Told Slant Cancels SXSW Appearance Over Contract's Deportation Threat (Updated)

Gary Miller/FilmMagic
A general view of the atmosphere on 6th street in downtown Austin during the South By Southwest Music Festival on March 20, 2015 in Austin, Texas.  

The blow-back from the policy could be enormous.

Brooklyn-based act Told Slant were scheduled to perform at this year’s SXSW as an official artist for the first time, but today (March 2) the group canceled their appearance. This because the Austin-based festival's policy to notify US immigration authorities if SXSW determines that “[participating] acts or their representatives have acted in ways that adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase.”

In regards to artists that have traveled to the festival from out of the country the contract, in part, reads:

International Artists entering the country through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), B visa, or any non-work visa may not perform at any public or non-sanctioned SXSW Music Festival DAY OR NIGHT shows in Austin from March 13-19, 2017. Accepting and performing unofficial events may result in immediate deportation, revoked passport, or denied entry by US Customs Border Patrol at US points of entry.


Acts performing at non-sanctioned SXSW Music Festival events is something that happens every year and something the organizers have been trying to cut down on for just as long--albeit not in such a heavy-handed manner. The blow-back from this policy could be enormous.

Since this story was originally published SXSW has issued the following statement to this story.

Full Statment by 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.

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.

This story originally appeared on Stereogum.