sxsw threatens to call immigration on artists who play unofficial shows

March 3, 2017

Ahead of SXSW, musician Felix Walworth tweeted a picture of a contract they were sent regarding their appearance at the Austin festival that revealed the conference and festival’s plan to curtail unofficial performances. Unsanctioned performances and showcases around the time of the festival are pretty common, as they’re an opportunity for artists to maximize their exposure and avoid the costly fees to perform at an official showcase. This year, SXSW says that if international artists participate in these unofficial events, SXSW will “notify the appropriate U.S. Immigration authorities of the above actions,” and 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.“ Oh, okay.

Artists from the United States who participate in unofficial performances are still subject to minor penalties, like canceled hotels and revoked festival passes. But those temporary inconveniences pale in comparison to the traumatic experience of being carried away by ICE and deported to a country they may not even be based in. Never mind the legal penalties and the possibility of never gaining entry to the U.S. again. Contrary to this response to unsigned artists looking for exposure, SXSW has attempted to show support for artists who have been targeted by President Trump’s crackdown on immigrants by staging a single showcase, ‘Contrabanned: #MusicUnites.’
In response to receiving the contract, Brooklyn-based Walworth canceled their band’s (Told Slant) performance at SXSW. Since the tweet went out, SXSW has issued several statements clarifying their opposition against Trump’s Travel Ban and the fact that SXSW will not be deporting folks itself and that deportation is ‘just’ something that may occur at ICE’s discretion.

By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor

Photo via Told Slant

*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK’s editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at