SXSW’s Contract Suggests Immigration Authorities Will Be Notified Over Unauthorized Shows

Written by | March 3, 2017 6:41 | No Comments




In 3 decades, South By Southwest, Austin’S famous music festival, went from cool indie festival to corporate big event to… ICE? This is what happened on Thursday when Brooklyn-based musician Felix Walworth tweeted an excerpt of the SXSW contract given to performers. In the screenshot, it was clearly said that, if SXSW determines that some bands have acted in ways that affect the viability of their official showcase, SXSW will ‘notify the appropriate U.S. Immigration authorities of the above actions,’ even adding that ‘accepting and performing at any non-sanctioned events may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport, and denied entry by US Customs Border Patrol at US points of entry.’

Felix Walworth canceled his performance at the festival. ‘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,’ he wrote. ‘This festival uses an imperialist model and prioritizes centralizing and packaging culture over communities and people’s safety. It’s no secret that SXSW has played a huge role in the process of Austin’s rapid gentrification. The whole festival exists to the detriment of working class people and people of color in Austin. That they’re willing to threaten deportation is enough evidence for me that they don’t care about anyone including the artists that lend them their legitimacy.’

Following this, a controversy followed, and SXSW managing director Roland Swenson did some damage control by suggesting that the tweet was pasted together from 2 different parts of one contract, which appeared not to be true, as Felix posted a video of him scrolling the contract on his phone

And when Swenson is still trying to Austin Chronicle that all this was taken out of context, this looks very clear to me and to many others.

‘We’ve had these restrictions in the agreement for about five years and never had to enforce them,’ declared Swenson to 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.’

‘What people don’t understand is that we’re already talking to immigration about all these bands. Most of these bands are here because we sort of sponsored them. So if somebody did something bad enough that we had to enforce this part of the contract, we would probably be obliged to notify immigration that ‘Hey these guys are trouble,’ but we’ve never had to do that.’

Sure but in the present political climate, this is obviously a paragraph that will stand up. The damage is done and according to Pitchfork, many artists including Downtown Boys, PWR BTTM, Priests, Sheer Mag, Screaming Females, Helado Negro, Immortal Technique, Allison Crutchfield, Sad13, Merchandise, Jay Som, Girlpool, and more have already signed an open letter directed to SXSW:

‘As artists and part of the musical community of SXSW, we’re outraged to learn that the festival has been threatening artists who are not U.S. citizens with targeted immigration enforcement and deportation for playing at unofficial showcases. We are calling on SXSW to immediately drop this clause from their contract, and cease any collusion with immigration officials that puts performers in danger.’

Even if no musician is deported, the fact that this threat appears on the contract doesn’t look good under Trump’s America and many musicians are already talking about boycotting SXSW, or even announcing the cancellation of the festival.


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