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Musicians' union asking SXSW for better pay

The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers is asking festival organizers for better pay, complimentary wristbands and no application fees.

AUSTIN, Texas — A group representing dozens of performers is asking South by Southwest (SXSW) for better compensation.

The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers sent SXSW a letter on Feb. 7, stating that, for at least a decade, the festival has offered its showcasing artists either a one-time payment of $250 – $100 for solo artists – or a wristband to attend the festival. 

According to the letter, international artists don't have this choice and are only offered a wristband with no possibility for compensation.

Meanwhile, the letter states that "while SXSW has maintained these insultingly low wages since at least 2012, the festival has regularly increased its application fees." The letter says the application fee is currently $55.

"Even without accounting for skyrocketing inflation, these stagnant wages and growing fees have meant an actual decrease in wages for SXSW performers over the past decade," the letter states.

The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers is asking that SXSW accommodate the following demands:

  • Increase the compensation for showcases from $250 to at least $750 for all performers
  • Include a festival wristband in addition to financial compensation and stop forcing artists to choose between being paid and attending the festival they are performing at
  • Provide the same compensation and wristband deal to international artists and domestic U.S. artists
  • End the application fee

The Feb. 7 letter was signed by hundreds of artists.

According to a report from KVUE's media partners at the Austin American-Statesman, 5,001 artists applied to SXSW in 2022. A spokesperson for the festival said that of the 1,501 artists who were accepted, only 128 chose the compensation option.

A spokesperson also sent the Statesman the following statement in response to the letter:

"SXSW is honored to host over 1,400 showcasing acts every March. We are committed to creating professional opportunities by bringing emerging artists together with media, the global music industry, and influential audiences. We appreciate the feedback from the UMAW and will be doing our policy review after next month’s event."

SXSW 2023 is scheduled for March 10 through March 19.

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