for blanket licenses to publicly perform copyrighted music — meaning candidates have automatic access to songs without ever directly contacting the musicians themselves. But, owing to repeated backlash, both ASCAP and BMI now offer special licenses for political entities, which allow artists to exclude individual songs from a particular campaign’s blanket deal.
It was this provision that was invoked by Eminem, according to BMI’s letter: “BMI has received a communication from Marshall B. Mathers, III, professionally known as Eminem, objecting to the Vivek Ramaswamy campaign’s use of Eminem’s musical compositions and requesting that BMI remove all Eminem Works from the Agreement.”
In the past, there had been some confusion about whether the existing ASCAP and BMI licenses held by venues themselves — hotels, convention centers, event spaces and so on — gave campaigns some legal cover to keep using disputed songs even after they had been withdrawn. Back in 2018, Axl Rose claimed that the Trump campaign was doing exactly that when it came to Guns N’ Roses songs.
“Unfortunately, the Trump campaign is using loopholes in the various venues’ blanket performance licenses, which were not intended for such craven political purposes without the songwriters’ consent,” Rose wrote in a tweet at the time.
But BMI’s rules now expressly avoid that problem, warning licensees that “a venue license does not cover events and functions hosted by political campaigns and organizations held at venues.”
“Political campaigns must obtain a BMI Political Entities License to authorize to use of the musical works, whether at a traditional location such as a hotel or convention center, or at a nontraditional location such as airport hangars or community fields, where political events take place,” BMI states on its website.