LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - The fear and anger stirred by Arizona's new immigration enforcement law are beginning to take a toll on concerts in the state, particularly on events featuring Mexican artists.
Hip-hop acts Pitbull and Cypress Hill have canceled upcoming shows in Arizona to protest the new law, which will take effect July 29. The legislation will require local authorities to determine a person's immigration status if he or she is suspected of being undocumented.
Banda star Jenni Rivera and reggaeton chart-toppers Wisin & Yandel are skipping the state on their AEG Live-promoted summer tours, while Mexican acts Conjunto Primavera and Espinoza Paz have canceled their previously announced concerts in Phoenix.
A source at Live Nation says he isn't aware of any artists who have backed out of concerts that the company is promoting in the state. Live Nation's summer schedule includes a July 18 concert by ranchera icon Vicente Fernandez at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix.
But the situation has been developing quickly since last week, when Pitbull's cancellation of his May 31 concert at Phoenix's Celebrity Theater represented the first such move by an artist on tour with AEG Live.
"My personal belief is that the law, which is misguided and poorly written, is unconstitutional and will not survive the multiple legal challenges being filed," AEG Live president/CEO Randy Phillips says. "Until that time, however, the economic impact on the state from losing even a couple of tours might be enough for the legislature and the governor to realize that there is still a political concept called the tyranny of the majority which is just as dangerous to our democracy as illegal immigration, maybe more so."
AEG Live vice president of Latin talent Rebeca Leon, who oversees the routing of tours by Pitbull, Wisin & Yandel, Rivera and Paz, says playing a show in Arizona and not taking a position on the law would be tantamount to a performer's saying that it's not important to them.
"What (the artists) don't want to do is not address it," Leon says. "The fact that it's a big deal has forced them to take a stand."
Concerts in Arizona grossed $35.2 million in 2009, drawing 617,673 people to 116 shows reported to Billboard Boxscore, down from 2008's $39.9 million gross and attendance of 729,789 at 146 shows. While the controversy over the immigration law has affected only a handful of concerts so far, the situation is more precarious for the regional Mexican industry, as its fans are particularly vulnerable to the new law.
Tucson, Arizona, station KCMT, which plays regional Mexican music, canceled its annual Tusa festival before tickets were scheduled to go on sale. The June 6 show was to have featured some of the genre's biggest names, including La Arrolladora Banda el Limon, Banda MS, K-Paz de la Sierra and Julion Alvarez. The station is trying to rebook the artists for its annual anniversary concert in the fall.
"Some of the events that we have sponsored here or presented just over the last couple of weekends have been very light (in attendance)," KCMT general sales manager Tara Hungate says. "We didn't want to take the risk of having it not work out for our (sponsors). Would we able to sell tickets between now and the beginning of June? I don't know."
Hungate says she believes the new law is having a chilling effect on fans of regional Mexican music. "People are scared," she says. "Whether they're legal or not, they don't want to jeopardize their paperwork. The tendency is, 'I am not going to go out because I don't want to have one beer and get stopped.'"
Conjunto Primavera canceled its June 19 show at Phoenix's Dodge Theater "out of respect for our fans who live in Arizona," the band's manager, Jesus Guillen, says.
The veteran act released a statement calling the immigration law racist. Lazaro Megret, president of El Paso, Texas-based Latino Events, says tickets had been selling well for the band's show, a double bill with Los Rieleros del Norte.
Pitbull, Cypress Hill, Rivera and Wisin & Yandel couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Pitbull spoke out on the issue on his Facebook page when he announced the cancellation of his Phoenix show.
"How is the country we enjoy and love bcuz of its human rights, freedom, opportunity and that has been built by immigrants, now start 2 deny them??" he wrote. "It is contradicting 2 everything the USA stands 4."