NYC Musician Coalition Announces Fair Pay at SXSW Protest at Penske Media Offices

Photo credit: UMAW

A coalition of music groups and allies have announced a May 31 protest outside the New York offices of SXSW festival Penske Media Corporation (PMC).

The coalition includes the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, Music Workers Alliance, New York Working Families Party, NYC-DSA, Bandcamp United and Secretly Group Union. PMC owns 50% of SXSW Festival and is the largest single shareholder.

The protest is a continuation of the UMAW Fair pay on the SXSW campaign, which began with an open letter in February 2022. This letter has now been signed by over 2,500 artists and calls for PMC to better compensate artists who attend its SXSW festival. UMAW held a series of protests in Austin in March during SXSW, with hundreds of music workers and fans joining the group in demanding fair pay.

“We gathered in Austin this March so SXSW could hear our concerns,” said UMAW organizer Joel Jerome Morales. “But the festival still refuses to make any changes. So we’re taking the fight straight to the owners of the festival at Penske Media.”

“Workers across the music industry are fighting together for respect and fair pay,” adds Todd Derr, organizer of Bandcamp United. “Especially as corporations like Penske Media are buying up festivals, magazines, websites and more. It is obvious that workers in this industry need to unite.”

Penske Media Corporation bought 50% of SXSW in 2021 and also owns a massive media empire dedicated to reporting the music industry. These include Rolling Stone, Billboard, Hollywood Reporter, Variety Artforum and many other publications. SXSW will continue to offer artists a one-time payment of $250 for bands and $100 for solo artists or a bracelet for the festival, while international artists will not receive any payment.

UMAW points out that SXSW has increased its filing fees by 37.5% over the past decade. It’s asking for artist compensation to be increased to $750 plus a bracelet, not one or the other. It also demands that international artists receive the same compensation as US artists.

“We know Penske has the money to pay artists fairly,” adds MWA organizer Phillip Golub. “It’s absurd that this billionaire family should continue to pay poverty taxes to the hard-working musicians who make this festival a success.”