The UAW Publishes Open Letter to SXSW Demanding Fair Pay for Musicians

SXSW letter from musicians UAW
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SXSW letter from musicians UAW
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Photo Credit: Karsten Winegeart

The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers has published an open letter to SXSW, demanding fair pay for musicians.

Hundreds of bands and artists have signed the letter, including Eve 6, The Mountain Goats, YACHT, Pedro the Lion, Zola Jesus, and many more—new signatures are rolling in by the hour. The letter is addressed to the SXSW Festival and Penske Media

“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.”

“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 of compensation.”

“While SXSW has maintained these insultingly low wages since at least 2012, the festival has regularly increased its application fees. For instance, in 2012 the fee was $40, and now it’s $55—a 37.5% increase. 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 UAW and undersigned artists are demanding three changes from SXSW for the upcoming festival. Those changes include:

  1. Increase the compensation for showcases from $250 to $750 for ALL performers.
  2. Include a festival wristband in addition to financial compensation. 
  3. Provide the same compensation + wristband combo to both domestic and international artists. 
  4. End the application fee. 

SXSW regularly boasts about bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the Austin economy. The festival is now owned by Penske Media—the owners of Rolling Stone, Billboard, Variety, and the Hollywood trade publications. SXSW continues to severely mistreat the artists who are the backbone of the enterprise and so these musicians are demanding fair pay at the festival.