Last month, a group of musicians and activists formed No Music For ICE following news that Amazon would be hosting Intersect Festival in Las Vegas from December 6-7. Boasting a lineup of acts as notable as Beck, Kacey Musgraves, Foo Fighters, Chvches, and dozens more, the two-day event, which is sponsored by Amazon Web Services, promises to be a “place where music, technology, and art converge.” When the festival was announced, the backlash to an event hosted by the controversial tech giant was swift, and scheduled performers The Black Madonna and Japanese Breakfast claimed they didn't know that Amazon was involved with the festival. The Black Madonna subsequently canceled her appearance. Just under two weeks out from the festival, she's the only announced artist to drop out.
Amazon provides cloud services to government agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). One October 2018 report describes the company's role as the “ultimate keeper of the data that enables detentions and deportations." Because of this, No Music For ICE started a petition calling on artists to boycott Amazon and for the company to stop their contracts with government agencies with alleged human rights abuses.
"We will not allow Amazon to exploit our creativity to promote its brand while it enables attacks on immigrants, communities of color, workers, and local economies," the letter reads. Well over 1,000 artists signed on, including acts as notable as Ted Leo, Deerhoof, Speedy Ortiz, Sheer Mag, Zola Jesus, Downtown Boys, and more.
Now, organizers are taking their protest a step further by asking musicians to take their music off Amazon's streaming service. In a new letter, No Music For ICE continued their protest, writing, "A mass, collective takedown is an escalation, another step in musicians acting in solidarity with the numerous groups across the country protesting to shut down ICE and end family separations, deportations, and other horrors."
So far, artists like Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis (who is a No Music For ICE co-founder), Get Better Records, Adult Mom, Remember Sports, Izzy True, Downtown Boys, and more have all posted that they've asked Amazon to remove their catalogs from its music platforms—a bold move, especially in this increasingly fragmented and turbulent music economy where musicians already struggle to get properly paid for their work.
No Music For ICE further explained their reasoning behind the call to action. They claim:
Amazon is aggressively trying to compete in the music sales and streaming markets, with mixed results. Based on a few numbers for major “rock” acts an industry insider shared with us recently, Amazon Streaming accounted for only around 4% of first week streams. Amazon MP3 digital sales equated to 3% total of album sales, excluding ticket/album bundle sales. Pulling down your music kicks Amazon where it already hurts, and it’s easy to do.
Read the full letter here, which includes step-by-step instructions for both label-signed artists and totally independent acts to get their music removed from Amazon's streaming service and MP3 store.