Following criticism for its low compensation for live music acts, SXSW has begrudgingly agreed to a pay increase for artists. Here’s the latest.
Applications for SXSW 2024 opened this week and include a slight pay bump from previous offerings. $350 per group and $150 for solo artists. That’s a bump of $100 for a group and $50 for solo performers. The new rates were posted earlier this month on the SXSW website, but the organization didn’t advertise the increase.
What hasn’t changed is that artists don’t get paid and get access to the festival—they have to choose. Be paid and pay for the festival, or get paid in a wristband to experience the festival.
SXSW said it is expanding the perks that come with the wristband, including free meals and drinks. The $35 application fee which was also criticized is still in place, though SXSW said it will waive the fee for “specific local music organizations” without specifying the waiver requirements. International artists still won’t be paid monetarily and only have the option of accepting a wristband.
Artists have been critical of SXSW and its low pay, calling it exploitative. Austin musician Thor Harris has spoken out about the festival’s handling of artists. “SXSW’s pay structure has been one of their most shameful aspects the entire time,” Harris told KUT 90.5 last year about his experience.
“You do well and get accepted into SXSW, then you’re not supposed to say anything about the pitiful pay,” adds Audrey Campbell, the frontwoman for a garage-punk band called Pleasure Venom. “Because being booked feels good, and it’s what you’re supposed to be doing as a musician, right?”
Thousands of artists signed a petition demanding SXSW pay its artists more—asking owner Penske Media for a bump to $750 for performers. “As much money as SXSW makes here, they can spare $750 plus wristbands for each artist or band, international or not,” Campbell adds. “I don’t know of another legitimate festival that makes you choose between the two. It’s just ridiculously exploitative.”