SXSW Festival Slammed for 'Deportation' Language in Performance Agreement

Mar 2, 2017

South by Southwest organizers are under fire after Brooklyn-based artist Told Slant bashed the festival’s performance agreement and canceled their appearance.

By Thursday evening, the tweet had been retweeted more than 2,000 times.

The agreement states that SXSW will notify the appropriate U.S. immigration authorities under certain circumstances. Felix Walworth, the musician behind Told Slant, tweeted that they did not want to support an institution that was “willing to threaten deportation” and encouraged other artists to drop out as well. 

Roland Swenson, CEO and co-founder of SXSW, called the incident a misunderstanding and noted that the festival had “never reported international showcasing artists to immigration authorities.”

“We understand that given the current political climate surrounding immigration, the language that was published seems strong,” he said in a statement. “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.”

He said the language governing SXSW’s ability to protect a showcase had been in the performance agreement for years and was intended to be “a safeguard to provide SXSW with a means to respond to an act that does something truly egregious” and inform foreign artists of visa requirements.