While in Qatar, Cry Softly: The Rancid Music and Politics of Culture Washing at the World Cup

By | November 17, 2022

The next editorial comes from Eamonn Forde (inset photograph), longtime music trade journalist and writer of The Last Days of EMI: Promoting the Pig. UK-based Forde’s The brand new e book, Leaving The Constructing: The Profitable Afterlife of Music Estates, is on the market now via Omnibus Press. (Disclaimer: Within the following article, for our American associates, “soccer” is soccer.)


Anticipating the music trade to be morally and ethically above reproach may very well be an train of nice futility. Folks and corporations within the music trade can misbehave, they usually act with impunity, and generally their fingerprints are on issues they actually should not be close to.

However the music trade has a minimum of one legitimate argument in its favour: it isn’t FIFA, the worldwide governing physique for affiliation soccer (in addition to, I simply discovered, seaside soccer and futsal).

FIFA is, let’s not mince phrases right here, a cesspool.

In 2018, FIFA introduced the World Cup to Russia (what does that alternative appear like now?). And this 12 months he introduced it to Qatar. Qatar! The place does that go away it to take it in 2026? North Korea? Hells?

There has rightly been monumental outrage that acts and occasions reminiscent of Robbie Williams, Arcadia, Enrique Iglesias, Black Eyed Peas, Maroon 5, Put up Malone and J Balvin are all prepared to disregard a litany of human rights abuses in Qatar to be able to acquire a lump sum to offer musical respite in and across the numerous soccer matches.

There have been at all times enormous moral points with musicians doing personal gigs for dictators and politically questionable leaders. Many actors have carried out such exhibits for enormous sums of cash however one (weak) protection is that these have been ‘personal’ occasions and normally behind closed doorways. It is probably not a justification, but it surely’s definitely very totally different from being the general public face of an occasion in a rustic that flouts fundamental human rights.

It is like purposely being the interlude of a totalitarian Tremendous Bowl halftime present. Or behave like an obedient and conniving Steven Shorter in a 2022 reinvent Privilege.

Some acts have publicly attacked the video games and the music’s involvement within the World Cup in Qatar.

Rod Stewart revealed the sort of cash provided right here, saying he turned it down practically £1 million play by saying “it isn’t good”. Dua Lipa needed to launch a public assertion saying she would not play the opening ceremony. And Robert Smith, in an act of black humor, too denied that The Treatment was going to playmaking a pointed reference to bread and circus and the way it was all a diversionary technique.

For the previous three many years a minimum of, soccer has proudly prioritized revenue over purity, so it is hardly stunning that it fortunately goes the place human rights are a pipe dream.

Now, greater than ever, the music trade (or a part of it) holds the hand of soccer – purely heterosexually, in fact – in a rustic the place being homosexual is illegitimate. It’s truly unlawful for 2 folks of the identical intercourse to publicly present affection for one another. In the event that they do, they danger being put in jail. Or they may simply settle for”state mandated conversion remedy“As an alternative. What a alternative.

UK International Secretary James Cleverly – dwelling proof that nominative determinism doesn’t exist – suggested any LGBTQ+ followers who needed to attend matches there (why?) to “be respectful of the host nation”. He added: “With a little bit of flexibility and compromise at each ends, this generally is a protected, safe and thrilling World Cup.” It makes the whole lot good. Thanks for clearing that up. Good work. Wonderful work. Completely improbable work.


Then there’s the surprising variety of building employee deaths which have occurred as a part of the nation’s efforts to arrange for the World Cup.

Early 2021, The Guardian reported that greater than 6,500 migrant employees have died in Qatar within the 10 years because the nation was awarded the World Cup by FIFA. These are simply numbers for employees from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The precise demise toll may very well be even greater as a result of it doesn’t embrace employees from different nations, together with the Philippines and Kenya.

Qatar has been an enormous building web site because it was named host of 2022. “Along with seven new stadiums, dozens of main initiatives have been accomplished or are underway, together with a brand new airport, roads, techniques of public transport, resorts and a brand new city,” reported The Guardian Final 12 months.

Look once more at these numbers. Greater than six and a half years thousand folks have died making ready the nation for the World Cup. Building websites are harmful locations, however demise charges on this scale are horrendous, primarily as a result of they ship the message that in Qatar, human life is expendable. Human life is price nothing. Solely the RP message counts.

The aggressive video games are performed on hundreds of corpses.

Performers who entertain the crowds between video games are actually dancing on unmarked graves.

How do these chants about “soccer come dwelling” and the platitudinal phrases about “the unifying energy of music” style in your mouth now?


It is all a bit like “physician, heal your self” with the music trade attempting to inform one other trade, like soccer, to behave with decorum and rectitude. However taking part in and ignoring the human rights abuses that happen on the trade stage is greater than a step too far. It’s, from each conceivable angle, rancid.

Being there won’t have a “transformative influence” on Qatar. It won’t “drive change” inside the nation. That is all a really darkish and one-sided change. And music is exploited right here as a lot as soccer. Provide you with no matter argument you wish to justify your involvement right here (and even donate the cash to charity), but it surely all boils right down to taking cash from a rotten system out to fake to the world that it’s now a lot much less rotten.

The World Cup is a part of a merciless and cynical marketing campaign to make use of music to cowl up a catalog of heinous human rights abuses. The extra it occurs, the extra it is going to normalize.

The timing of the appointment of the previous CEO of AIM Paul Pacifico on the Saudi Music Fee – one other nation with a shameful document of human rights abuses – is not any coincidence both. That is all a part of a concerted culture-washing marketing campaign by nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

2022 is a pivotal 12 months for music and whether it is to proceed for use by regimes and governments as a way to a) appeal to vacationers and b) distract from what is actually taking place in these nations.

Qatar would not use music to drag itself in a extra liberal path: it makes use of music to make what it does sound acceptable with out actually altering a single factor.

The music trade can’t be complicit on this. It completely stinks. And the stench – that acrid stench of demise – passes to whoever helps their indescribable advertising and marketing efforts.

Get pleasure from your putrid wages, however bear in mind this: these silver bullets can by no means mop up all of the tears or blood.The music trade world wide