Musicians, independent labels rise up in opposition to Trump administration

Politically tumultuous times often prompt a swift uprising from the music community. Think the Dead Kennedys’ condemnation of their California government in the 1970s or hip-hop’s ever-growing role in representing the Black Lives Matter movement.

After all, there’s a reason why it was so difficult to find a band that would headline U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

With the recent American election cycle, and the human rights atrocities that have followed, the response from the alternative music community has carried this tradition forward.

Rather than take the actions of the Republican Party laying down, musicians, labels, and distributors have come together to stand up for the rights of the disenfranchised via organized charity campaigns.

On Inauguration Day, a compilation project titled Our First 100 Days was launched through the service, where the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency would be chronicled through political protest songs from artists such as Angel Olsen or Toro Y Moi.

A fundraising platform common to many of these initiatives has been the online music marketplace Bandcamp, where over 400 artists and labels came together on Friday Feb. 3 to donate all or part of their profits to support the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood.

Altogether, the total sales for the campaign day came in just shy of $1 million.

Unlike other music distribution services such as iTunes, Bandcamp allows artists or labels to set their own prices, a tool often utilized by musicians who want to give their music away for free. In this case, Bandcamp’s price-setting ability has been commandeered by artists to enable “pay-what-you-want” charity sales in a move which not only benefits the charities, but the fans as well.

In the days and weeks after the election, several labels and musicians—such as crooners Death Cab for Cutie and rockers Los Campesinos!—took advantage of “pay-what-you-want” sales on Bandcamp, with proceeds going towards the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Women’s Aid, and, in one case, the protesters at Standing Rock.

Major labels and artists who participated in the Feb. 3 campaign, include Sup Pop, who represents the cynical folk star Father John Misty, and Merge Records, who says that they will match the proceeds raised by Bandcamp.

Indie-rock darling Pinegrove—who has raised money for the ACLU through Bandcamp in the past—will be donating their own profits to the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

In a commitment that spans Trump’s tenure, experimental rock outfit Xiu Xiu has stated they will donate all Bandcamp revenue to the ACLU for the next four years.

But this artist-led protest has not been confined to cyberspace, as other musicians and labels have found additional ways to push back.

Alt-rock giant, The National, headlined several benefit concerts for Planned Parenthood including an inauguration protest on Jan. 19 and donated several thousand dollars worth of merchandise profits.

Lame-O records, who participated in the Feb. 3 sale and who has held other Bandcamp charity campaigns, held concerts in Philadelphia every weekend of January with all profits donated to the ACLU. 

So, as you can see,  the proud tradition of musicians voicing their protest in a public forum is alive and well in 2017. Artists from across the planet are doing all they can to ensure freedom and equality for all in the wake of the Trump administration.

So, this Valentine’s Day, don’t buy your significant other a record to go along with their roses—buy them Pinegrove’s Cardinal on Bandcamp instead.