Music

SXSW Reportedly Threatens To Notify ICE If International Acts Violate Their Policies

Earlier today, Felix Walworth, a member of the bands Told Slant, Eskimeaux, and Bellows, took to Twitter to share a portion of the contract they claim to have received to perform at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. The language is pretty severe and has more than a few people raising their eyebrows.

The excerpt warns participants of the ramifications of performing in a capacity outside of the official SXSW showcase. The consequences for international acts are especially severe, with the festival claiming they will reach out to U.S. immigration authorities if their policies are not followed.

“SXSW will notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities of the above actions. International Artists entering the country through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), B visa or any non-work visa may not perform at any public or non-sanctioned SXSW Music Festival DAY OR NIGHT shows in Austin from March 13-19, 2017. Accepting and performing unofficial events may result in the immediate deportation, revoked passport and and denied entry by US Customs Border Patrol at US ports of entry.”

As a result of the language in the contract, Walworth has decided to cancel Told Slant’s performance at SXSW and has reached out to other acts on the bill to do the same.

Given how commonplace these extra, unofficial gigs have been in the past throughout the duration of SXSW, the penalties outlined here are especially stunning; potentially career-ending for any band that the organizers deem run afoul of their rules.

SXSW eventually reached out and provided this statement from managing director Roland Swenson:

“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.”

Walworth also shared a video of the email they received to indicate that they didn’t alter the presentation in any way:

A number of bands including PWR BTTM, Priests, Screaming Females, Helado Negro, Immortal Technique, Allison Crutchfield, Sad13, Merchandise, Jay Som, Girlpool, Sheer Mag, and Downtown Boys have also signed an open letter calling for SXSW to drop this clause from their contract. Read the letter here.

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