Just a week before it was scheduled to open doors to the public, Austin, Texas’ annual technology, music, and film festival SXSW has been canceled as a result of the Coronavirus COVID-19. It’s just the latest in a string of conventions and tradeshows across the entertainment industry that have also made the same decision in recent weeks.
The announcement was made over on the company’s official website and shared via its various social media channels today. It speaks of the City of Austin’s recent back-peddling on its original stance that closing public gatherings wasn’t necessary. But with the spread of the Coronavirus cases across the US making headlines in recent days, the situation has forced a change of initiative.
The writing was, perhaps, on the wall even before today; several high-profile show attendees such as Ozzy Osborne, and companies like Apple, had already declared they’d be skipping the festival. A petition over on Change.org (spotted by The Verge) arguing for SXSW 2020’s cancelation amassed over 50,000 signatures from members of the public.
SXSW 2020’s statement today reads in full:
“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.”
In related news, Sony and Facebook’s decision not to attend GDC 2020 (which was eventually canceled completely), was the first in the aforementioned string of announcements declaring non-attendance in this year’s schedule of conventions and trade shows.