Artists Performing at Amazon's Music Festival Say They Weren't Told It Was Hosted by Amazon

Illustration for article titled Artists Performing at Amazon's Music Festival Say They Weren't Told It Was Hosted by Amazon
Screenshot: Intersect

Multiple artists who were listed in promotional materials for a music festival being put on by Amazon Web Services say they didn’t know the festival had ties to the tech giant. At least one performer has since been removed from the event’s lineup.


Fallout over the roster of artists for the Intersect music and arts festival, which is being held in Las Vegas in December, surfaced this week after DJ and producer The Black Madonna said in a series of Thursday tweets that she was “furious” that she was listed alongside artists playing the event, writing that she “absolutely didn’t agree to this” and “What. The. Fucking Fuck.”

“If you were shocked I’d play for Amazon, well that makes two of us. Please be patient and while I burn some bridges. Updates soon,” she tweeted. Pitchfork, which reported on the incident on Thursday, was told by a spokesperson for Amazon claimed that AWS appeared multiple times in a contract signed by The Black Madonna’s management.

“Our affiliation of the Intersect Festival is clear in the contract that was signed by Black Madonna’s management team. ‘Amazon Web Services’ was named in the contract five separate times, and throughout creative materials that were reviewed and approved,” the spokesperson told Pitchfork. “Regardless, we’ve decided to release her from her contractual obligation.”

Indeed, The Black Madonna’s name no longer appears on the website for the event (though an Instagram post for the event that included the name was still live as of Friday). Reached for comment by Gizmodo, The Black Madonna noted her absence from the lineup Intersect’s website and said she would be releasing a formal statement about the incident “shortly.”


Despite AWS’s claims that it made clear in contractual agreements who was behind the festival, The Black Madonna is not the only artist claiming that they were not informed the event was tied to Amazon. Another artist listed on promotional materials for the festival, Japanese Breakfast—the solo project of musician Michelle Zauner—said she too was unaware that the festival was being put on by one of the tech giant’s key businesses.

“I will say like The Black Madonna it was not brought to my attention this was an AWS event,” she said in a series of tweets on Friday. “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 [with] Coachella. I’m still uncertain how to move forward as a small indie act on a bill.”


As of Friday, Japanese Breakfast was still listed as an artist performing the event on the Intersect website. Amazon Web Services did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment about the claims.


There are dozens of musical and visual artists listed as performers for the event, including headliners Beck, Kacey Musgraves, Foo Fighters, and Anderson.Paak. Of these, it appeared Friday that only the Foo Fighters had shared information related to Intersect on Twitter or Instagram. This is perhaps especially surprising of Musgraves—who is listed as performing a “drone light show celebrating women in tech” at Intersect. And who wouldn’t want to shill such an event?

Update 10/20/19 11:45 p.m. ET: In a statement released on Twitter, The Black Madonna said Saturday that she was never informed prior to the event that the festival had ties to Amazon.


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 [sic] arts and technology weekender with other artists I deeply respected and with well known and respected production teams,” she said.It presented no cause for concern. I was never formally or informally advised of any Amazon branding. The offer I accepted did not propose any kind of brand partnership.” 


She added: “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 the event presumed I would. My contract intentionally prohibits that my name or likeless 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.”



The only solution to companies like Amazon is a structural change to our economy.

Boycotting Amazon for being shitty is just making you a hypocrite. Every company is shitty and exploitative. Unless you’re going to completely disengage from society, you’re just making arbitrary choices about what exploitation deserves your attention.

Going after the people who, knowingly or not, benefit from Amazon is especially absurd. Are you going to go after the workers in the warehouses next? What is the fundamental difference here? This person needs money to survive in our society and this other person also needs money. But let’s only yell at one of them. Meanwhile, people get so caught up in the oppression olympics that Amazon et al. skate under the radar.

There are much smarter solutions you can pursue than getting twisted and giving what amounts to a finger wag to people like Bezos and companies like Amazon.

Worker solidarity. It’s not just a catchy slogan.