SXSW protest organized by Eve 6

Photos by Laiken Neumann

‘They aren’t getting paid’: Eve 6 guitarist calls for artists to drop out of SXSW over Penske

'Instead of being a haven for artists, we have the Department of Defense... running the show.'


Laiken Neumann


Posted on Mar 8, 2024   Updated on Mar 8, 2024, 7:57 pm CST

The first day of 2024’s South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas was met with protest, including a speech from Eve 6 guitarist, Jon Siebels, representing Artists Against Apartheid.

Several musicians set to appear in official SXSW showcases have dropped out amid the current war in Gaza, citing the U.S. Army’s financial support. Chicago singer-songwriter Squirrel Flower first announced the cancellation of her sets on March 4, sparking the boycott among several other artists, including indie singer-songwriter Eliza McLamb, Atlanta rock project Mamalarky, and Brooklyn post-punk players Proper., among at least eight other artists.

Siebels urged more artists to drop out.

“They’re not getting paid sh*t anyway,” he said. “So they might as well.”

At least 80 people gathered outside the Austin Convention Center, the hub for the 9-day festival covering tech, film, and music, among other sectors, to call out the festival for accepting funding from the U.S. Army, and participation from Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of RTX (Raytheon), a company that supplies weapons to the Israeli government, is also holding two events as part of the festival’s tech showcase.

The U.S. Army serves as a super-sponsor of this year’s festival, hosting several events like army-inspired yoga classes, robot fights, and a panel on “the greatest innovator in the history of the world.” 

The protest, organized by the Party of Socialism and Liberation, called out the military’s financial support of the Israeli army. U.S. Army handed over $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel in 2023, per Al Jazeera

“We’re not trying to harass the average South By-goer,” one of the event organizers said. “We’re here to call out the war profiteers.”

Siebels said that after 20 years of both attending and performing at the festival, things have shifted drastically. 

“This used to be a place for new artists to come and showcase. This used to be a place where you might be able to see your favorite band in a small club or in a parking lot,” he said. “Artists really made SXSW what it is.”

“Something changed in the last couple years. Now, instead of being a haven for artists, we have the Department of Defense, CIA, Raytheon and its subsidiaries trying to run the show,” he continued. “These institutions are directly responsible for the settler state of Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people.” 

Siebels also called out SXSW’s trajectory after 50% share of the festival was purchased by Penske Media Corporation in 2021. The corporation also owns Rolling Stone, Variety, Art Forum, the Hollywood Reporter, Vox, the American Music Awards, and the Golden Globe Awards.

He noted Penske’s firing of an Art Forum editor last fall after he signed a letter demanding a ceasefire. 

“Behind the veer of progressivism and innovation, you have people like this whose only allegiance is to promoting hate, violence, and now genocide,” he said. “Shame on South by Southwest and their billionaire owners for bringing these warmongers into our town.”

@dailydot Jon Siebeis of Eve 6 speaks at the #SXSW ♬ original sound – The Daily Dot

Additionally, SXSW has been under fire in prior years for its refusal to pay artists who perform at the festival. Over the summer, the festival announced that starting this year, bands would be paid $350 and solo/duo acts would be paid $150, per the Austin Monitor. 

Siebels also detested the artist rates.

“With all the money that South by Southwest brings in every year, they can’t even pay the artists a wage that will cover their costs,” he said. “Artists are losing money to come here will be paid, quote-unquote, in exposure. Can you pay your rent on exposure?”

@greg.j.stoker Disrupt all you can this weekend! #raytheon #merchantsofdeath #veteran #savegaza #ceasefirenow #endwar ♬ original sound – Greg Stoker

The protest also featured speeches from veteran and activist TikToker Greg Stoker, as well as Austin-based synthpop group TC Superstar, who also dropped out of their official SXSW shows.

“If you have an official showcase, please drop it,” TC Superstar frontman Connor McCampbell said. “[Expletive] SXSW, free Palestine.”

The Daily Dot reached out to SXSW via email for comment.

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*First Published: Mar 8, 2024, 8:30 pm CST