Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The real costs of playing SXSW

A footnote to the last of last week’s posts about SXSW 2011. One or two readers commented about the Arts Council grants received by the Irish acts who go to play at the Austin, Texas event. Since then, a couple …

Tue, Mar 29, 2011, 13:54

   

A footnote to the last of last week’s posts about SXSW 2011. One or two readers commented about the Arts Council grants received by the Irish acts who go to play at the Austin, Texas event. Since then, a couple of acts who have played US showcase events like SXSW (and CMJ) have been in touch by email to give their side of the story and point out that “musos are not enjoying holidays at the Arts Council’s expense”.

Last year (2010), funding to attend SXSW was €1,200 per act. According to one act “flights alone for four musicians cost around €2400 and that’s before adding in extra flight costs for equipment etc.”

There’s also the cost of getting working visas which you are legally required to have to attend and play at SXSW. You can apply directly to the US embassy for these, but it’s often easier to use an agency as you have to liaise with the US Musicians Union and demonstrate that your act is internationally recognised (cuttings, reviews, sales figures etc). A lot of acts chance it without a visa, but it’s a big risk if you’ve already shelled out for flights. Using a visa agency such as Tamizdat to sort this out can cost up to €1000.

While backline is provided at most showcases, you may need to rent backline for some shows and unofficial parties so that’s another €100 to €200 per show to factor into your costs. Another hidden cost is a step-up transformer to allow European equipment to run off American electricity, which comes to around €80 per show. According to one source, “you’re looking at kicking in at least €3000 of your own money to play at SXSW, if not more”.

Another important point to note is that this funding comes from Culture Ireland, and not the Arts Council, and is administered through First Music Contact.

(The acts who have given OTR these details have done so on the basis that they remain confidential)