SXSW Caught in Immigration Debate After Artist Bows Out Due to Controversial Contract
Told Slant won't perform at the festival over a contract provision stating that immigration agents may be contacted if acts perform "in ways that adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase."
A New York musician tweeted Thursday he will no longer perform at the SXSW Music Festival over a contract provision stating that U.S. immigration agents may be contacted if an international artist violates the performance agreement.
SXSW organizers responded by saying that Felix Walworth, who goes by the stage name Told Slant, had misunderstood their policies and that no artist in the festival's 30-plus-year history had been reported to federal immigration agents.
Walworth's tweet drew swift reaction on social media and comes amid heightened fears of immigration crackdowns under President Donald Trump. Walworth singled out a portion of the event contract that states "SXSW will notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities" if organizers determine an artist acts in ways that "adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase."
SXSW co-founder Roland Swenson said in a statement the contract clause was merely a safeguard in case an artist does "something truly egregious" such as disobeying rules about pyrotechnics, starting a brawl or causing safety issues.
SXSW envelops Austin each year with hundreds of "unofficial" events around the city in addition to the official showcases that require festival credentials. Swenson said the contract warns artists that U.S. immigration authorities "can create trouble" for international artists who don't obtain a work visa and perform at an unofficial SXSW event.
"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," Swenson said.
Walworth had tweeted a picture of the contract language and seemed to encourage other invited bands to also boycott the festival.
"Can our first step toward coalition as artists with radical politics be to cancel all our official showcases at sxsw? I'm serious just do it.," Walworth tweeted. He did not immediately respond to an email seeking further comment.
Swenson said SXSW "has been vocal in its opposition to President Trump's travel ban" and is working with attorneys to help artists who may have trouble entering the U.S. for the event.