Representatives for the city of Austin, Texas announced that it would be canceling the South by Southwest festival in a press conference on Friday afternoon. The decision was made over concerns about the spreading coronavirus. The event was set to begin next Friday (March 13)
The popular music and pop culture conference attract hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared a state of disaster for the city, he told the press on Friday. The move was a necessary step in order to cancel the conference. Here’s the official statement from SXSW organizers:
The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.
We are devastated to share this news with you. “The show must go on” is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.
As recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.
We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ.
We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.
We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.
“It’s really unfortunate to be canceling South by Southwest,” Adler said. “It’s a really important event to our city in a lot of ways, tied who we are in this city, but I really look forward to the next iteration of South by when it comes back again.”
The Associated Press reports that the coronavirus hit a milestone, infecting more than 100,000 people worldwide. The virus, which has killed more than 3,400 people and emerged in more than 90 countries, moved into more U.S. states on Friday, bringing the total to 18.
According to Rolling Stone, many of the festival’s most high-profile attendees announced they would no longer attend. Facebook and Twitter were two of the first companies from tech to pull out, with TikTok, Apple, Amazon and Netflix quickly following.
The music industry was one of the last holdouts for the festival, RS reports. But on Thursday, Warner Music Group told employees in an internal memo that it would be canceling its attendance for employees. “Many of our partners are reaching similar conclusions, which also means the benefits of attending would be much reduced,” WMG chief Human Resources officer Masha Osherova wrote in the memo.
Sources from the other major labels, Universal and Sony, told RS Thursday that they were likely going to pull out of the festival as well. Major music reporting rights company BMI also announced its SXSW cancelation on Friday.
The cancellation is a major blow to the city. Last year’s festival brought in nearly $356 million to the city of Austin, according to a report from SXSW.