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This year’s SXSW is quickly approaching (It’ll be held this year from March 10-19 in Austin, Texas) and is one of the most polarizing and unique festivals in the whole country. It typically gives acts a platform that they aren’t usually afforded. Today, one of those acts has expressed concern with some actions that SXSW seems to be taking—or, at least, is threatening to be taking.

Felix Walworth of Brooklyn’s Told Slant tweeted that, among other things, the festival’s contract (said to be sent to all performing acts) threatens that “SXSW Will notify the appropriate U.S. Immigration authorities of the above [violating] actions.” It’s not perceived as a particularly unusual clause in a contract, as Stereogum notes, but given the political climate of late, the festival’s location in Texas, and an increased focus recently on illegal immigration by both the media and the federal government, certain things and phrasing take on new meanings and perceptions.

To be more clear, the restrictions and threats are largely against acts that are hailing from outside the United States. There are both official and unofficial showcases at SXSW typically—with the official ones costing quite a bit more money to become involved with. Of course, all face the penalty of being removed from hotels and the festival itself, but non-American acts will face the possibility, as Walworth’s screenshot shows, of coming subject to a U.S. Immigration agency, and perhaps being removed from the country.

As a result, Told Slant has pulled their showcase from the festival, and is urging fellow acts to do the same. Read Walworth’s Twitter thread below:


Walworth echoed the sentiment once more with a plea for fellow artists.


We’ve reached out to both Walworth/Told Slant as well as SXSW and are awaiting comment from both.

UPDATE: We’ve received this statement from SXSW:

            SXSW Official Statement

Attributable to Roland Swenson, SXSW CEO and Co-Founder

SXSW has been vocal in its opposition to President Trump’s Travel Ban and is working hard to build a coalition of attorneys to assist artists with issues at U.S. ports of entry during the event. We have artists from 62 countries from around the world performing and have always supported our international music community. We have never reported international showcasing artists to immigration authorities.

We were sorry to learn that one of our invited performers chose to cancel his performance at this year’s SXSW Music Festival due to a misunderstanding of our policies regarding international artists.

We understand that given the current political climate surrounding immigration, the language that was published seems strong. Violating U.S. immigration law has always carried potentially severe consequences, and we would be remiss not to warn our participating acts of the likely repercussions.

Language governing SXSW’s ability to protect a showcase has been in the artist Performance Agreement for many years. It is, and always was intended to be, a safeguard to provide SXSW with a means to respond to an act that does something truly egregious, such as disobeying our rules about pyrotechnics on stage, starting a brawl in a club, or causing serious safety issues.

The SXSW Performance Agreement states:

If SXSW determines, in its sole discretion, that Artist or its representatives have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability of Artist’s official SXSW showcase, the following actions are available to SXSW:
○      Artist will be removed from their official SXSW showcase and, at SXSW’s sole option, replaced.
○      Any hotels booked via SXSW Housing will be canceled.
○      Artist’s credentials will be canceled.
○      SXSW will notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities of the above actions.

We hope never to be put in the position to act on this. Indeed, we spend a great deal of time communicating with international artists concerning numerous issues, including how to avoid issues at U.S. ports of entry.

Moreover, there is language in the Performance Agreement which is included to inform foreign artists that the U.S. immigration authorities have mechanisms to create trouble for artists who ignore U.S. immigration laws. For example, those acts coming to SXSW to perform without a work visa are limited, by U.S. immigration law, to performing their showcase event only. If an artist wishes to perform elsewhere, they will require a work visa.

As such, both to protect SXSW and the interests of all the participating artists, we long ago added this language to our Performance Agreement:
1.4. Foreign Artists entering the country through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), B visa or any non-work visa may not perform at any public or unofficial shows, DAY OR NIGHT, in Austin from March 10-19, 2017. Accepting and performing at unofficial events (including unofficial events aside from SXSW Music dates during their visit to the United States) may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport and denied entry by US Customs Border Patrol at US ports of entry. For more information, please visit these pages:
1.4.3.SXSW general visa FAQ: http://www.sxsw.com/travel/visa-faq


Felix Walworth has responded to the SXSW statement:


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