SXSW Festival suffers backlash as artists protest at US Army sponsorship of event

This year’s SXSW festival was marked by dozens of speakers and performers cancelling their appearances in protest of the event’s sponsorship by the U.S. Army amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Incredibly, but this is the world we live in, the U.S. Army is one of six SXSW’s major sponsors for the event, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Austin, Texas for a festival of talks, gig showcases, film screenings and premieres as well as exhibitions and fan meet and greets. This year, many artists chose to boycott the event, posting statements via social media, explaining their decisions and citing their outrage and unhappiness with the Army sponsorship and SXSW’s partnership with a private defense contractor RTX, who are known to be weapons and logistics supporters of the Israeli Army.

“We’re proud to be a sponsor of SXSW, and to have the opportunity to showcase America’s Army,” Matt Ahearn, a U.S. Army spokesperson told TIME magazine in a statement. “SXSW presents a unique opportunity for the Army to meet technology innovators and leaders, explore new ideas and insights, and create dynamic industry partnerships as we modernize for the future.”

While dozens of artists cancelled their appearances, Half Dream are one of the many who appeared yet voiced their rage at organisers. See their Instagram posts below

Meanwhile the organisers of the Austin For Palestine Coalition ( ) have been involved in increasingly bitter exchanges with the Texas Governor Gregg Abbott who angrily tweeted (or Xed) “We are proud of the U.S. military in Texas. If you don’t like it, don’t come here.”

With at least 30 bands or acts pulling out and many others being very vocal in their criticism  SXSW has got some serious thinking to do about future sponsorship as its artistic credibility looks very fragile indeed. And their humanity? Well…

Keith Hargreaves acknowledges TIME for some of the material used in this article.


About Keith Hargreaves 393 Articles
Riding the one eyed horse into dead town the scales fell from his eyes. Music was the only true god at once profane and divine The dust blew through his mind as he considered the offering... And then he scored it out of ten and waited for the world to wake up
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