You’ve no doubt seen a lot of the chatter online concerning Target’s streaming yule-time compilation The Christmas Gig, featuring the Bradgelina of indie rock – Wavves and Best Coast – performing a duet that has taken up some face time on the blahgosphere. Additionally, you may have seen a number of decriers on the social networks criticizing the move as a “sell out” sort of thing. While I, under normal circumstances, find the Best Wavves Snacks Complex the most annoying personality in music, it’s worth mentioning that there’s no such thing as selling out anymore when considering you can’t sell albums like you could a decade ago. While I defend artists perusing placements in many cases, the Interwebs are missing a more important point here – one that leads me to take serious issue with all the artists who participated in this project.
This year, shortly after the Supreme Court struck down the ban on corporate campaign contributions, Minneapolis-based Target was one of the first major companies (if not the first) to take full advantage, floating a cool $150,000 to staunchly conservative Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Emmer is not just passively LGBT-unfriendly… he is actively anti-LGBT rights. His friends and financial beneficiaries even moreso. Did everyone forget about this piece of news?
Perhaps you might not care about gay rights, but I do, espeically in light of current events.
The state is still recounting the votes from this month’s election, and it looks close. Emmer vowed in his campaign that, if elected, he intends to push legislation through that “protects” the “sanctity” of marriage in his state – a nice throwback to the culture wars of 2004 – in addition to blocking same sex couples from parenting. Compared to the various financial crises our country currently endures, it seems that Emmer should have bigger fish to fry. That’s another conversation though.
Though it’s reasonable to infer that Target’s contribution was motivated by his pro-commerce platform, you still tacitly approve of both the economic and social issues of a candidate when you donate money, particularly such a large amount. What a shot in the ass too, considering Target’s demographic is probably younger and more progressive than comparable big box stores.
This, of course, led to a nationwide and highly publicized boycott of the store last summer, and one I currently participate in. The Awl sums up the call to action rather nicely:
By approving direct influence on elections in Citizens United, the Supreme Court handed power to corporations. But at the same time, when they do so, corporations abandon their old black-ops approach and make themselves unusually transparent. This actually puts the true power in the hand of the consumer.
So: “Target supports causes and candidates based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business interests.”
Target is giving every American, nearly literally, a vote with his or her dollar. So, self-respecting progressive Americans who profess to support the gay community, it’s put up or shut-up time; here is your chance to go beyond complaining about the Citizens United ruling and actually act to define what a strict “business interest” is.
Dawwww… who knew the folks with such a cute puppy could be responsible for such nefarious shit?
So this brings us back to Nathan, Bethany, and friends. Knowing that a substantial group of rational people found the connection between Target, their political activity, and the social views of Tom Emmer offensive enough to take a stand with their wallet, isn’t it also fair to find the contributions of these artists, many of whom probably have a sizable LGBT and LGBT-ally fan base, in poor taste? Particularly when considering what Target has come to represent for a segment of the population in 2010?
I would argue yes. This compilation, while free to stream, still promotes Target and their brand identity, ultimately leading to sales. And we now know where some of that money – our money – goes. Were these artists uniformed, or did they not give a shit? It’s hard to say what the motivations of Best Coast, Wavves, et al. were when they agreed to participate, yet the news about the Target boycott was almost certainly widely disseminated by the time they signed on to The Christmas Gig. Even if they weren’t sure what they were getting into, I do feel it’s unequivocally socially irresponsible for anyone to not to be aware of the corporate culture of the companies one agrees to do work for – especially when providing something as personal as art or music. It’s part of being an informed, contributing member of society, something that’s reasonable to expect from well-liked artists.
At least that’s how things should fall into place. I can’t remember who said it, but I always enjoyed the addage “morality is the way the world should work, economics is the way it actually does.”
With that said, perhaps it’s unfair to single out Wavves and Best Coast among the other artists who appear on this project, but since they seem to be the crowning jewel in this collection of songs, at least if you pay attention to the blogs and press releases… well, that’s part of the gig when you become a public figure. Life is hard.
I have argued in past conversations that you can always, when following the money, find yourself sending your hard-earned dollars toward something you don’t morally or academically agree with. I still feel this way, and there are certainly countless examples. However, in this small albeit noteworthy scenario, the controversial move on Target’s behalf was too highly publicized, too incendiary, and, most importantly, too direct to ignore. In other words, “too soon.” I wish someone within these artists’ professional circles had thought such issues through before moving forward. Maybe they figured no would would care, notice, and/or discuss it. Guess they were wrong.
So I’d like to hear what you all think. How far can you, feasibly and sensibly, follow your dollar and attention up the ladder? Since this compilation is not directly related to the political happenings within Minneapolis, is it fair to hold these artists socially accountable? Or is this simply the case that these artists needed some, as Mr. Williams so eloquently articulated, “E Z $”? I guess it’s hard to think through the implications of the message you send, inadvertently or otherwise, when you’re stoned out of your dome off the fresh ground dank you enjoy daily (via your own custom grinders replete with the visage of shorty’s cat). Rippin’ on Nathan aside, there’s certainly a lesson to take from this that deserves some good conversation.
At any rate, a finer holiday treat is Low’s Christmas EP, which Kranky recently made available on vinyl for the first time ever. It’s my favorite contemporary holiday jam, and you can rest assured that your money is well spent. Kranky doesn’t donate cash to candidates who don’t support uniform equality – partly because they don’t necessarily have a shit-ton of money anyway, but mostly because they have strong values, you dig? Something Wavves, Best Coast, and the rest of the gang would do well to take some notes on. But that’s me.