120 artists sign open letter demanding higher pay at SXSW festival

today09/02/2023 17

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An open letter published by The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) has called for higher pay for artists performing at Texas festival SXSW.

Signed by over 120 artists including Zola Jesus, Sammus and Vijay Iyer, the letter calls on SXSW’s owner Penske Media, to increase the minimum fee for playing the festival, which currently stands at $250 (£205) for groups or $100 (£82) for solo artists, or a wristband for entering the festival, via Pitchfork reporting.

Citing the rising costs of living, touring and more expensive application fees to play the festival, the UMAW letter calls the current compensation “insulting”, and calls for four action points.

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These are increasing the pay to $750 for all performers, including a festival wristband for those performing, providing the same fee and wristband to domestic and international performers, and ending the application fee.

The letter reads: “Since SXSW launched in 1987, musicians have been the festival’s backbone and main draw.

“Yet despite SXSW’s consistently growing profits and ever-expanding programming over the past 30+ years, the musicians performing at the festival have been exploited with low pay, high application fees, and other insults,” it continued.

“For at least a decade, SXSW has offered its showcasing artists the same unjust compensation options: either take a wristband to attend the festival, or receive a one time payment of $250 (or $100 for solo artists). International artists do not even have this choice, and are only offered a wristband with no possibility for compensation.

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“While SXSW has maintained these insultingly low wages since at least 2012, the festival has regularly increased its application fees.

“Enough is enough. Artists have built SXSW and we must be fairly compensated for our work.”

The letter also cites the financial muscle of Penske Media, as the owner of Rolling Stone, Billboard, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, ARTnews and more, as well as its CEO Jay Penske being “worth roughly a quarter of a billion dollars.”

SXSW responded to the letter in a statement to the aforementioned Penske-owned Hollywood Reporter, which said it “appreciate[s] the feedback from the UMAW and will be doing our policy review after next month’s event”.

To read the letter in full or to sign the letter click here.

Isaac Muk is Mixmag’s Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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