Why South By Southwest Is A Huge, Exploitative Scam

 

 

 

” The city of Austin is often the only part of Texas that makes sense to solid-blue progressives. It’s a connection that is embodied by the South by Southwest festival currently underway, the annual event to which lovers of music and human inventiveness like to flock.

  It is thus with regret and a sense of intra-tribal disloyalty that I come not to praise the festival but to — well, probably not bury it, because SXSW is a cultural juggernaut and I am not. But I come to call on my fellow lovers of music and human inventiveness, and most especially my fellow liberals, to stop with all the praise. Because the for-profit, privately held entity that is South by Southwest annually turns a handsome profit from nearly immeasurable amounts of unpaid labor.

  In this, SXSW — which started as an itty-bitty thing before becoming a corporate behemoth —is hardly alone. The American cultural scene and labor market writ large are chock-a-block with people profiting from unpaid labor. It’s just that, traditionally, progressives are supposed to oppose that sort of thing. Not pay anywhere from $650 to $1,745 to attend.

  South by Southwest happily touts the financial benefits it brings to Austin (“in 2013, SXSW was responsible for injecting more than $218.2 million into the Austin economy”), but is rather more shy about revealing its own profit margin (“as a privately held company we do not make our financial statements public”).

  However, between ticket sales, merch ($75 “interactive sunglasses,” anyone?), and colossal corporate sponsorships, it seems safe to assume that the margin isn’t slim — and all that bank is made on the backs of thousands of artists and volunteers who are in every meaningful sense unpaid. Volunteers get festival passes; artists get to choose between a tiny honorarium, or festival passes. Neither goes very far at the grocery store.”

 

The Week has more liberal whining about the profitability of SXSW 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements