Thousands of musicians, supporters sign letter to SXSW demanding more pay

More than 2,000 musicians and their supporters are demanding more money for their performances at South by Southwest this year.

The advocacy group, Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, wrote a letter outlining their demands that will be presented to event organizers. In 2022, SXSW made over $280 million. Some musicians say they feel exploited.

While pay rates have not changed in over a decade, the application fee has risen from $40 to $55.

In order for artists to perform they need to pay for transportation, hotels and food — things that cost more than they did 10 years ago.

Currently musicians get $100 if they’re a solo act or a duet, while bands get $250.

UMAW is asking that all performers get $750 and a festival wristband — not one or the other. They’d also like to see fair treatment for international artists. Lastly, they hope that there will no longer be an application fee.

UMAW plans to hold a rally Thursday, March 16 at the convention center to present organizers with their letter.


"Having such a low payment is really an outlier in the music industry right now," organizer Joey DeFrancesco said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find another music festival, particularly of the one of the stature and international status of South by Southwest that's paying artists so little. Why can't this giant mega corporation owned by the billionaire Penske family also fairly compensate the artist playing this festival?"

The owners of SXSW sold a 50% ownership stake of the company to Penske Media Eldridge, which publishes Rolling Stone and other magazines. 

The group plans to fundraiser for musicians at Hole In the Wall on Tuesday night to support UMAW.