On Tuesday, almost 140 artists — including pop stars Lady Gaga, Janelle Monae and Grimes, rapper Vic Mensa and rock bands TV on the Radio and Wilco — signed a letter to Texas leaders urging them to reject two bills moving through the Texas Legislature that would strike down transgender-friendly bathroom policies in public schools, government buildings and city ordinances.
In an email message early Thursday, Graham Williams, head of Margin Walker, a promotion company that books the annual Sound on Sound Music Festival and hundreds of shows in venues across the state each year, spoke against the bills. “Obviously, I and everyone I know, agrees with the artists. We as a company agree,” he said.
Though Williams said doubts the artists’ statement will impact Texas lawmakers, he said it was important. “It speaks to a future generation of young kids and music fans that will have a more open mind than the bigoted generation before them,” he said.
He called the transgender bathroom controversy “a faux moral issue to drum up votes.”
“Fear of gays, fear of immigrants, fear of minorities … it works,” he said. “People vote against their best interests almost every time, when they get told that their family values or faith are at risk if they don’t vote for the ‘right’ person or bill.”
The artists did not explicitly threaten a state boycott if the two bills, Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 1362, pass the Texas Legislature, but they wrote “We are watching.”
“It is up to us to commit to doing everything in our power to make sure all of our fans, crews and fellow artists feel safe and welcome, wherever we go,” they wrote.
Should the bills pass, Williams said he hopes that instead of “pulling live music from fans and a community that supports the bands,” artists would consider making their performances into benefit shows.
“You can set up a nonprofit or tie in an existing nonprofit that handles the event top to bottom and those can be tax exempt and avoid the bulk of the taxes, which could all be given to an LBGTQ group or an organization that is fighting against the bathroom bill and bills like this in Texas,” he said. “So the state gets none of the benefit, fans and bands get to have a concert and rather than just a boycott, the statement is even bigger and there are dollars and actions to back it up.”
“Can you imagine if the next time Lady Gaga, or whoever, played here and band’s fee, all the tickets sales, the promoter’s fees, the sponsorship money, bar profits, merch sales, etc., all went to a charity?” he asked. “Lady Gaga at $75 a ticket x 20,000 tickets, plus bar, plus merch, etc. (That’s a) couple million dollars raised for a days work. Now can you imagine if it was a festival or multiple shows like this?”