The Black Madonna issues statement on Intersect fest; Japanese Breakfast weighs in too
The Black Madonna was released from her contractual obligations to play Las Vegas' Intersect Festival yesterday, after learning that it was sponsored by Amazon Web Services. The festival released her but said that "'Amazon Web Services' was named in the contract five separate times, and throughout creative materials that were reviewed and approved." The Black Madonna has now released her own official statement on the whole thing, maintaining she was never "formally or informally advised of any Amazon branding" and will not perform at the festival due "their relationship with Amazon Web Services who have business ties with ICE and Homeland Security" and calls it "a moral and ethical transgression against my work, my faith and most importantly the people I stand with." You can read her whole statement below:
I will not be performing at Intersect Festival due to their relationship with Amazon Web Services who have business ties with ICE and Homeland Security.
The event proposed to me initially was framed as and arts and technology weekender with other artists I deeply respected and with well known and respected production teams. It presented no cause for concern. I was not approached by employees of Amazon. I was never formally or informally advised of any Amazon branding. The offer I accepted did not propose any kind of brand partnership. I am profoundly disappointed that anyone, at any level, in the long chain of people between the offer I saw and the eventual promotion of this event presumed I would. My contract intentionally prohibits that my name or likeness be connected in any way with any form of sponsorship endorsement of any kind including but not limited to commercial and/or political endorsements, without the prior written agreement of myself.
Clearly, I was shocked and hurt when press and promotional materials appeared with my name on an event presented by AWS yesterday. Many of you expressed your disappointment too and you were right to do so. I share it completely and amplify it.
This issue is not just ideological for me, it is a moral and ethical transgression against my work, my faith and most importantly the people I stand with. As a global ambassador for the Help Refugees organization, I raise awareness and donate 100% of my merchandise sales to refugee assistance and personally provide grants to undocumented families fleeing persecution in their home countries.
I am in total solidarity with the demonstrators, workers, other tech laborers, and immigrants and all people of conscience in calling for and end to corporate digital collaboration with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security.
In our personal and professional lives we all navigate contradictions and unclear lines in a world that makes it very hard to do the right thing. This is especially true in the arts, where independent workers often depend on relationships with brands to pay the bills. I am in a position to say that I will not agree to perform at an AWS branded event. I know that position isn't an option for all artists. Respect to all of you, in any case.
I was looking forward to the show and I am sorry that I won't be able to be with all of you for this one. But we will meet again on a dancefloor soon. And in the meanwhile I encourage each one of you reading this to visit the following organizations and learn more about how you can help people living without documents and seeking asylum and human rights around the world.
Meanwhile, Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner has also commented on Intersect, which she is still billed to be performing. "Everyone has the right to be upset. I will say like The Black Madonna it was not brought to my attention this was an AWS event. But the line to draw in the sand when it comes to branded content feels a bit unclear to me when operating in an industry that relies on a lot of branded content and working within the systemic confines of tech companies being in control of a majority of our royalties." She posted a photo of Fleabag creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, continuing, "Remember when we are all yes slay queen and this woman likely took over a hundred times our guarantee to stream on amazon?"
Zauner later responded to Adult Mom's Stevie Knipe who wrote "there are hundreds of music festivals across the US and to act like this is your only “shot” to make money or that there’s an ethical line that hasn’t been crossed is frankly diluted. this festival is gross and needs to be boycotted." Zauner replied, " "Who... has done that? I don’t think any of us on the festival claimed this was our only shot to make money. I am a little confused why we are complacent to support art that takes 100x the amount of this festival guarantee from the same resource ie shows like fleabag, etc. I’m not defending amazon or this festival by any means. I didn’t even know this was an aws fest when we signed on. I’m open to having this dialogue but this was the line in the sand I’m talking about. A ton of musicians have used amazon money for prod expenses and mvs." Her tweets are below.