Coronavirus forces cancellation of SXSW

Amid growing concern in Austin, Texas over the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the city has decided to cancel South By Southwest. The major annual tech, music, and film meetup held in downtown Austin, is the latest major conference to be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, and just one week before it was slated to start.

On its website, the festival said it was “devastated by the news” as it is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not happen. Austin mayor, Steve Adler, announced the decision.

“I’ve issued an order that effectively cancels South by Southwest,” Adler said.

The company responded in a statement on Twitter that linked to a webpage. Read the full statement below:

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.

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As news of the Coronavirus outbreak worsened, pressure began mounting to cancel the event. The situation became more complicated as US coronavirus cases began spiking in Washington state, where there have so far been 11 reported deaths, and rapidly spreading to other parts of the country, including California and New York.

A petition on website calling for the event’s cancellation has reached 42,000 signature. High profile attendees then began pulling out of the conference. First, Twitter. Netflix, Facebook and Intel followed suit. They were followed by TikTok, Linkedin, Disney, CNN and Mashable.

The Verge reported notable performers and speakers cancelled, including including entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss and musicians like the Beastie Boys, Ozzy Osbourne, and Trent Rezor. Yesterday, Variety reported that the three major music groups — Sony, Universal, and Warner Music — have advised employees not to travel to the festival.

SXSW is the latest industry conference to get postponed or cancelled due to concerns of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. In Chicago, The International Housewares Association and Ace Hardware have cancelled their trade shows.

The Game Developers Conference, Mobile World Congress, Facebook’s F8 developer conference, Google’s Cloud Next conference and I/O developer conference, and countless other events have been similarly effected across the country.

The decision will almost certainly be a harsh blow to the city’s economy, as SXSW brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism, ticket sales, and other revenue streams every year. Last year, the festival made $355.9 million for the city of Austin, SXSW Inc. said.


Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1