We recently reported on an open letter that Arizona concert promoter Charlie Levy, of Stateside Presents, wrote to artists who are boycotting performing in our state in order to protest SB 1070, Gov. Jan Brewer and the state Legislature's ass-backwards attempt to fix the immigration problem.
In that letter, Levy wrote, "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 truth is, a boycott is an easy gesture that doesn't require much more than a statement and removing a date from your tour schedule. However, if you truly care about the effects of the controversial immigration law that was passed, this is an opportunity to use your unique position as an artist with the ability to reach thousands of people to inspire, educate, and motivate your fans to actively be a part of the change.
You can read the entire letter here.
Today Conor Oberst, one of the artists involved in the Sound Strike boycott spearheaded by Zack de la Rocha, of Rage Against the Machine, penned his own open letter as a response to Levy's. (Stateside Presents has promoted several of Oberst's shows in the past, and Oberst's letter is addressed to Levy.)
In it, Oberst writes:
I have on many occasions spoken my mind from stage. I have offered organizations table space by the merch booth. I have donated a dollar-a-ticket, or the entire guarantee, to different causes. I have registered voters. I have played on behalf of political candidates. Sadly, this time, I fear none of that is enough. If I return to Arizona to pay lip service to a roomful of kids at the Marquee it will do absolutely no good for anyone. What I can do is to help organize, and play my small part in, what I hope is the largest and most effective boycott this country has seen in a long time. To work it will have to involve members from all sectors of society. The Sports Industry, the Entertainment Industry, the Tourism and Convention Industry, other State and City governments, private businesses and individuals from around the country and the world—-all of whom, by the way, are already participating in the boycott. Much of the Artist end of the boycott is symbolic, I acknowledge, and no real threat to
the economics of the State. But it is an important part none-the-less for awareness and messaging. The Boycott has to be so widespread and devastating that the Arizona State Legislature and Governor have no choice but to repeal their unconstitutional, immoral and hateful law. It has to hurt them in the only place they feel any pain, their pocketbooks. ...
I realize that the people of Arizona did not vote on SB1070 and I empathize with the anger and frustration you all must feel. I applaud what you are doing with Viva Arizona and do wonder if there might be a way to reconcile both our efforts while maintaining the integrity of each. After all, we are trying to achieve the same thing. But just as you may feel the boycott is an empty gesture, I fear that if we return to business as usual (under the guise of some civic movement) that this will all devolve into the typical grandstanding that is political activism in music. It might make us feel better but won't do a damn thing to change the minds of the radical, racist minority that seem to have controlled Arizona politics for decades. In short, it will lose its teeth.
To read Oberst's letter in its entirety, head here.