The new presidential administration's immigration policies have been seeping into the music business, but the new allegations that are being brought forth against SXSW may be the biggest controversy in the music industry yet.
Brooklyn-based Felix Walworth—of bands such as Told Slant, Eskimeaux, and Bellows— tweeted a photo of part of the contract artists and bands planning to perform at SXSW are given to sign. He has also noted that Told Slant has cancelled their performance with the Austin-based event.
The festival has been trying to crack down on unofficial showcases, and in an effort to limit outside performances, the contract has a clause for foreign artists- they may face deportation, revocation of their passport, or future denial of entry to the United States if caught by the festival. Official showcases can often be costly, and for many, the unofficial showcases are a way for artists visiting Austin to utilize their time efficiently during their stay.
According to sources at Stereogum, this is not exactly a new clause, but it does stir up controversy since the inauguration of Trump and his strict immigration policy. The AV Club also notes that SXSW does have an official showcase for artists that have been targeted by the recent crackdown by staging Contrabanned: #MusicUnites.
In a series of tweets Walworth explained-
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. this festival uses an imperialist model and prioritizes centralizing and packaging culture over communities & people’s safety […] it’s no secret that sxsw has played a huge role in the process austin’s rapid gentrification. the whole festival exists to the detriment of working class people & 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 […] when we allow our alignment with institutions like this to be our metric for success as artists we are seriously failing I’d like to add that all artists received this contract. It’s the standard sxsw official showcase contract. did y’all read it? art friends: we don’t need to offer up our work in service to sxsw or any larger institution. we need to set up alternatives […] I’d like to urge everyone I’m close with to talk and think about this. Also it would be great if we all bailed on this at once
More information is sure to come soon.