- 07 Feb 23
"Enough is enough. Artists have built SXSW and we must be fairly compensated for our work."
The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers has issued an open letter asking for higher pay for the artists performing at SXSW.
The non-profit organisation has already racked up signatures from over 120 artists which include Eve 6, Guy Picciotto, Vijay Iyer, Zola Jesus, and Wednesday that call for higher rates of pay in order to better compensate musicians.
“The cost of touring, and the overall cost of living, have soared over the past decade, but SXSW has continued to offer the same disrespectful deal to artists,” UMAW’s Joey La Neve DeFrancesco shared in a statement.
“The festival has continued to grow, and openly brags about the hundreds of millions of dollars it generates for Austin. Yet the artists who are the backbone of the festival continue to be mistreated,” it continued.
The open letter outlines that over the course of the past ten years, compensation for artists based in the US has come in the form of $250, or the option to receive a wristband to attend the festival as a guest in place of payment, whereas international acts are only offered the wristband option. The letter also outlines how the application charges have increased for artists who wish to play at the festival, noting a rise from $40 to $55 over the past ten years.
— Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (@UMAW_) February 7, 2023
The UMAW are calling for a $750 pay rise to all artists who commit to performing at the festival, and a wristband for each performer, as well as the same payment and wristband options to international artists alongside US ones. A removal of the application fee has also been demanded, which has resulted in an “actual decrease in wages for SXSW performers over the past decade,” according to the letter.
South by Southwest is owned in part by Penske Media Corporation- the same that owns major publications Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Variety. In his statement, UMAW’s Joel Jerome has stated, “The fact that the billionaire Penske family now owns the festival makes the low payments even more insulting.”
In July 2022, the union worked with Congressional Representative of Michigan, Rashida Tlaib in order to propose legislation for a new streaming royalty. This followed previous protests organised by the UMAW in over 30 cities worldwide which called for increased transparency from Spotify. This was also when they launched the Justice at Spotify campaign in 2020, advocating for a per-stream royalty rate of at least one cent, and a user-centric payment model, among other suggestions.
Read the full letter here.