SXSW raises its pay for musicians

Patricia Lim / KUT

KUT | By Andrew Weber / Published June 27, 2023 4:22 PM CDT

SXSW Music quietly rolled out an increase in wages for performers.

The organization opened applications Tuesday for the 2024 festival and indicated a slight pay bump for U.S. artists — $350 for group performers and $150 for solo artists. That’s up from $250 for bands and $100 for solo artists. SXSW said it posted the new rates earlier this month, but didn’t formally announce the pay bump.

The festival will continue to give domestic artists the choice between the money and a wristband, which gives artists access to shows. SXSW says it’s expanding the perks that come with a wristband to include free meals and drinks.

International artists won’t be paid, and the festival will still charge a $35 application fee, though the policy says waivers are available for “specific local music organizations.”

The multibillion-dollar festival said it would review what it pays musicians after catching flak this year for its longstanding pay policy. Those criticisms were particularly pointed in Austin, a city facing an affordability crisis that’s led to an exodus of musicians who can’t afford to live in the self-declared Live Music Capital of the World.

For months, local musicians and the nonprofit United Musicians and Allied Workers have been pressuring the city to push the festival to raise wages.

At a Parks and Recreation Board meeting Monday night, Pat Buchta, head of the nonprofit Austin Texas Musicians, said the increase is a step in the right direction, but that he hoped the festival would consider raising wages even higher.

“Respectfully, is that enough?” Buchta asked. “Our musicians do not think so, and musician input is the one thing that everybody seems to be missing in this conversation.”

SXSW has long touted its impact on the local economy over three decades. Critics argued the festival’s wages stagnated, and that its largest shareholder, Penske Media, could afford to pay artists more.

In a statement to KUT, James Minor, the festival’s vice president of music, said SXSW gives artists the chance to network unlike other “consumer-focused festivals.”

“It is essential for us to continue to provide opportunities that make the most impact in supporting the thousands of artists who come to Austin every March,” he said. “We are grateful to the music community — from industry executives and production workers to the artists themselves — for creating such a unique atmosphere in Austin in March.”

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