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SXSW responds to criticism amid artist boycott

Dozens of acts have pulled out of performing at this year's festival in protest at SXSW's partnerships with the military

By James Hanley on 13 Mar 2024

Sixth Street during SXSW

image © Marlon Giles

South By Southwest (SXSW) says it “fully” respects the decision of dozens of artists to pull out of this year’s event in protest of the festival’s ties to the US Army and defence industry.

Acts such as Squirrel Flower, Kneecap, Lambrini Girls, Sprints, Proper, Eliza McLamb, Mamalarky, Scowl, Gel and Okay Shalom cancelled scheduled sets in response to the military’s support for Israel in the war in Gaza.

SXSW 2024 runs in Austin, Texas, from 8-16 March and typically attracts more than 300,000 attendees to each annual edition.

The army is listed as a “super sponsor” of the event, which has also agreed a number of defence industry partnerships.

Texas governor Greg Abbott posted yesterday (12 March) on X: “Bands pull out of SXSW over US Army sponsorship. Bye. Don’t come back. Austin remains the HQ for the Army Futures Command. San Antonio is Military City USA. We are proud of the US military in Texas. If you don’t like it, don’t come here.”

The tweet prompted a response from SXSW, which stressed it “does not agree” with Abbott’s viewpoint.

“We fully respect the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech”

“We are an organisation that welcomes diverse viewpoints,” it said via its official social media accounts. “Music is the soul of SXSW, and it has long been our legacy. We fully respect the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech.

“Across the globe, we are witnessing unspeakable tragedies, the rise of repressive regimes, and the increasing spread of violent conflict. It’s more crucial than ever that we come together to solve these greater humanitarian issues.”

The festival went on to explain its reasoning regarding the controversial sponsorship agreements.

“The defence industry has historically been a proving ground for many of the systems we rely on today,” it said. “These institutions are often leaders in emerging technologies, and we believe it’s better to understand how their approach will impact our lives.

“The Army’s sponsorship is part of our commitment to bring forward ideas that shape our world. In regard to Collins Aerospace, they participated this year as a sponsor of two SXSW Pitch categories, giving entrepreneurs visibility and funding for potentially game-changing work.

“We have and will continue to support human rights for all. The situation in the Middle East is tragic, and it illuminates the heightened importance of standing together against injustice.”


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