Austin Mayor Steve Adler canceled South by Southwest on Friday (March 6) for the first time in the festival’s 34-year-history, following a press conference during which he declared a local disaster due to coronavirus concerns.
The conference’s cancellation has led to a social media storm, with artists, vendors, hospitality workers, freelancers and more expressing frustration over the news and how they rely financially on SXSW. In response, Heard Presents and Prism.FM are “Banding Together” with Austin-based businesses and individuals to help support those most affected.
In a statement from the fast-growing list of participating organizations, which currently includes Giant Noise and the Red River Cultural District, the team promises to “ensure as many artists and events that want to continue on and perform a showcase in Austin in the following weeks are able to do so.”
Additionally, the initiative will help “provide financial relief” to those who have “incurred unrecoupable expenses” from the cancellation and for “artists workers and partners who have lost income that they counted on to pay bills, rent, etc.” They also aim to cover additional expenses “to ensure safety of patrons of these events as required by our local, state, and federal governments.”
While speaking with Billboard, Steve Sternschein, Heard Presents’ managing partner and co-founder of Prism.FM, emphasized that SXSW supporters care most about the artists and “providing an opportunity for people to be exposed to new music and new ideas, so we’re going to do everything we can to make sure those things do happen.” In light of the change of plans, he added that a “community of people who care about what’s going on” can accomplish a lot.
Any SXSW participant who was negatively impacted by the cancellation can fill out a form here, and someone from the initiative’s team will reach out.
Donations to the Band Together fundraiser are also accepted via a GoFundMe page. “If your organization had to cancel an event due to health/travel/public relation concerns consider this your opportunity to still make something cool happen at SXSW,” the statement reads. “We know you still believe in supporting the community in Austin and want to help. Know that this good will charitable donation goes towards the thousands of people here, performing, working, and trying to survive; as well as your corporate karma.”
SXSW was scheduled for March 13-22. City officials estimated that last year’s music conference had a $356 million economic impact on the city of Austin.