SXSW Taking Heat For International Artist Deportation Clause


deportation clause

An interesting turn of events that still goes to show that while Austin maybe the championed city of the southern United States for “keeping it weird”, it seems they still have a while to go when it comes to international issues. Yesterday, Felix Walworth of the bands Told Slant, Eskimeaux, and Bellows came forth to the internet and tweeted a photo of their South by Southwest contract and found a surprising deportation clause in the fine print.


Upon further investigation, the contract reveals SXSW’s intentions of stopping non-sanctioned events and performances by stating that they will “notify the appropriate U.S. Immigration authorities of the above actions,” and that by “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.”

To make the trip worth while for many international artists and bands, they will often play multiple gigs a day alongside the official events they have been booked to maximize the exposure received during their stay in Austin. These unofficial day parties and showcases aren’t a new concept and have been nothing short of commonplace at the massive nearly two-week long festival for quite some time now. There are however, repercussions for violations of the stated policies above for artists residing in the United States such as canceled hotels and revoked SXSW badges but those are minuscule in nature comparatively so to their international counterparts; putting the artists’ careers at risk and even worse, impacting their possible return to the United States.


Amidst this new development, SXSW has already been showing support for artists targeted by the crackdown by throwing an official showcase to feature artists affected by the recent halt of visitors from seven primarily Muslim countries called Contrabanned: #MusicUnites. Along with the musical portion, panels have been set up in order to shed light on the topic.

Managing director of South by Southwest Roland Swenson made an unofficial comment Thursday afternoon towards Slant’s call for boycott and cancellation during an interview with Austin 360 which states that the post on Twitter comes from “two different parts of the artist agreement” that were joined together in order to paint “a much worse impression than what is real.” This was countered and later clarified by Swenson that the two sections did appear in sequence on SXSW’s invitation letter but in fact, the language does appear in two different places on the official artist agreement provided by SXSW. He was also quoted saying “if somebody did something really horrific, like disobey rules about pyrotechnics, starting a brawl, or if they killed somebody” was when the harshest penalties threatened in the contract would be applied.

Swenson’s official statement:

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.

The SXSW Performance Agreement states:

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

We hope never to be put in the position to act on this. 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 non-work 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. For more information, please visit these pages:1.4.1.(B Visa / ESTA) Visas) general visa FAQ:

Via: A.V. Club