Musicians React To SXSW Contract That Threatens To Inform Immigration Authorities, Festival Responds

sxsw clip artSXSW has been dragged kicking and screaming into the immigration debate thanks to its official contract which threatens to notify U.S. immigration authorities if an artist plays official or unofficial showcases without the proper work visas.


Sxsw 2017

In a series of tweet this week, Felix Walworth of indie band Told Slant announced that they were canceling their official SXSW showcase because of a clause in the festival contract that says international musicians who “adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase” could be reported to immigration authorities.

“After looking through this contract sent to me by sxsw I have decided to cancel Told Slant’s performance at the festival,” Walworth tweeted. “I’m not interested in aligning myself with an institution that interacts with immigration authorities as a means of controlling where art is shared and performed, and who makes money off of it.”

Included was a screenshot of part of the contract:

Walworth decried what he called SXSW’s “imperialist model,” and suggested that other artists boycott the festival.

SXSW Managing Director Roland Swenson said that the images that Walworth posted were pasted together in a way that is misleading and out of context. But then indie musicians posted a video that appeared to rebut that claim. 

We’ve “Never Had To Enforce Them”

“We’ve had these restrictions in the agreement for about five years and never had to enforce them,” Swenson also told the Austin Chronicle. “It’s intended for someone who does something really egregious like disobeying our rules for pyrotechnics, starts a brawl in a club, or kills somebody. You have to really fuck up for us to do this stuff.

After the manager of one international artist suggested that part of the reason for the clause was to keep artists from also playing the unofficial showcases that he felt a band needed to make the trip worthwhile, Swenson partially agreed. “Some of this about playing shows other than their showcase, which, if they come in on the kind of visa that most of them get – they’re not supposed to do that… It’s not us saying we’re going to try and have you deported, it’s us warning them that if they violated the terms of the visa that got them here, that’s what could happen.”

“we’ve been on the right side of immigration issues”

“I think that everybody has figured out that a quick way to get your name out there is to accuse us of conspiring with immigration authorities, but we’ve been on the right side of immigration issues,” Swenson added. “We’re doing a show with bands from the seven banned countries and we came out publicly against the immigration ban last month. I don’t know why this guy did this. He’s just confusing this very complicated subject.”

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