South by Southwest was cancelled on March 6 by the city of Austin. The news came after several days of deliberation by the city and the conference holders. Leading up to that decision, a number of big tech companies had already withdrawn from the annual conference, including Facebook, Twitter, and Apple.
Here’s the statement by the conference:
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’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.”
Leading up to this news, over 54,000 people had signed a petition to cancel SXSW, over fears that the massive tech conference would be a breeding ground for coronavirus.
Prior to announcing they were cancelling the conference, Austin leaders first claimed to be facing the coronavirus head-on, with a “Hack Coronavirus” weekend-long event scheduled for this weekend. During the event, Austin leaders were supposed to “identify best practices and proactive measures we can take to prepare Austin for the threat of the Coronavirus during SXSW and beyond.” This is likely not happening anymore.
South by Southwest was scheduled to start on March 13, in the city of Austin. Now it will not take place in March.
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus impact on SXSW:
South by Southwest Cancellations: What Companies Withdrew Before the Conference Was Cancelled?
A number of big hitters pulled out of SXSW before the conference was cancelled, citing coronavirus fears. Here’s a list of some of the companies and performers who dropped out of attendance for the tech conference:
- Ozzy Ozborne
- Amazon Studios
- Amazon Prime Video
- Tim Feriss
A coronavirus information page was added to South by Southwest’s website. Prior to cancelling the conference, the page read,
Updated March 5, 2020. Regarding the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event. As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, we are proceeding with the 2020 event with the health and safety of our attendees, staff, and volunteers as our top priority.
It’s likely that the conference felt pressure from some of its biggest hitters, many of whom encouraged the conference to cancel. Ferriss, a tech investor and podcaster who was supposed to give a keynote speech at SXSW, announced he wouldn’t be coming in a tweet.
He said in part, “I love SXSW, but I don’t believe the novel coronavirus can be contained, and I view an int’l event of 100K+ people as a huge risk to attendees and the entire city, given limited ICU beds, etc. I implore @MayorAdler and his team to carefully evaluate the downsides.”
Ferriss continued, “SXSW brings huge economic benefit to Austin, but possibly making Austin a hotspot for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19, and the emergency actions + funding that would require, could make a huge event seem shortsighted.”