- 09 Mar 20
The influential showcase, scheduled for March 13 to 22, has been cancelled due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
South by Southwest, stylised as SXSW, has been cancelled for the first time in 34 years due to concerns over the rapid global spread of coronavirus. The influential music, film and tech conference takes place every March in Austin, Texas, attracting artists and other creatives from around the globe. 2,000 artists were scheduled to play this year, including a dozen Irish acts.
The conference was officially cancelled on March 6, when Mayor Steve Adler announced at a press conference that he had issued an order that effectively cancelled SXSW. "There was no path forward that would mitigate the risk enough to protect our community," he said.
The Public Health department had said days earlier that there was "no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer," however the situation changed pace rapidly. Organisers and government officials had come under intense pressure as more than 50,000 people signed a petition in favour of cancelling the event and large tech companies, such as Apple and Facebook, announced their withdrawal. Though the number of confirmed cases in Texas was relatively small, officials noted that the event attracts thousands from all over the world.
So far, more than 100,000 cases have been confirmed globally and more than 3,800 have died as a result. As the virus spreads, Northern Italy is already under lockdown and other major events, such as concerts, have been cancelled. There are currently 33 confirmed cases in Ireland, but no widespread move has yet been made to cancel upcoming events such as the massive St. Patrick's Day festival coming in less than two weeks.
An official statement from the SXSW organisers states that they are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual online experience as soon as possible. The effect of the cancellation are still grave. A report by the Austin Chronicle found that SXSW's insurance would not cover the cancellation. There was insurance in place for weather, property destruction, even terrorism, but pandemics were not included in the insurance coverage.
Many artists, attendees and companies spend large sums of money to attend the conference. Tickets can cost upwards of $1,700 and organisers have not yet addressed how the process of refunds or exchanges would take place.
The news is especially devastating for smaller artists who must pay for travel and visa fees out-of-pocket in order to play at SXSW. At a massive showcase like SXSW, performances turn into important networking opportunities. Artists plan collaborations, meetings with labels and agents and more during their time in Austin. Tours, album releases and campaigns are also often designed around the conference. It's a major stepping stone for artists trying to make it into a global market.
The Irish artists scheduled to play were Lilla Vargen, Autre Monde, Tebi Rex, Ryan Vail & Elma Orkestra, Pillow Queens, Ailbhe Reddy, Gross Net, Pat Dam Smyth, The Wood Burning Savages, The Murder Capital, Pat Byrne and Ryan McMullan.
A few have taken to Twitter to express their disappointment with the timing and outcome.
Completely heartbroken, but what can ya do. South By South Rex will have to wait https://t.co/a1kfciLyKF
— Tebi Rex (@TebiRex) March 6, 2020
I honestly heartbroken. We had collabs with artists planned for over there, meetings with labels and agents...everything 😭😭😭 https://t.co/zpIB7yViOA
— FILMORE (@tebiflex) March 6, 2020
So disappointed to hear the news about SXSW, I was really looking forward to playing there this year. This must have been such a difficult decision for the organisers. My thoughts are with all the acts who were booked to play, and the people of Austin affected by this ❤️
L x 🐺
— Lilla Vargen (@lillavargen) March 7, 2020
Incredibly disappointing news but sure look health and all that. See you again soon Texas plz god xox https://t.co/nW01KJy6QV
— Pillow Queens (@PillowQueeens) March 6, 2020
— Ryan Vail (@ryan_vail) March 7, 2020
Really disappointing news https://t.co/2iQngEvp26
— Ailbhe Reddy (@ailbhereddy) March 6, 2020