Artist Scheduled for SXSW Cancels Appearance Over Immigration Clause in Contract

A musical group named Told Slant, scheduled to play at this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, which begins March 10, has canceled is appearance due to concerning language in the festival's contract. 

In a tweet yesterday, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based musician Felix Walworth posted wording from the agreement, which includes this:

"If SXSW determines, in its sole discretion, that showcasing acts or their representatives have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase, the following actions are available to SXSW:
• Artist will be removed from their official showcase and, at SXSW's sole option, replaced.
• Artist credentials will be canceled.
• SXSW will notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities of the above actions."

In a later tweet, Walworth said, "The managing director of SXSW accused me of pasting together two parts of the contract to make it sound worse than it is." This was posted along with a video of him scrolling through the contract on his phone through the pertinent passage in the agreement.

Festival officials responded to a related story in the Austin American-Statesman with this statement, attributable to Roland Swenson, SXSW CEO and co-founder:

"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.

"We hope never to be put in the position to act on [the offending clause]. Indeed, we spend a great deal of time communicating with international artists concerning numerous issues, including how to avoid issues at U.S. ports of entry.

"Moreover, there is language in the Performance Agreement which is included to inform foreign artists that the U.S. immigration authorities have mechanisms to create trouble for artists who ignore U.S. immigration laws. For example, those acts coming to SXSW to perform without a work visa are limited, by U.S. immigration law, to performing their showcase event only. If an artist wishes to perform elsewhere, they will require a work visa.

"As such, both to protect SXSW and the interests of all the participating artists, we long ago added this language to our Performance Agreement:

" '1.4. Foreign Artists entering the country through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), B visa or any nonwork visa may not perform at any public or unofficial shows, DAY OR NIGHT, in Austin from March 10-19, 2017. Accepting and performing at unofficial events (including unofficial events aside from SXSW Music dates during their visit to the United States) may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport and denied entry by US Customs Border Patrol at US ports of entry.' "