Dozens of Performers at Israel's Meteor Music Festival, Nearly Brought Down by BDS, Still Haven't Been Paid

The production company blames Lana Del Rey’s cancellation amid BDS pressure for money woes, but artists call it a phony excuse

The Meteor Festival in the upper Galilee, 2018.
Ariel Efron

Dozens of musicians and stage production workers who took part in the Meteor Festival at Lehavot Habashan in the Upper Galilee in September have not yet been paid. “We haven’t gotten money for too long a time, we’ve already spoken to lawyers,” said the leader of a successful Israeli band, who asked that his name not be used. He said the producers had promised him that the money would come in and they would explain everything at a meeting, but he added: “There’s a big mess there, I think there’s a chance that we’ll have to come to terms with not seeing the money.” He said he feared that the festival’s production company, Naranjah, “will simply go bankrupt if everyone sues who didn’t get paid.”

Roi Sherman, a stage manager at the festival, opened a Facebook account entitled “Meteor where is the money?” where he calls on anyone who has not been paid to join him. “Many people haven’t been paid, especially the ‘little people,’” He told Haaretz. “We’re at the bottom of the ladder,” he said, and all he could do was publicize it. “These are performers who really need the money and performers who spent money to appear at the festival and they won’t see it back.” Sherman said that Eran Arieli, Meteor’s producer, has not responded to anyone.

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Uri Brauner Kinrot, of the rock group Boom Pam, told Haaretz that he had told his friends to take legal steps if they aren’t paid.

Meteor was considered one of the most promising festivals ever produced in Israel. Among the performers were American multi-instrumentalist and singer Ariel Pink, electronic musician Flying Lotus, Russian DJ Nina Kravitz, Pusha T, Why?, the Belgian band Soulwax, Israeli rock musician Bari Sakharof, Israeli hip-hop band Hadag Nahash, Israeli rock musician Rami Fortis, Israeli Mizrahi vocalist Zehava Ben and others.

American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey was to have appeared but cancelled due to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. She tweeted at the time that it was important to her to appear both before her Palestinian fans as well as her Israeli ones.

Channel 13’s social media and technology program “Hatzaneret” broadcast a report on the subject Sunday night, to which Naranjah responded: “The blow by BDS that we experienced a week before the festival led to thousands of ticket cancellations and severe losses to the company, which at the moment is in danger of bankruptcy and is making every effort to find investors and return to operations.”

According to Sherman, BDS is not enough of an excuse. “We worked for three days without a night’s sleep, without regular food and with artists who were angry, and rightfully so,” he said, responding to a claim that the festival producers discriminated against Israeli musicians in comparison to the musicians from abroad. “I don’t think Lana Del Rey’s cancellation has to do with the debts. If she would have come, she wouldn’t have agreed to appear under the conditions there and the company would have been in bigger financial trouble,” he said.

The Collective soloist Roy Rik said: “The handwriting was on the wall. With all the waves of cancellations from abroad we laughed to ourselves that the festival would be cancelled but that didn’t happen and conduct during the festival was simply shameful.” Rik said the losses from Del Rey’s cancellation didn’t represent even one tenth of the production company’s debts. “Cancellations like this are something they should have taken into account ahead of time. Besides, the problem isn’t just that they didn’t pay, at least they could contact us and answer. When they’re able to bring Radiohead to Israel, all of a sudden there are a million people to talk to them.”

In contrast, the Israeli composer and musician Shye Ben Tzur, who lives in Israel and India, said, “Sometimes people fall. Clearly that’s not desirable but I think the last word hasn’t been said. I’m afraid that because of this, similar projects won’t happen anymore.”

Naranjah said in response: “We want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding while we work on a solution. We have not received any letter with a lawsuit and therefore we can’t comment on that.”