Category: Arizona

Artists For Action offers an alternative to an Arizona boycott


When SoundStrike launched its boycott of Arizona music venues after the passing of the controversial SB 1070, fans were torn. Many agreed with the organization's goals to use a strong commercial hand to help spur voters into repealing the illegal immigration bill. But others wondered if artists such as Rage Against the Machine and Conor Oberst (who recently performed a SoundStrike benefit at the Palladium) were marginalizing a potentially sympathetic community of artists, venue owners, promoters and fans.
Artists For Action, a new organization founded by Arizona-based musicians and concert promoters, believed the latter.

“We understand it and we’re sympathetic to their goals,” said David Slutes, the entertainment director at Tuscon’s Club Congress and a co-founder of Artists For Action. “We’re not against SoundStrike, but we think there’s a better way, and that playing the state is more effective.”

Whereas SoundStrike holds live music hostage to hopefully spur Arizona voters to repeal the bill, Artists For Action sees concerts as a potentially rich source of voter-registration drives and other activism. Founded by Slutes and Calexico singer Joey Burns (who plays the Hollywood Bowl Sunday as part of the Viva Mexico! show with Ozomatli), the group held a successful voter-registration drive show at Tempe’s Marquee Theater in August and could be a strong voice in the effort to repeal the bill.

“I believe that while an economic boycott might make a difference to the state officials and financial institutions, a cultural/artistic boycott will have quite the opposite effect," the Tuscon-based Burns said. “The same legislators and governor could return in the next session and would likely continue to pass equally [or more] offensive laws. Artists are in the unique position to use their voices to mobilize and educate their fans. Music fans in Arizona are starving for this kind of motivation.”

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Conor Oberst draws line in the sand over AZ boycott

Conor Singer-songwriter Conor Oberst and Phoenix-based concert promoter Charlie Levy are in the midst of a very pointed dialogue over the real impact of Sound Strike, a coalition of artists including Oberst, Zack de la Rocha, Nine Inch Nails, Pitbull and Maroon 5 boycotting Arizona over the notorious immigration law SB 1070.

Sound Strike's members hopes to use their artistic platform to hit Arizona in its pocketbook and help force a repeal of the law. But in a recent editorial in the Arizona Republic, Levy argues that the real victims are struggling Arizona entertainment-industry workers, and the state's forums for cultural life that might be allies in their efforts to overturn the bill. Levy writes:

By not performing in Arizona, artists are harming the very people and places that foster free speech and the open exchange of ideas that serve to counter the closed-mindedness recently displayed by the new law.

The people who will feel the negative effects of the boycott the deepest are local concert venues, including non-profit art-house theatres, independent promoters, fans and the people employed in the local music business. If the boycott continues, it is all but guaranteed that some of these venues will be forced to close their doors. 

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