SXSW Responds To Artists And Texas Governor Over Artist Boycott

13 March 2024 | 8:48 am | Mary Varvaris

"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."

SXSW 2024

SXSW 2024 (Supplied)

US music festival and conference event SXSW has taken to social media to respond to the Governor of Texas and artists who have pulled out of playing this year due to the event’s partnerships with defence contractors.

Overnight, 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.”

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Artists including US indie rocker Squirrel Flower, American punk rock act Proper., North Carolina singer-songwriter Eliza McLamb, Brooklyn-based, South Africa-raised artist Shalom, and Austin indie rock band Mamalarky pulled out of this year’s event last week.

BBC reports that additional artists, including Belfast’s Kneecap, UK acts Lambrini Girls and Sprints, and American hardcore band Scowl, have joined the boycott.

The cancellations are due to artists showing support for Palestine amidst the Israel-Palestine war and protesting against the music conference event’s alleged connections to the defence industry. The US Army holds an exhibit at SXSW, while Collins Aerospace, a company under the umbrella of defence contractor RTX Corporation (formerly Raytheon), will appear at the event. Ella Williams, AKA Squirrel Flower, has alleged that Raytheon has supplied weapons to the Israel Defence Forces.

SXSW has responded to statements from Governor Abbott and the acts who have withdrawn from performing at this year’s event (running from 8-16 March), saying that it “does not agree” with the Governor and that it’s an organisation that “welcomes diverse viewpoints”.

“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,” SXSW’s statement on social media reads.

Citing the “unspeakable tragedies, the rise of repressive regimes, and the increasing spread of violent conflict” that we are all witnessing daily, SXSW noted that it’s “more crucial than ever” that people are united “to solve these greater humanitarian issues.”

SXSW’s statement continued, “The defence industry has historically been a proving ground for many of the systems we rely on today. These institutions are often leaders in emerging technologies, and we believe it’s better to understand how their approach will impact our lives.

“The Army’s sponsorship is part of our commitment to bring forward ideas that shape our world. In regard to Collins Aerospace, they participated this year as a sponsor of two SXSW Pitch categories, giving entrepreneurs visibility and funding for potentially game-changing work.”

SXSW concluded that it will continue to support human rights for all, writing, “The situation in the Middle East is tragic, and it illuminates the heightened importance of standing together against injustice.”

According to reports from the Austin Chronicle, artist protests against SXSW’s partnership with the US Army went beyond boycotting the festival, with a group of attendees protesting in support of Palestine outside the Austin Convention Centre.