Should politicians have a say in which artists perform in their city?

Thomas Bink
Pulse of Canada
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Chris Brown performs during DJ ProStyle's birthday bash at Hammerstein Ballroom on April 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage has publicly opposed having Chris Brown – who was charged in 2009 with assaulting his former girlfriend Rihanna – do a concert in his city. Should politicians have a say in who performs in their city?

Here's what we said:

Thomas Bink: That’s a tough one. I remember when Marilyn Manson was banned in a number of cities, including Calgary – all that did was create more buzz and publicity for Manson, who really didn’t deserve any of it. In most cases it’s the promoter, the venue or sponsors that cancel concerts if there’s enough pressure from parents or religious groups. Savage was opposed to hosting Brown’s performance but didn’t try to shut it down, which I think is the right tact. Individual politicians shouldn’t get involved for personal reasons – now, if there are other laws or bylaws being broken at a performance, that’s a different matter and city councils can step in. Otherwise, as we saw with Manson, trying to use a heavy hand will just have the opposite effect – it will just create more publicity for the performer.

Andy Radia: Yeah I'm really uncomfortable with city councils and/or mayors vetting the artists that come and perform in their cities. Quite simply it's a form a censorship. Many years ago, I was involved with a Blues Festival bringing Ike Turner to Vancouver. We received so many telephone and email complaints about his alleged abuses against Tina Turner. Many people told us that they wouldn't be buying tickets to that year's festival because of him. That's the way it should be – individuals should decide for themselves whether or not they want to attend such a concert.

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Matthew Coutts: Mayors have two jobs to do while in office: represent the people of their city, and get themselves re-elected. (Pardon the cynicism, but let’s be honest.) So does Savage have any right to try to block Brown from Halifax? Sure, if that’s what the people want. Unfortunately, his mandate isn’t clear in this regard. There are handfuls of grumps, but the concert will also be completely sold out. So his comments, while honest and perhaps commendable, do little more than announce his position on the controversial artist. If Savage is going to go further than make comments, he’d better know the city is behind him. Let’s remember the story of June Rowlands, the former Toronto mayor who banned the Barenaked Ladies from playing in the city. She’s little more than a punch line at this point.

Bink: Right, and like I said, Rowlands helped raise the profile of the Barenaked Ladies – if she didn’t ban them, no one would have been interested in them and they’d probably still be doing gigs at the Horseshoe. But at the same time, it’s pretty disturbing that Brown can actually be convicted of assaulting his girlfriend and just turn the page and make millions in concerts and album sales. Isn’t there some way we can make it clear that behavior like that isn’t acceptable and it’s not cool that he continues to rake in the dough?

Coutts: I think Halifax itself is doing a decent job of making Brown feel unwelcome (save from the youngsters who will go to his concert regardless). Something like four major sponsors have pulled out of the event, the vocal opposition is protesting and petitioning. And Savage’s comments do make his opposition unequivocal. But, to your point, there is only so much that can be done before it becomes free publicity. There is a chance we’ll get lucky and Canadian Border Services will stop him from entering the country. That should send a clear message.

Radia: Let's remember that Brown has paid his debt to society (in the U.S., at least) and is a free man. But in terms of his music career, let the market decide his fate. it's up to individuals and sponsors to do their talking with their pocketbooks. City governments should stay out of it.

So, what do you think? Have your say in the comments area below.