SXSW cancelled by Austin city amid coronavirus outbreak

Officials announce 'local disaster' ahead of one of world's biggest music festivals

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 06 March 2020 18:06
The annual music conference South by Southwest has cancelled its event for the first time in 34 years amid coronavirus concerns.
The annual music conference South by Southwest has cancelled its event for the first time in 34 years amid coronavirus concerns.

South by Southwest, the annual music festival and conference in Austin, Texas, has cancelled its 2020 event following concerns from the city about the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, the festival said: "'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."

Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County officials have declared a "local disaster" that effectively shutters the festival, which was scheduled to run 13-22 March.

Earlier this week, Austin's pubic health department announced that "there's no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer" but city officials urged the festival to close amid growing concerns over the flu-like viral outbreak that has sickened thousands.

Festival organisers said they are "exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants."

"We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilise 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," organisers said in a statement.

The festival - which was founded in 1987 as a regional launching pad - has grown to the one of largest music festivals of its kind in the world, with hundreds of performances at showcases throughout the city and countless unofficial events folded into the massive event. It attracts more than 200,000 attendees and generates hundreds of millions of dollars for Austin's economy, relying on a surge of springtime visitors at local restaurants, bars and retailers.

More than a dozen big-name headliners and brands pulled out of the event over the last several days amid calls for the festival to consider closing its 2020 event.

Though there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the area, "now is the time to prepare," said Austin Public Health official Mark Escott.

A petition calling for organisers to cancel this year's festival attracted more than 50,000 signatures, calling it "irresponsible" to host a large-scale event during the crisis.

The latest coronavirus outbreak has panicked global markets following more than 3,000 deaths worldwide, including 14 in the US.

Speculation over SXSW's cancellation cast doubts over the spring music festival season across the US, as fans plan to crowd into cities across the country for high-ticket events in areas bracing for the regional economic boom.

Ultra Music Festival in Miami cancelled its 2020 event over coronavirus fears, and artists from Green Day to Mariah Carey are beginning to cancel dates on stadium tours.

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