An artist scheduled to appear at the 2017 SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas has pulled out of a scheduled performance, citing threatening language related to immigration in the festival's official contract.
Told Slant a.k.a. Felix Walworth announced their decision on Twitter and revealed the pertinent clauses in the contract.
"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 later tweeted.
SXSW managing director Roland Swenson defended the language to Austin360.com. He accused Walworth of editing "“two different parts of the artist agreement” together in order to create “a much worse impression than what is real.” In response, Walworth tweeted out the contract he allegedly received from SXSW, in which the relevant sections are in the same locations as in Walworth's original tweet.
The intimidating clauses all come under a section of the contract labelled 'EXCLUSIVITY'. It lists all the actions "available to SXSW" if the festival decides an artist has "adversely affect[ed] the viability of their official SXSW showcase." The festival may choose to cancel the shows and offending artist's hotel, and "notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities." Swenson claimed that SXSW would only pursue these measures as a last resort, and for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the "exclusivity" of a single concert. “If somebody did something really horrific, like disobey rules about pyrotechnics, starting a brawl, or if they killed somebody.”
The language of the contract is blunt about the risks of performing unofficial shows around SXSW. "Accepting and performing unofficial events may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport and denied entry by US Customs Border Patrol at US ports of entry." Swenson claims that the company is simply “telling the acts what immigration (authorities) would do” if they happened to discover an artist performing for compensation in the United States under any non-work visa.
“In the post-Trump era, it looks different than how it was intended, and how it was received in the past,” Swenson said.
The FADER has reached out to SXSW for comment.
Update, March 2, 8:20 p.m.: SXSW have issued a statement. Read below.
"We were very sorry to learn that this Brooklyn-based artist chose to cancel their performance at this year’s SXSW Music Festival due to a misunderstanding of our policies regarding international artists.
"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."
SXSW also claimed Roland Swenson's characterizations of Walworth's original email were based on incorrect information.
"As we were working to respond to all the inquiries today, we were looking at the performance agreements that we started sending out in September, which didn't match what they posted. Later, we learned that it came from the invitation letter.
But it was still a leap to accuse us of threatening deportation, when we were primarily trying to emphasize the consequences of violating the terms of their visas."