SXSW’s Artist Contracts Threatens To Contact Immigration Should Artists Play Unofficial Shows

Author : Marco Sgalbazzini
March 02, 2017

SXSW’s Artist Contracts Threatens To Contact Immigration Should Artists Play Unofficial Shows

Excerpts of SXSW contracts posted online reveal that the Austin-based festival will “notify the appropriate U.S. Immigration authorities” if they find foreign artists are playing non-SXSW sanctioned events in the city.

The online post came from indie artist Felix Walworth, who posted a screenshot of the contract to his Twitter stating that as a result he decided to cancel Told Slant’s performance at the festival. The screenshot clearly shows the risk that artists performing at non-SXSW events during the festival week will face: they will not only have their credentials revoked, but will have their cases turned over to the US immigration authorities, who may revoke their passport, immediately deport them and/or ban them from US ports of entry.


SXSW does not procure work visa for its performers and artists outside of the United States, meaning that they are expected to enter the country on a B (visitor) visa, visa waiver or other non-work visa to perform at SXSW, making it illegal for the artists to get paid if they perform anywhere outside of the festival. It is understandable that given the current political climate, including the rise in immigration raids and the like, the contract clause is garnering a lot of attention.

Others on Twitter replying to Walworth have stated that the clause has existed for a few years, but that it’s perhaps becoming an “issue” now due to the divided state of affairs in the country.

As reported by, “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.'”

6AM has reached out to SXSW for further comment.

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