by Miles Raymer
When Arizona passed the rancid and racist SB 1070—a bill that effectively makes "looking kinda Mexican" probable cause for police to stop you for questioning—it was almost inevitable that musicians would organize a boycott, since boycotts are one of the easiest ways for musicians to protest publicly. (It's a lot more work to film a PSA or convene a supergroup to write a song about something.) And the boycott, which has since coalesced under the semiofficial banner Sound Strike (fronted by Rage Against the Machine agitator Zack de la Rocha), has had an effect. Unfortunately, according to Curtis McCrary of Tucson's nonprofit Rialto Theatre, it's affecting the wrong people.
Even before Sound Strike, there was significant resistance to the boycott, both from within Arizona and without. A lot of the better antiboycott arguments said that artists were denying themselves a forum to protest the bill in front of the only people—Arizona voters—who could actually do anything concrete about it, and that they were punishing Arizona music fans who opposed the law. Some arguments went further and called the boycott out for what it effectively is—an easy way for artists to appear political and concerned without really sacrificing anything. Fucked Up front man Damien Abraham summed it up succinctly via Twitter when a certain Montreal indie band announced that they wouldn't be playing Arizona: "Do Stars honestly think that by denying the state their brand of dreamy pop that they're going to force the governor's hand?"
McCrary seems to agree:
"What seemed obvious to me for quite a while is that this boycott isn't effective because it punishes us as a non-profit, it punishes the fans that don't get to see them, but it has no effect on the larger tourism industry or big business in the state. The boycott of the convention and tourism business in Arizona is costing millions of dollars of losses, and that is quantifiable. But I'm sure if Jan Brewer or [Arizona State Senator] Russell Pearce had even heard of Sound Strike, they'd be happy these artists who oppose their legislation are staying away and not coming here to oppose them with the platform afforded to musicians."
The rest of the short interview is kind of sad and frustrating and will hopefully make some musicians (and nonmusicians) stop and consider whether their good intentions are going to result in any actual good.