With the exception of one-time punk band bassist and Fugazi fan Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders is the only top Democratic presidential candidate to have released an album (We Shall Overcome, a mix of spoken-word tracks and folk songs that he sold in Vermont for $10 a copy in 1987). But does that mean he supports the kind of legislation that benefits music creators and the industry? As fall’s four debates loom, here’s where some of the contenders most likely to stay in the race stand on the issues that the music industry is most concerned about.
The former vice president has been backing copyright laws since 1976, when he voted to significantly extend the duration of protection. In 2002, as record labels were suing file-sharing services, Biden added his name to a letter suggesting that the Department of Justice should “prosecute individuals who intentionally allow mass copying from their computer over peer-to-peer networks.” That’s no longer so relevant, but the music industry considers him an important ally.
During her term as California’s attorney general, her office sentenced two men to 300 days in jail for selling 800 bootleg CDs to undercover agents. Later, Harris pursued criminal charges against three Bay Area brothers who ran a website from which users could stream pirated material. “It is a serious crime that harms one of California’s most important economic engines: our entertainment industry,” she said at the time. Still, she also supports Silicon Valley. (As president, she might hesitate to break up tech giants, which are among her donors, too.)
Like every U.S. senator, Warren didn’t oppose the Music Modernization Act, but she has been largely silent on exactly how she would support artists and rights holders. She does want to split up Big Tech, particularly Amazon, Google and Facebook — as well as Apple. “You’ve got to break it apart from their App Store. It’s got to be one or the other,” she said earlier this year. Labels have feuded with Google-owned YouTube and Apple through the years, so this could win Warren some industry support.
Rebellious rappers and rockers from Killer Mike to Neil Young supported Sanders’ 2016 campaign, and his positions on raising the minimum wage, health care and college for all, and equal pay for women still resonate with populist artists. (“Vote for Daddy Bernie, bitch!” Cardi B declared recently.) But it is unclear whether Sanders would look out for musicians’ interests more directly.