After yesterday’s discovery and publication of some questionable language used in the contracts for musical acts participating in official SXSW showcases, and Brooklyn band Told Slant’s cancellation of their appearance at the festival, today a number of very notable and renowned acts have responded.
In a letter cosigned by acts including, but not limited to legendary rapper Killer Mike, rising-star rockers PWR BTTM, punk rock icon Ted Leo, Evan Greer—a touring queer singer/songwriter and the campaign director for Fight for the Future—penned an open letter that was published on Huffington Post, demanding that SXSW rescind the language used in the contract, publicly apologize, and affirm that the festival is, indeed, a welcome space for all artists.
— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) March 3, 2017
The letter goes on to include statements from agreeing artists, including the following:
From Victoria Ruiz and Joey L DeFrancesco of the Downtown Boys:
“SXSW host’s a festival that has some potential benefits for artists. While it is a great time to get your music and possibly message out, there is a huge cost to artists. Many of us have to play underpaid shows in hopes that it can give our careers a boost in the future. If we had responsible arts and culture funding and support, we would not have to play SXSW in order to secure a financially viable future as touring musicians. So many of the artists playing the festival are addressing and confronting the very power structures that SXSW is perpetuating through their threats towards international musicians. We demand an end to their threats and a public apology for their anti-immigrant and therefore racist stated policy. Cities, counties, and states have all been urged to cease collaboration with ICE, we demand the same of music festivals.”
From Punk band Anti-Flag:
“The core message of Anti-Flag is very simple. Empathy. Regardless of color of skin, gender, economic status, and especially where someone is born. This message is the reason we named our band as such. What SXSW is doing is not just unreasonable, it’s directly playing into the fear mongering and xenophobia coming out of the White House.”
From rapper Immortal Technique:
“Seriously SXSW this is ridiculous. I’m urging fellow artists to not play there until this is fixed.”
From The Kominas:
“SXSW should support, not eliminate the voices of the marginalized. Stop collaborating with federal forces removing those who need to be heard most urgently”
We will be continuing to monitor this situation. The complete list of artists who have signed the open letter is below:
Sister Polygon Records
Don Giovanni Records
Try the Pie
Allison Crutchfield and the Fizz
Patrick Ferguson (drummer in Mike Mills, Powder Room, more)
Shannon and the Clams
Hank Wood and the Hammerheads
UPDATE: Immortal Technique tells us on Twitter that Zack de la Rocha is now a part of the list as well, with ‘many more coming.’
@brooklynmag Just got off the phone with Zack de la Rocha add him too and many more coming. This isn't going away
— Immortal Technique (@ImmortalTech) March 3, 2017
NYC Band Outernational, whose 2012 band was titled Todos Somos Ilegales (translated: We Are All Illegals), have also declared themselves a part of the list and movement:
— OUTERNATIONAL (@OUTERNATIONAL_) March 3, 2017
UPDATE—TUESDAY, March 7: After a drawn-out few days, SXSW has now conceded to remove the deportation threats from from contracts and letters written to bands, acts, and artists.
Four artists who led the efforts—Downtown Boys, Evan Greer, Priests, and Told Slant—released the following statements in the aftermath of SXSW agreeing to the change.
After mounting pressure from artists and the public, SXSW has chosen to do the right thing and has apologize for their contract language, pledged to remove deportation language from future contract, and promised not to work with ICE at this year’s festival. They also strongly condemned Trump’s immigration policies and his Muslim band. We applaud SXSW’s decision to stand with immigrants and against ICE, and are thrilled that collective action from musicians has worked to push a massive institution into taking a principled stand on an issue with ramifications far beyond next week’s festival in Austin.
SXSW’s decision was made following our collective effort from over 80+ artists – most of whom are scheduled to perform at the festival – to pressure the festival to make the changes. We sent out a public letter, a public petition was passed around, and masses of people called, tweeted, and emailed SXSW demanding that they make the changes. After some negotiating, the festival finally agreed to our demands. The effort shows that artists can and must take collective action to fight unjust policies within the cultural sphere. At this critical time we need to bring the struggle to every institution, and with this victory we’ve shown how it can be done. We’ve not only sent a message to large music festivals everywhere, but also to ICE and the Trump administration. We will fight them at every turn.
There’s so much more work to do, but we also want to celebrate this victory. Let’s keep pushing, and using our music as a tool and a weapon to change the world.
Additional statements from artists including Immortal Technique, Milo Royal, Sammus, Downtown Boys, Told Slant, Priests, and Evan Greer can be found at Greer’s Huffington Post story on the topic.