The U.S. Army Reserve logo.

The U.S. Army Reserve logo. (U.S. Army)

AUSTIN, Texas – The South by Southwest Conference and Festival kicks off Friday, but some artists are saying they will no longer participate because the Army is a main sponsor of the weeklong event.

At least nine musical acts have canceled, citing sponsorship of the Army and the participation of defense industry giants including Collins Aerospace, BAE Systems and RTX, formerly known as Raytheon, according to the Austin For Palestine Coalition.

The local advocacy group has also put out a statement regarding defense industry and Defense Department participation in SXSW and called on the festival to reevaluate their inclusion.

“I have pulled out of my official SXSW showcase after learning that the US Army is a major sponsor of the event,” Eliza McLamb, a North Carolina-based singer-songwriter, said in a statement. “I will never put my name on or perform my labor for an event in service of the US war machine, and especially not now as they continue to fuel the ongoing violence against Palestinians. Blood money has no place in music.”

Other artists or bands to drop out for similar reasons include Squirrel Flower, Mamalarky and Shalom. However, most said they will participate in “unofficial” performances that are not part of the official SXSW schedule.

“I wanted to play this showcase: attending as an official artist has long been a dream of mine,” Brooklyn-based Shalom said in a statement. “However, a dream powered by the US Army, defense contractors, the CIA -- those dreams are powered by the blood of innocents. I will not be complicit in the ongoing, US sponsored genocide of the Palestinian people.”

The SXSW festival, which is known for bringing together big ideas in tech and innovation as well as hosting a music and film festival, is attended by roughly 300,000 people from around the world, according to the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Army Futures Command has been based in Austin since 2018 and has been involved with SXSW since then. This is the first year that the Army has signed on as a “super sponsor” of the festival. Other super sponsors include Volkswagen, Porsche, C4 Energy and Delta.

Some Army-hosted events include a discussion about the future of power, another about the “greatest innovator in the history of the world,” and a talk about tech in the Army with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Gen. James Rainey, commander of Army Futures Command.

Some of the Army’s bands and the Army eSports Team will also participate in events. Participants also have a chance to try out the Army Combat Fitness Test.

“We’re proud to be a sponsor of SXSW, and to have the opportunity to showcase America’s Army,” Ellen Lovett, an Army spokeswoman, said 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.”

Officials from SXSW did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Twitter: @Rose_Lori

author picture
Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now