Culture

South by Southwest Willing to Refer Foreign Artists to Immigration for Violating Terms of Contract

One artist has already pulled out of this year's show. Update: The festival's managing director responds.

Photo Credit: melis / Shutterstock

Like all music festivals, South by Southwest is a hustle, with musicians often scrambling to maximize their earnings. They're in Austin already, so why not play that extra set at The Continental Club or The Mohawk? Sometimes these gigs are authorized by the event's organizers, and sometimes they're not. 

For American artists, such an infraction can cost them hotel reservations or their SXSW badge. But for international artists, it can mean their livelihoods. 

On Thursday, Felix Walworth of Told Slant, Eskimeaux and Bellows fame tweeted a picture of the contract he was sent in advance of this year's festivities. One of its clauses stipulates 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."

Stereogum is careful to point out that this language is not new to SXSW contracts, and in Contrabanned: #MusicUnites, the festival has made an effort to showcase artists directly impacted by a recent executive order banning refugees and green-card holders from seven Muslim countries. Nonetheless, clauses like these assume an especially sinister light in Donald Trump's America, where large-scale ICE raids have become a regular occurrence. 

Told Slant has canceled its performance and is urging fellow artists to do the same:

UPDATE: South by Southwest managing director has responded to Walworth. More from The A.V. Club:

South by Southwest managing director Roland Swenson has commented on Slant’s cancellation and call for boycott in an interview with Austin 360, saying the image posted to Twitter is an amalgamation of “two different parts of the artist agreement” that portray “a much worse impression than what is real.” Swenson says the section about non-work visa violations is just “telling the acts what immigration (authorities) would do” if terms of their visas are violated, while the upper part applies to performers or management who “have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase.” However, Swenson says all of the harshest penalties threatened in the contract—including notifying immigration authorities—would only be invoked “if somebody did something really horrific, like disobey rules about pyrotechnics, starting a brawl, or if they killed somebody.”

H/T The A.V. Club

Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.

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