South by Southwest’s cancellation this year will not be covered by insurance, founders Nick Barbaro and co-founder and managing director Roland Swenson confirmed to the Austin Chronicle Friday. (Barbaro is the paper’s publisher.)
On Friday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced the March 13-22 interactive, film and music festival that takes place throughout Austin was being canceled by city and county officials over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. After the announcement, Barbaro told the paper that the SXSW organization does not have event cancellation insurance that covers disease outbreaks or city-wide emergency declarations.
SXSW is not alone — most event insurance policies exempt contagious disease as a coverage category and organizers are required to purchase a waiver in order to obtain coverage for cancellations by illnesses like coronavirus.
“We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather). However, bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered,” Swenson told the paper.
After news that Adler and other city leaders were canceling the event, South by Southwest organizers released a statement saying they were “devastated” by the news which meant that the cancellation would be 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,” organizers wrote.
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 announced the “Banding Together” initiative with Austin-based businesses and individuals to help support those most affected.