The popular Austin, Texas-based festival South by Southwest, or SXSW, dropped the Army and several defense contractors as sponsors after more than 100 musicians boycotted this year’s festival over arms supplied to Israel, officials said Wednesday.

“After careful consideration, we are revising our sponsorship model. As a result, the US Army, and companies who engage in weapons manufacturing, will not be sponsors of SXSW 2025,” festival officials said in a statement.

The Army was slated to sponsor SXSW 2025 next March, and sponsored several events at the 2024 festival. The Army’s Futures Command is based in Austin and Secretary of Army Christine E. Wormuth attended the event in March. The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit hosted several discussions throughout the week of the 2024 festival on AI and autonomy, lessons from Ukraine, pilot training and Defense Department innovation and contracting. 

The service even sponsored a “BattleBots: Metal Mayhem” competition at the 2024 festival.

The Army “appreciated the opportunity” to participate in 2024, Jamie Dobson, a spokesperson for the Army told Task & Purpose. The Army served as a super sponsor in 2024 with service leaders in attendance. The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, which regularly works with emerging technology companies and defense contractors also hosted a week’s worth of events.

One of the first artists to pull out of the festival in protest over the war in Gaza was Squirrel Flower, a solo artist whose instagram account describes her music as “witch rock.”

“I am pulling out specifically because of the fact that SXSW is platforming defense contractors including Raytheon subsidiaries as well as the US Army, a main sponsor of the festival,” the artist wrote on Instagram.

According to the union, 120 artists dropped out of the music festival in March 2024 for having defense contractors like Raytheon, Collins Aerospace, BAE Systems and the Department of Defense as sponsors.

BG Beth A. Behn, Chief of Transportation, United States Army, COL Ken R. Bernier, MILDEP, U.S. Army DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center, Mr. Earl Newsome, CIO, Cummins, and Mr. JD Johnson, VP Business Development, General Motors Defense, participate in the “Driving Innovation: Technical Advances in Transportation” panel at the Thompson Hotel during SXSW 2024 in Austin, TX on March 8th, 2024. (US Army Photo by Patrick Hunter) Patrick Hunter

Though its roots are in Austin’s music scene, SXSW is now a sprawling commercial festival that markets itself as a space for “global professionals” to encounter new ideas and “diverse topics.” The Army has had a presence at the event in recent years which included speaker panels on topics like quantum sensors and biotechnology and held interactive demonstrations on new gadgets like wearable sensors, semi-autonomous aircraft, mixed reality technology and robots.

It’s unclear if the sponsorship decision will affect individually hosted events focused on military and defense topics. SXSW officials declined to comment and forwarded its singular public statement on the matter to Task & Purpose.

Subscribe to Task & Purpose today. Get the latest military news and culture in your inbox daily.

“We value any opportunity to join with our community to ignite discovery and make new connections. The Army will continue to seek opportunities to meet technology innovators and leaders, explore new ideas and insights, and create dynamic industry partnerships because tomorrow is worth protecting,” Dobson said. 

Participants from Army Futures Command who demonstrated new technology and highlighted broader research on topics like renewable energy were “well received” by attendees, she said.

In a post on X, the United Musicians and Allied Workers union called it a “major campaign victory” for activists and “principled artists who withdrew their labor in solidarity with Palestine,” and praised SXSW for dropping sponsorship deals with “weapons manufacturers and war profiteers.”

The annual festival consists of events ranging from speaker sessions on film, culture, music, and technology, parties, award presentations to pitch competitions and art exhibitions and even live musical performances. The event attracts more than half a million attendees, according to the event’s site, as well as high profile celebrities and even politicians. In 2016, former President Barack Obama was featured as the keynote speaker.

The latest on Task & Purpose

  • Uniform inspections and stricter shaving rules coming in renewed Air Force focus on ‘standards’
  • One of the Army’s top Nuclear teams trained with Rangers and Green Berets
  • The 4th Infantry Division’s huge obstacle course looked like the zombie apocalypse
  • Army barber’s 57 year legacy with the Airborne leads to haircutting hall of fame
  • Master Chief William Goines, first Black Navy SEAL, passes away at 88

The post SXSW festival boots U.S. Army as sponsor after performers boycott over ‘war profiteers’ appeared first on Task & Purpose.