Musicians band together to boycott Amazon over ties to ICE

Hundreds of artists are speaking out after Amazon announced its inaugural music festival

Melody Lau · CBC Music · Posted: Oct 24, 2019 11:59 AM ET | Last Updated: October 24

Hundreds of indie musicians have penned an open letter encouraging fellow artists to boycott all Amazon events and entities, including a newly announced music festival, over the company’s ties to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). (AFP via Getty Images)


Over 200 musicians, including Canadians Devon Welsh, Lydia Ainsworth, Tough Age and Brigitte Bardon’t, have signed an open letter pledging to boycott Amazon over the company’s ties to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

In “No Music For ICE,” posted on the website Fight For the Future, artists expressed their outrage at the trillion-dollar company for continuing to “provide the technical backbone for ICE’s human rights abuses.”

The signees have vowed to “not participate in Amazon-sponsored events, or engage in exclusive partnerships with Amazon in the future” until it promises to “terminate existing contracts with military, law enforcement, and government agencies,” “stop providing Cloud services and tools to organizations that power the U.S. government’s deportation machine,” “end projects that encourage racial profiling and discrimination,” and “reject future engagements with aforementioned bad actors.”

Other notable musicians who have signed this letter include Ted Leo, Zola Jesus, Shamir, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Sheer Mag, Deerhoof, Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis and Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto.

The catalyst for this boycott was the recent announcement of a brand new music festival called the Intersect Festival, which is being put on by the Amazon subsidiary, Amazon Web Series. The two-day event, which is slated to take place Dec. 6-7 in Las Vegas, markets itself as an experience “where music, technology, and art converge.” 

Back in August, its headliners were announced: Foo Fighters, Kacey Musgraves, Beck and Anderson.Paak & the Free Nationals. Last week, on Oct. 16, the full lineup was revealed and included acts such as Chvrches, H.E.R., Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges and Montreal act, Kaytranada. 

One of the announced acts, DJ and producer the Black Madonna, quickly took to social media, confused by her inclusion, telling fans: “What the f–k is this Amazon shit? I absolutely didn’t agree to this. Oh hell no.” Explaining that she never saw Amazon’s name attached to this event, she went on to denounce Amazon for what another Twitter user described as its “contract to host ICE’s deportation files, or its exploitation of its drivers, or its fuelling of Seattle’s homelessness.” 

“I never saw the branding for this until my name was attached,” the Black Madonna continued. In another tweet, she said, “Also I didn’t even know what AWS stood for till yesterday,” noting Amazon Web Series’ involvement in Intersect. “I’m not a tech person. I didn’t get hired by AWS. This wasn’t even called intersect when I agree to do it.” 

THE BLACK MADONNA?@blackmadonnachi

Are you hearing the words I’m typing. I didn’t see this. I do 150 shows a year. They didn’t tag me in shit. Also I didn’t even know what AWS stood for till yesterday. I’m not a tech person. I didn’t get hired by AWS. This wasn’t even called intersect when I agree to do it. Chill.111:07 AM – Oct 18, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee THE BLACK MADONNA’s other Tweets

In response, a spokesperson for Amazon Web Series told Pitchfork: “Our affiliation of the Intersect Festival is clear in the contract that was signed by Black Madonna’s management team.”

Three days later, the Black Madonna announced that she has been removed from the event’s lineup. 

Another act, Japanese Breakfast, also took to Twitter to explain her appearance at the festival, noting that she is “still uncertain how to move forward as a small indie act on a bill.” 

Very disappointed that you have such a prominent & articulate voice in the alt music industry, yet choose to just shrug your shoulders on this issue. I can see how from your perspective it feels ambiguous where to draw the line, but don’t let Amazon profit off that ambiguity

Japanese Breakfast?@Jbrekkie

When we signed on for this fest months ago we weren’t told it was presented by AWS. I agree that this and most corps have despicable practices and feel conflicted participating as I did w Coachella. I’m still uncertain how to move forward as a small indie act on a bill.2810:30 AM – Oct 18, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee Japanese Breakfast’s other Tweets

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