Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Trump Inauguration and the Boycott Question

Does it make sense to boycott musicians? There are, after all, many forms of boycotts. When I was young I really enjoyed the music of Phil Collins. I really loved listening to his songs, which were played often on my favorite radio stations. One day, however, my mother declared that we would no longer listen to any Phil Collins music because he was an ardent supporter of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and was a virulently anti-Israel. I remember feeling confused as I respected my mother for taking a stand, but I also didn't see the harm in listening to a Genesis song on the radio. It wasn't like I was supporting him by buying his cassette tape (it was the early 1980s) or buying his concert tickets. Nevertheless, for many years thereafter I refrained from listening to Phil Collins music even if such a boycott didn't make sense.

These days, there is still a lot of discussion when it comes to boycotting certain musicians. The most common example is Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. Waters has taken a very hard line, one-sided approach to criticism of Israel. While I still enjoy listening to Pink Floyd music, I confess that Waters' anti-Zionist views and determination to convince other artists to refuse to perform in Israel has led me to listen to his music differently. I still enjoy listening to Pink Floyd, but I can't help but think about his politics when doing so. Like Phil Collins, I don't boycott an artist's viewpoint by not listening to the music (on the radio, the Deezer app or an Amazon Alexa for example), but I also might not support them financially by purchasing their music or buying tickets to a concert.

Donald Trump and Kanye West
Donald Trump meets with Kanye West [SETH WENIG/AP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK]

All this leads us to the controversy that has become the Trump Inauguration. People are already discussing which musical acts will headline the January 20th event in Washington D.C. and who will perform for Trump's Inaugural Balls next month. No doubt the list of performers refusing to perform for Trump is a longer list than the potential acts.

Already, Jackie Evancho, the 16-year-old "America's Got Talent" breakout singer, has confirmed she will perform at the inauguration ceremony. Evancho is the first performer announced for the Trump ceremony, but it's likely that the President-Elect invited Kanye West to perform at their meeting yesterday at Trump Tower in New York City. Other names that have been mentioned include Billy Ray Cyrus, Kid Rock, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake. Both Garth Brooks and Elton John were rumored to be performing, but publicists for both musicians denied the rumors.

The biggest question will be whether there will be a fall out following the inauguration for any artist who performs at the ceremony or at any of the inaugural balls following. My guess is there will be calls to boycott these musicians, but I'd argue it's a meaningless and futile response.

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