ceasefire: The Political Responsibilities of Artists

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Words: Niamh Arwin Spalding (She / Her )

CW: Israel / Palestine conflict

With the surge of protests involving Israel and Palestine, and global citizens mobilising, it’s imperative for artists in the music industry to join the fray. Yet, the resistance’s significance lies in the influence wielded by these admired figures. They possess platforms larger than most, making it crucial for them to champion their beliefs. As they navigate the music industry, they must not only stand for their convictions, but also play a pivotal role in educating others.

Most artists nowadays are merely seen sharing an Instagram story to express their solidarity with the people of Palestine. However, some have gone a step further. Dozens of celebrities and pop figures have signed an open letter to Joe Biden, urging him to call for a ceasefire on behalf of Palestine. Dua Lipa, Caroline Polachek, Michael Stipe, Run the Jewels, and Devonté Hynes are among the artists who have signed the letter, in which they stated: ‘More than 5,000 people have been killed in the last week and a half – a number any person of conscience knows is catastrophic. We believe all life is sacred, no matter faith or ethnicity and we condemn the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians.’ Similarly, Massive Attack, Fontaines DC, and Young Fathers are releasing their highly anticipated ceasefire record, a collaborative effort aimed at raising funds for Doctors Without Borders in Palestine: the total donation is expected to be in excess of £150,000.

This amount truly holds the power to change lives for the people currently facing a crisis in Palestine. As noted by Human Appeal:

‘With £60, we can provide a woman or girl with a menstrual hygiene kit.’ Therefore, with the raised money, they could extend this support to approximately 2,500 women or girls. Moreover, ‘£45 can cover the treatment expenses for three individuals at our medical clinic.’ Consequently, with £150,000, they  can help almost 10,000 people receive the treatment they urgently need.

This prompts reflection; if more mainstream celebrities or artists took a stance on aiding those less fortunate in Palestine or other conflict-affected  countries, perhaps their situations wouldn’t be as dire today. Nevertheless, many continue to refrain from doing so. For instance, there has been no indication that Taylor Swift has donated money to charities operating in Palestine, and Swift has not yet publicly addressed the war. This is particularly striking coming from someone who has openly advocated for political causes such as voting rights and LGBTQ+ issues throughout her nearly 20-year career. So, why the disparity in publicly supporting Palestine?

Some may argue that it’s not an artist’s responsibility to engage in such topics, but this is where I disagree. Artists, especially those with vast platforms, possess a unique ability to influence and spark discussions on important issues. Take someone like Taylor Swift, who commands a staggering 113.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone. With such a massive audience, the impact of even a single song can be substantial. Consider if Swift were to release a track that delves into socio-political themes, addressing issues like inequality or climate change. Each stream, earning an estimated £0.0024, could contribute significantly to raising awareness, and funds, for relevant causes. At  £0.0024 per stream, with 113.5 million listeners, the financial support generated could reach £272 400. That’s significantly more than what’s expected from the ceasefire record. This amount surpasses the expected revenue from conventional record sales, demonstrating the potential for artists to make meaningful contributions beyond mere entertainment. Therefore, accepting social responsibility can push artists to leverage their influence for positive change, amplifying voices and shedding light on pressing global concerns.

This underscores the importance for artists to take action. They can’t afford to sit idly while history reshapes itself. 





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