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SXSW cancelled: Austin city officials decide to pull the plug because of coronavirus

Updated Mar 6th, 2020 5:20PM EST
SXSW cancelled
Image: Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

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  • South by Southwest is one of the biggest tech and entertainment industry conferences held annually in the US.
  • Tens of thousands of people come to Austin, Texas, to participate — to listen to panel discussions, hear guest speakers, and much more.
  • Because of coronavirus, though, Austin city officials have decided to cancel this year’s SXSW that was set to run from March 13-22.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

South by Southwest — the tech, music, and film conference held every year in Austin, Texas, and which drew more than 73,000 people last year — is officially canceled.

The reason that the event, which was set to take place from March 13-22, has been nixed this year should come as no surprise. Austin city officials remain concerned about the spread of coronavirus, and a lengthy statement has been issued explaining the decision, which you can read below.

This is a major blow to the city, where the conference last year brought in a few hundred million dollars. The cancellation was announced during a Friday afternoon press conference, at which city mayor Steve Adler added that he’d declared a “local disaster” in Austin as a result of the continued spread of the virus.

A statement posted on the SXSW website reads:

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.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.