SXSW Cuts Ties with Defense Industry Amid Successful Boycott

Festival Responds to Artist Protests by Revamping Sponsorship Model for 2025

SXSW has announced that it will no longer accept sponsorship from the U.S. Army and defense contractors for its 2025 festival. This decision comes after a successful boycott led by artists protesting the festival’s ties to the defense industry, particularly in light of the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The boycott began in March 2024 when several artists, including Squirrel Flower, Gruff Rhys, and the Irish rap trio Kneecap, pulled out of the festival. They cited opposition to the involvement of companies that arm the Israeli Defense Forces and a stance in support of the Palestinian people. SXSW, acknowledging the backlash, stated, “After careful consideration, we are revising our sponsorship model. As a result, the US Army, and companies who engage in weapons manufacturing, will not be sponsors of SXSW 2025.”

Texas governor Greg Abbott criticized the protestors, expressing support for the U.S. military’s presence in Texas. However, SXSW distanced itself from his comments, reaffirming their respect for the artists’ right to free speech and their diverse viewpoints.

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The SXSW decision mirrors similar actions taken in the UK, where a boycott of the Great Escape festival led to over 100 artists dropping out due to Barclays bank’s sponsorship and its investments in arms companies. The protest, initiated by the band Menstrual Cramps, included notable artists like Idles and Brian Eno. In response, Barclays suspended its sponsorship of all Live Nation festivals in the UK, highlighting the growing influence of artist-led activism in the music industry.

In addition to ceasing partnerships with the U.S. Army and defense contractors like RTX Corporation and Collins Aerospace, SXSW also confirmed a new London festival edition for 2025. The next SXSW is set to take place on March 7-15, 2025, in downtown Austin, marking a new era for the festival with a revised sponsorship approach that aligns with the values of its community.

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