Fact-Checking The Sound Strike's Claims About the Arizona Boycott

Categories: Rebuttal

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The Sound Strike, the musical boycott of Arizona organized last year in the wake of a controversial immigration law, is crowing about its success.

The boycott is lead by former Rage Against The Machine singer Zack de la Rocha. It persists even though SB 1070 -- like an "eerily similar" measure passed by voters in California a decade earlier -- was blocked by courts before it could take effect in any meaningful way.

Now, The Sound Strike is "renewing" the call for boycott and bragging about the hits they've put on Arizona businesses. According to their web site, "only a handful of major acts have played in Arizona since the passage of SB 1070 in April of 2010."

One problem: That claim is not even a little bit true. And to whatever extent it is true, it's a function of scheduling, not politics.

Yes, Arizona has been passed over by a few socially-conscious indie rockers and rappers, as everyone predicted, but the big money tours keep coming. Younger, hipper Arizonans may be disappointed not to see their favorite band because of the boycott but the real cash cows haven't avoided this pasture. The only real effect? The choir isn't getting preached to. Let's look at the facts.

The first sign that The Sound Strike is puffing up their influence comes from a line in the press release naming four acts they've got to cancel shows: "Kanye West, Pitbull, Cypress Hill and My Chemical Romance."

Kanye West did recently cancel a show in Arizona -- his "Fame Kills" co-headlining show with Lady Gaga was supposed to open here but was scrapped after the Taylor Swift fiasco. That, of course, was long before the SB 1070 fracas. Right now he only has one tour date scheduled -- at Coachella, just over the state line in Indio, California. Will 'Ye bring his My Dark Twisted Fantasy tour to Arizona? I'm not holding my breath, but it's too soon to say.

Pitbull also canceled a concert in Arizona. And his cancellation was actually related to SB 1070. The problem with The Sound Strike's claim, however, is that Pitbull has since backed out of the boycott and played a show in Phoenix. Claiming him seems disingenuous to the point of fabrication.

My Chemical Romance also tried to back out of the boycott but quickly caved to pressure and canceled their Tempe date claiming it was an "oversight." The entire mascara-covered debacle should shame the band and their management.

Cypress Hill did cancel a May 2010 show.

Now on to the claim about how "only a handful of major acts have played in Arizona since the passage of SB 1070 in April of 2010."

That's partially true -- because their tours had come through just before the law. What constitutes "a major act" is a little sticky, but let's look at the top 50 concert tours of 2010 according to Pollstar.

Believe it or not, Bon Jovi had the top grossing tour of 2010. The band played here in February 2010. AC/DC was in second place and the band played here in December 2008 and was scheduled to bring their Black Ice tour through again in October 2009, but scrapped that show over health problems.

As for the rest of the top 10: U2 played here in October 2009, Lady Gaga famously brushed off calls to boycott, playing Phoenix in July and coming through again later this month. Metallica launched their world tour here in late 2008. Walking With Dinosaurs was here in 2008. Michael Buble was here last April. Paul McCartney played Glendale in March 2010. The Eagles played Phoenix the day before the bill was signed last April. Roger Waters played US Airways Center in November after the bill was passed.

I won't go through the full list of the top 50 tours of 2010 -- which goes as low as 80's act Simply Red -- but the only act with a tie to the boycott on it is the Black Eyed Peas, who performed here in April 2010.

Taboo, one member of the group, has signed up for the boycott. However, I'd venture to guess that if the group tours again soon Taboo will have two choices: Play the Arizona date if the bigger names in the group, Fergie and Will.I.Am say he needs to, or not perform and have no one notice the difference.

And Taboo is the only one of the boycotters who is in a band that is both very popular and actively touring. Rage Against the Machine is popular, but broken up. Same with Nine Inch Nails. The big-time tours that make serious money and have a major financial impact on the state are not exactly treating this town like it's South Africa in the late 80s.

The point is this: The Sound Strike's boycott is only assuring guys like Trace Adkins, who actually sell a ton of tickets, get to come to town and talk about how great SB 1070 is while the opposition's voices are silent. To me, that seems counterproductive and I, of course, also oppose SB 1070.

Either way, misleading press releases are no good to anyone. Perhaps people will see these lies and think the entire anti-SB 1070 movement has such disingenuous motives. That's no good for the people the boycotters are ostensibly trying to help.


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18 comments
Tim Merrick
Tim Merrick

Just remember it took Billy Bragg to play East Germany and the USSR to explain to kids there things what we had in common was what mattered...not what our differences were

He also got kicked out of East Germany incidentally..

Chriswilliams
Chriswilliams

I think the Cypress Hill show was interesting. It was supposed to be played at the Rialto in Tucson. When notified of the cancellation the Rialto suggested they come and play and discuss the anti-SB 1070 movement and also would donate part of the proceeds to humane borders (I think) I am not doing the letter they wrote justice.

