SXSW removes 'deportation clause' from artists contracts

Clarisse Loughrey

Controversy erupted last year at SXSW (South by Southwest Festival) when statements from contracts issued to artists referring to immigration went viral.

Specifically, the contracts originally warned performers that violations that would "adversely affect the viability of their official SXSW showcase" would result in the notification of "appropriate US immigration authorities".

Those in the music community became concerned as acts are often known to play surprise and secret shows throughout the festival, though organisers remain against the trend; the phrasing of the contract was interpreted by some to include these "surprise shows" amongst the list of possible violations.

The clause became an intense point of discussion when band Told Slant posted a screenshot of the contract to Twitter and declared they would not be attending the festival in protest, with many other artists lending their support.

However, SXSW at the time stated: "there are no 'deportation clauses' in our current performance agreements. There will be no 'deportation clauses' in our future participant agreements."

Furthermore, SXSW CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson stated (via Variety) that the festival has never reported an international artist to immigration authorities before, and that the contract's language was meant to be a safeguard in case artists did something in the extreme, like start a brawl or cause safety issues.

However, it's now emerged that festival organisers have followed through on their promises. Pitchfork obtained the relevant artist contract for 2018 and reported that it now reads instead: "An Artist seeking to enter the United States to perform at SXSW is solely responsible for obtaining any applicable visa(s) and complying with all pertinent immigration rules."

"To secure Artist’s spot in SXSW Music, Artist agrees to notify SXSW about how Artist intends to enter the U.S. (what type of visa or if using the Visa Waiver Program) by February 5, 2018."

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