SXSW Cuts Ties With US Army After Significant Artist Protest

27 June 2024 | 12:15 pm | Mary Varvaris

SXSW’s termination of partnerships with the US Army and Collins Aerospace arrived after more than 80 artists boycotted this year’s festival.

SXSW 2024

SXSW 2024 (Supplied)

South By Southwest (SXSW) has ended its partnership with the US Army ahead of its 2025 festival after artists pulled out of this year’s event to protest the ongoing tragedy in Gaza.

The Guardian reports that SXSW has terminated its partnership with Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of weapons manufacturer RTX Corporation (formerly known as Raytheon), in addition to discontinuing its sponsorship deal with the US Army.

The music festival, arts, culture, tech and conference event shared the news via an update on its website. “After careful consideration, we are revising our sponsorship model,” SXSW notes on its FAQ page under the question ‘Will the US Army be a sponsor of SXSW 2025?’.

The post continued, “As a result, the US Army, and companies who engage in weapons manufacturing, will not be sponsors of SXSW 2025.”

SXSW’s termination of partnerships with the US Army and Collins Aerospace arrived after more than 80 artists boycotted this year’s festival, showing support for Palestine, citing the event’s alleged connections to the defence industry supporting Israel in its war on Gaza.

Artists protested against the US Army’s exhibit and Collins Aerospace’s appearance at SXSW. Ella Williams, AKA American musician Squirrel Flower, alleged that Raytheon had supplied weapons to the Israel Defence Forces.

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Williams led the boycott of this year’s SXSW. She was followed by artists, including punk rock act Proper., singer-songwriter Eliza McLamb, Brooklyn-based, South Africa-raised artist Shalom, and indie rock band Mamalarky.

In a statement posted to social media, Williams wrote: “I have decided to pull out of my official SXSW showcases in protest of SXSW’s ties to the defence industry and in support of the Palestinian people.

The statement continued, “Genocide profiteers like Raytheon supply weapons to the IDF, paid for by our taxes. A music festival should not include war profiteers. I refuse to be complicit in this and withdraw my art and labour in protest.”

Proper. added, “We’ve decided to drop off of our official SXSW showcase. They’re already shitty enough to artists, so learning yesterday that they’re working with Raytheon, who supplied missiles & bombs to the IDF, was alarming but somehow not surprising anymore.”

In a powerful statement, Shalom wrote, “I believe in the freedom of all oppressed people everywhere. I don’t believe in the US Army, and I don’t believe they belong at a music festival (or anywhere) as a super sponsor.

“I am not able to go along with something I know is fundamentally wrong. I am not able to abandon my morals for the sake of exposure. I am not able to process the insurmountable grief and cruelty the Palestinian people face on a daily basis. I don’t think they are able to either. Who is engineered to bear witness to daily massacres and an apartheid state-inflicted famine? Who is engineered to survive that?”

In response to the acts that pulled out of SXSW, Texas Governor Greg Abbott posted on X (formerly known as Twitter), “Bands pull out of SXSW over U.S. Army sponsorship. Bye. Don’t come back. Austin remains the HQ for the Army Futures Command. San Antonio is Military City USA. We are proud of the U.S. military in Texas. If you don’t like it, don’t come here.”

Festival promoters disagreed with his take, writing in a statement, “Music is the soul of SXSW, and it has long been our legacy. We fully respect the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech.”

This month, British bank Barclays suspended its sponsorship of UK festivals Download, Isle Of Wight and Latitude after bands protested over the bank allegedly providing financial services to defence companies arming Israel.

In May, 25% of the line-up of the UK showcase festival The Great Escape boycotted the event due to its ties with Barclays. 

As of 22 June, the United Nations reports that nearly 38,000 Palestinians have been killed since Hamas attacked Israel, killing over 1,000 Israelis at a music festival on 7 October 2023. Over 85,000 Palestinians have been reported as injured, over 70,000 homes have been destroyed as the war continues, and an estimated 1.7 people have been displaced in Gaza.