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Several Musicians Pulling Out of SXSW Showcases, Citing Festival Sponsorship From Defense Contractor and the U.S. Military

'SXSW invites war profiteers, platforms the CIA and severely underpays its artists,' claims Austin band Big Bill. 'Do better, SXSW."

Source: SXSW
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Over the past several days, multiple artists have announced they are pulling out of their official showcases at SXSW, the annual March festival of music, film and interactive media in Austin, Texas. In several cases, protesting musicians have specifically objected to the event's ties to defense contractor RTX Corporation (formerly Raytheon), as well as SXSW's "super sponsor," the U.S. Army.

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Ella Williams, aka Squirrel Flower, posted an open letter explaining her decision to drop out of SXSW.

Leading the charge on this boycott is Chicago-based musician Ella Williams, aka Squirrel Flower, who posted on her Instagram account about her decision to drop out of the festival. In short order, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Eliza McLamb, Brooklyn artist Shalom and Atlanta-based indie-psych group Mamalarky have also stepped down, with Austin band Big Bill posting an anti-SXSW schedule of their non-festival-affiliated shows and noting with an asterisk: "SXSW invites war profiteers, platforms the CIA and severely underpays its artists. Do better, SXSW."

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Source: Press

Eliza McLamb was one of several musicians to pull out of SXSW this past week.

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In her statement, Williams said: "I have decided to pull out of my official SXSW showcases in protest of SXSW’s ties to the defense industry and in support of the Palestinian people... There are many ways SXSW is harmful to working musicians, but I am pulling out specifically because of the fact that SXSW is platforming defense contractors including Raytheon subsidiaries as well as the U.S. Army, a main sponsor of the festival."

According to The Austin Chronicle, the U.S. Army "hosts several events at the festival, including a presentation on technology innovation featuring Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and an official 'This Is Our House' activation in collaboration with the U.S. Navy and SPIN magazine." In addition, "Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of RTX Corporation (formerly Raytheon), will co-host the 'Boundary Breakers: The Next Leap in Government and Defense Innovation' event alongside entrepreneur network MassChallenge and defense software company Second Front Systems."

All this seems light-years removed from SXSW's humble beginnings in 1987 as an alternative to New York's New Music Seminar, where ongoing growth has also seen the festival come under fire over issues of crowd control and safety. In 2014, a drunk driver drove his car into festival attendees while trying to evade a traffic stop, killing four people. And in a news article from The Guardian, last year saw an open letter from the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) "asking the festival to increase performance fees to $750 and provide a wristband to all artists. Later that year, the Austin Parks and Recreation Board recommended that Austin City Council reconsider its relationships with SXSW until the festival increased pay rates. Fees for SXSW 2024 were raised to $350 for bands and $150 for solo artists, while international artists are still only offered a wristband. An SXSW 2024 music pass costs $995."

SXSW has offered no official statement ahead of the event's opening this Friday, Mar. 8.


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