Music Australia News

Music and Trump

Chris Bowen
| February 14, 2017

Music clearly wasn’t in for a smooth ride when it became clear no one wanted to play at President Trump’s inauguration. We survey the story for music in the US so far.

Arts funding cut

Alarming news, in the first week of the presidency, with the announcement that the National Endowment for the Arts is to be defunded. Roughly equivalent to our Australia Council, although comparatively smaller, the NEA offers prestige, co-funding partnerships and drives national programs. But its $148 million budget offers minimal savings to government. As the Washington Post reports “Trump reportedly wants to cut cultural programs that make up 0.02 percent of federal spending”. As ArtsHub points out, this all seems to be all about the Culture Wars, all too familiar here and in the UK.

Advocates worry this precedent may have a domino effect in other jurisdictions and as Apollo reports, could even impact on tax policy supporting the arts.

Impact on musicians

Music advocacy group Future of Music Coalition have speculated on a number of areas of concern. Repeal of the Affordable Care Act could leave more musicians without medical cover. FoMC research has previously found “that 53% of musician respondents were uninsured, about 3 times the rate of the general population”. The Coalition’s concerns also extend to: “copyright modernization (no one seems to know if Trump has any views on this topic at all), fairness in music licensing, federal support for the arts, free expression and privacy.”

However, the Coalitions’ Kevin Erickson explained to Hypebot their biggest worry is for their fellow citizens, with the rise of hate crimes, loss of civil liberties, reduced respect for immigrants, decreased tolerance, and fears of more sexual assaults of women. They fear this could lead to “a future where artists not aligned with privilege and power may not feel free to raise their voices.”

Spirit of Protest

However, it also could feed the great protest song tradition. Veteran artist David Crosby, speaking recently with other artists to Billboard, noted “part of our job is to be the town crier”. He remembers passionately singing Neil Young’s iconic song “Ohio”, documenting 4 students gunned down in Kent State University in 1970 at the height of the Vietnam war protests. And three weeks go unsigned artist Connie Lim (aka MILCK) achieved unexpected acclaim, when her song Quiet became the unofficial anthem of the 21 January Women’s March. It has now achieved 15 million Facebook views.


In a further spirit of reconciliation, or perhaps defiance,  the Dallas News reports on two youth orchestras who joined forces to bridge the gap Trump wants forged on the Mexican border.

“Youth symphony orchestras from both sides of the Texas-Mexico border performed a joint concert titled “The Bridge,” a respite from protests at airports across the country where demonstrators carried signs that read “no wall, no ban”.

Joint concerts last month by the border city based orchestras The El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestras and Esperanza Azteca Symphony played in packed theatres to standing ovations.

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