Catfishmustache
Catfishmustache

It would probably do more good for the "sound strike artists" to come here and actually fight the cause with the rest of us Arizonans who also disagree with SB1070. I believe that their choice to stay "silent" is counterproductive. So, I am officially dubbing all sound strike artists as "Silent But Deadly"... just like the farts!

Javier Gonzalez
Javier Gonzalez

This article is inaccurate. Juanes is not scheduled to Play. They are listed as "having played in the past." We are finding out how TIgres got on the list and hope to have an answer today. Boycotts have been great, yet imperfect, tools in many fights including to end Apartheid in South Africa, to bring justice to California Grape pickers, and as a landmark bus boycott against segregation in the South.

Random denunciations devoid of action is just talk. The Sound Strike artists have sacrificed money, some fans, and been attacked by media such as Phoenix New Times. That is courageous and bold. The Sound Strike has donated over $300,000 to groups in Arizona and artists have commented on this issue in over 5,000 media articles.

We hope to double our efforts for 2011.

Regardless of what this article says, we actually have more bands that have joined and plan major events for 2011.

Anyone who speaks to promoters and managers can tell you many bands and major shows in Arizona are not being booked because of the boycott. That is undeniable.

Javier Gonzalez for the Sound Strike

ralph shirts
ralph shirts

Thanks so much for the great search terms…Great help….all the best!

Hotchman
Hotchman

Javier,You and I have gone back and forth in personal emails but I just wanted to point out that your mention that "Sound Strike artists have sacrificed money" is utterly full of crap. You can not base loses off of potential gains. Unless those bands had to pay the venues for canceling their shows they didn't loose a thing.

Also these bands are nowhere near courageous and neither are they bold. Courageous is coming here and playing a show in front of Sheriff Joe and Gov Brewer and saying F You! Them. Bold is showing up and playing in the middle of the day downtown in a flash concert, or selling thousands of tickets in AZ and donating every dime to the fight.

In the days of internet activism there is no courage is typing your name. The courage comes when you stand a line, playing a show to fight, or speaking out and these bands are not doing that. They are letting you do their talking for them. That is not courageous, that is cowardly.

I appreciate what you are trying to do and what you have done personally, but don't think that what these bands have not done is at all courageous.

psykosteve
psykosteve

An knowing personally basically every venue owner and promoter in the state I can tell you I can not name even ONE who was for this crap.

I wish any of these acts would come here and play protests or benefits HERE for the cause. 90% of the bands who are so concerned about this they have to hurt independent venues and promoters who are on the same side anyway WILL NOT SPEAK ABOUT IT. Google SB1070 and most of the acts on sound strike and you will not see interviews with them talking about it. You wont see statements from them on why they wont play this State.

I can respect Conner who has spoken his mind very publicly on the issue. There can be a dialogue there.

I have no respect for the 90% of acts who will quietly bocott they very promoters and venue that have supported them while staying quiet publicly. play here.

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

Just to be clear: The article never says anything about Juanes or Tigres.

Sylotw
Sylotw

Too bad you do not mention all of the acts that have skipped the state! Countless. If that is the case then why do promoters keep complaining.

toes
toes

what is this i dont even

Connor
Connor

Good points, Martin. However, it would have helped a bunch to mention all of the bands that have come here and called out the Sound Strike for the bullshit act that it is! At shows I attended, all these bands took the opportunity to speak out adamantly against both the Sound Strike AND SB1070: Ted Leo, Titus Andronicus, Bomb the Music Industry!, Fucked Up, the Toasters, Jason Webley, Aggrolites, and Gaslight Anthem, who even brought out Sean from AJJ to play a two-song set including their song "Lady Liberty," which you included on your anti-1070 comp this year.Silent opposition? I think not.

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

A good point.

The differences between all the acts you named and The Sound Strikers is so stark... Bands like Ted Leo and Titus are doing cool, interesting, shit better than anyone else is doing it.

Zack de la Rocha made Che Guevara shirts cool in 1997.

'Nuff said.

Hotchman
Hotchman

"The Sound Strike's boycott is only assuring guys like Trace Adkins, who actually sell a ton of tickets, get to come to town and talk about how great SB 1070 is while the opposition's voices are silent. "This was exactly the point I made to them in a letter I sent. Great article Martin!

psykosteve
psykosteve

Did Martin Cizmar just admit that major acts do come to Phoenix?

Phoenix New Times
Phoenix New Times

HA.

Now that we got Arcade Fire, I'll quit complaining for at least six months...

psykosteve
psykosteve

I am going to hold you to that date! Where is my calendar!

But in seriousness, good post. Totally agree.

Tyler
Tyler

Props to Cizmar for this one. Very well done.

fiasco
fiasco

Yeah! Take that, independent Arizona venue owners!Zach De La Rocha needs to focus his anger a little more.

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