South by Southwest 2020 has been canceled due to growing concerns over the coronavirus epidemic.
Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler, declared a countywide “state of disaster” on Friday afternoon and issued a formal order canceling the popular music, film, and tech conference. In a subsequent statement, SXSW organizers said they “will faithfully follow the city’s directions.”
As recently as Wednesday, city officials had expressed confidence in SXSW moving forward as planned. “Right now there’s no evidence that closing South by Southwest or other activities is going to make this community safer,” Austin Public Health’s Mark Escott said at the time.
However, speaking less than 48 hours later, Escott has now said there is new “evidence that [SXSW] may accelerate the spread and it may make that happen sooner. After careful deliberation, there was no acceptable path forward that would mitigate the risk enough to protect our community.”
“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,” SXSW organizers said in their statement. “We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”
Even before today’s cancelation, SXSW was in dire straits. Throughout the week, as more positive coronavirus tests were detected across the US, major media companies began pulling out of the event. Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter had canceled their participation in the tech portion of the festival, while Apple, Netflix, and WarnerMedia had scrapped scheduled film premieres and Q&As. Several prominent musicians, including Beastie Boys, Trent Reznor, and Ozzy Osbourne, had also canceled their scheduled appearances.
Of course, the sudden cancelation will have major implications for the thousands of aspiring musicians and creatives who had already booked their trips to SXSW and do not have the same financial resources to absorb these sunken costs. It remains to be seen whether refunds will be offered by SXSW.
“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. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ,” SXSW organizers added. They continued,
“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.”
SXSW is the second major American music event to be canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus. Earlier Friday, organizers for Miami’s Ultra Music Festival confirmed plans to postpone the event until 2021. Meanwhile, the release of the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, has been delayed until November, and acts including Green Day, BTS, and Slipknot have canceled planned Asian tours.