SXSW Musician Compensation, Application Fee Criticized in Petition – The Hollywood Reporter

An activist group of workers in the music industry that has previously pressed Spotify for increased royalty rates has trained its sights on SXSW.

On Tuesday the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) published a petition signed by hundreds of artists that called on the Austin-based film, media and music festival to improve the compensation offered to “showcasing artists” (an international group of often indie musicians that perform at the festival each year) on its lineup. The petition, which was signed by Pedro the Lion, Jackie Mendoza and Katy Rea, contends that the festival has, “for at least a decade,” offered performing artists either a onetime payment of $250 for artists performing in a group, or $100 for solo artists, or a wristband to attend the festival in compensation for their performance. International musicians, the group says, can only receive a wristband in exchange for their performances per the festival’s current rules.

At the same time, UMAW adds, the festival has increased application fees from $40 in 2012 to $55 today. “Enough is enough. Artists have built SXSW and we must be fairly compensated for our work,” the petition says. The undersigned artists are asking the festival to increase showcase compensation to “at least $750 for all performers,” both domestic and international, to include a festival wristband alongside compensation and to scrap the festival’s application fee.

“The festival brings high profile politicians and business people from all over the world for high level speeches, panels, and networking. Yet SXSW continues to severely mistreat the artists who are the backbone of the enterprise. We demand fair pay for musicians at SXSW,” the petition states.

In a comment, SXSW — whose latest edition is set to run March 10-19 — says it “appreciate[s] the feedback from the UMAW and will be doing our policy review after next month’s event.”

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Penske Media for comment. Penske Media, the owner of THR, invested in SXSW in April 2021 as part of what it described as a long-term partnership with the festival.

SXSW’s 2023 edition is set to spotlight more than 300 showcasing artists including Sunflower Bean, Ambré, The Zombies and Painted Shield, among others.

The UMAW, a collective of producers, musicians and live-music workers, previously advocated for Spotify to pay artists more royalties and to improve transparency when it comes to contracts and business dealings. The group’s Spotify petition was signed by thousands, and inspired U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib to introduce a resolution calling for the U.S. government to establish a direct royalty program for artists whose work is played on music streaming services.

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