‘Heartbroken’: Aussie music biz responds to SXSW cancellation
The Australian music industry has responded with dismay at the cancellation of South By Southwest by the city of Austin due to the coronavirus.
It was supposed to start on March 13, and authorities were nervous that the event was going to bring up to 417,000 artists and delegates to their city – some from countries which were virus hotspots.
Australian artists and delegates made up close to 1,000 in 2019.
It would have been a major decision for Austin: SXSW contributed $356 million to its economy last year.
Its co-founder and managing director Roland Swenson, told The Austin Chronicle, “We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather).
“However, bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered.”
The concern is not just for Australian artist and delegates, but also the implications for local festivals from authorities.
The City of Austin used the same “local disaster” emergency rules covering war, civil strife and disease to close down SXSW.
This could prove a nightmare for Australian attendees to get refunds.
A statement from Sounds Australia’s executive producer Millie Millgate noted that it respected Austin’s decision to stop the virus from spreading in ts precinct by an influx of international visitors, its impact on the SXSW team and businesses in Austin.
“We are most heartbroken and feel for the 43 Australian artists who were due to showcase at this year’s SXSW festival,” Millgate emphasised.
“It is a huge achievement to have been selected from the 7,000 plus artists that apply each year.
“To have lost this opportunity after spending several months and thousands of dollars preparing and planning is devastating.
“We particularly want to acknowledge those individuals at the helm, responsible for managing each of the acts and the truly impressive way in which they have and continue to navigate this unprecedented cancellation and subsequent turn of events.
“To see the countless hours of work, setting up opportunities, meetings, showcases, travel logistics and more only to be reversed will have an enormous impact which cannot be underestimated.”
Sounds Australia had numerous showcases planned during the meet.
Millgate also thanked those involved in Australia House, the Aussie hub in SXSW, “whom we have been decision making and dealing with throughout the last week of extreme uncertainty, including the fantastic team at G’Day USA, led by Australian consul-general in Los Angeles Chelsey Martin, and global manager Nicole Foster spearheading SXSW activity for Tourism Australia.”
Traditionally, 65% of Australian attendees to SXSW are from the tech sector, with music accounting for 30% and films and others the remaining 5%.
Travel insurance would not have covered cancellations due to coronavirus, and it’s entirely up to individual airlines and hotels if they refund.
Most are expected not to.
But in Austin a number of hotels—including the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Austin, the Fairmont Austin and the Driskill – are prepared to give refunds.
Some US airlines, including Southwest Airlines have adopted a more “flexible” policy of exchanging tickets since the beginning of the outbreak
Sounds Australia’s advice to Aussies is that those who have registered to attend SXSW 2020 can opt to defer registration to 2021, 2022, or 2023.
Millgate says, “You don’t need to take immediate action as it will remain in the SXSW system for future opportunities.”
If you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you booked a hotel through SXSW Housing & Travel, your reservation will not be automatically cancelled.
To change or cancel your reservation follow the instructions in your SXSW Hotel Reservation Confirmation email.
Salvaging The Situation
After the official announcement of the cancellation, some Austin promoters and venues worked over the weekend to salvage the situation.
According to a report from Pollstar, the city’s live sector has started a campaign to raise money to continue to put on showcases in Austin (or replacement ones) in the next few weeks, and for artists to get money to stay on in Austin.
Called Banding Together it also hopes to provide financial relief for artists, workers and partners and cover expenses involved in the cancellation, as well as those who are facing issues with bills, rent and other issues they were hoping the SXSW showcases would pay for.
The Australian Situation
Overseas large gathering of people Ultra Abu Dhabi, Ultra Miami and France’s Tomorrowland Winter have been cancelled, with a big question mark over Coachella (April 10—19).
So far Australian festivals have not been affected, but executives told TMN there was a worry local councils could shut down some down.
Said one, on condition of anonymity, “I’m expecting at least one (such) announcement within the next two weeks.
“Event insurance events don’t cover pandemic disease, so for festival promoters it makes sense to be shut down rather than press the Exit Button themselves.”
Live Performance Australia (LPA), which represents the live sector across the board, is in close talks with state and federal health authorities, and asked that any plans for restrictions involve discussions with the sector.
The stance of both the live and health sections at the moment is that it’s “business as usual”
Obviously they are expecting that any audience member who is not feeling well not to attend.
In New Zealand this week, health authorities revealed a man with coronavirus who recently returned from New Zealand, had attended Tool’s Feb 28 show at Auckland’s Spark Arena.
His risk of infecting others at the show were “low” and he has since been isolated at home since last Wednesday.
Said the LPA, “It’s essential we keep the doors open and lights on for live performance as much as we can, given our economic and social contribution, including in regional communities which are trying to recover from recent bushfires.”