The show must not go on. Texas-based music, gaming, entertainment and culture festival South By Southwest, affectionately know as SXSW has officially been cancelled. Organisers confirmed on Friday that the city of Austin had made the heart-breaking call to can the event just one week out from its scheduled start.
“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,” a statement posted on the SXSW website reads. “We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”
The announcement comes after reports suggested SXSW’s more than 400,000 predicted attendees would be at serious risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus. It’s a huge blow for music fans across the US, but even more so for the city of Austin. The event is far and away the region’s biggest tourist drawcard, with the 2019 event contributing more than US$350 million to the domestic economy.
The SXSW cancellation comes after electronic event, Ultra Music Festival was also canned. At the time, SXSW organisers were adamant their event would not be impacted, despite major partners Amazon, Facebook and TikTok pulling out of the event. Just days later, however, their worst fears were realised.
“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 honour and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to doing our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites,” the organisers said.
The SXSW team is reportedly exploring options to reschedule the event, working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience “as soon as possible for 2020 participants”, starting with SXSW EDU. All registrants, clients, and participants will be contacted in the coming days, but it bears little consolation for music fans, and the heartbreak may not be over just yet. The SXSW cancellation raises fresh concerns over the future of massive music event Coachella, which at present is slated to go ahead in April. If authorities can’t get a handle on the deadly coronavirus, 2020 could well be the year the music died.