SXSW Lays Off One-Third Of Staff Following Festival Cancellation; Austin Restricts 2,500+ Capacity Events

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2017
Gary Miller / FilmMagic
– Austin City Limits Music Festival 2017

Days after announcing that the 2020 edition of South By Southwest was canceled because of coronavirus concerns, the Austin music community has suffered another blow with the news that SXSW has laid off about a third of its full-time staff. 
“Due to the City of Austin’s unprecedented and unexpected cancellation of the SXSW 2020 events in March, SXSW has been rigorously reviewing our operations, and we are in the unimaginable position of reducing our workforce. Today we said goodbye to approximately one-third of our full-time staff,” a SXSW spokesperson said in a statement on Monday, confirmed by Pollstar.   
“Those of us in the business of live events know the level of trust required to execute an event of SXSW’s scale, and we are deeply sad to let people go this soon. We are planning for the future and this was a necessary, but heartbreaking step.”
The layoffs affected around 50 employees, including both veteran staffers who had been working for the festival for over a decade and others who had been with SouthBy for months,  according to the Austin Chronicle.  Other publications reported the full-time staff was around 175 employees.
The city of Austin was declared a local state of disaster March 6 as a precautionary measure for the threat of the coronavirus, which included canceling South by Southwest. The conference and festivals encompassing film, music and comedy was scheduled March 13-20.
A message on SXSW’s website notes, “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.”
SXSW’s refund policy, as stated on its website, does not allow for refunds for any reason but a SXSW spokesperson confirmed to Pollstar that the festival is allowing badge-holders to defer registration for up to three years, through the 2023 event.  The spokesperson added, “We are also working on other ways to add value to their deferred registration so not only will they be able to take advantage of a future SXSW but there will be extra benefits included, as well.”
More large concerts will most likely be affected because Austin has announced that “events larger than 2,500 people are prohibited unless organizers can assure Austin Public Health that mitigation plans for infectious diseases are in place,” according to Austin’s ABC-affiliated KVUE, which posted a link to the city’s list of risk factors and criteria for mass gatherings
Event organizers are told to contact Austin Public Health to discuss mitigation plans, with a priority for evulating events taking place March 7 through May 1. 
SXSW co-founder and CEO Roland Swenson told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published Sunday that the festival cancellation would likely cost “tens of millions of dollars.” 

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