Here’s How the Cancellation of SXSW Is Affecting Artists and Local Service Workers

Indie artists and service workers are struggling to rebound as the fest takes a year off amid coronavirus concerns.

Many of us were disappointed when news broke last Friday that SXSW 2020 would be cancelled as fears regarding the coronavirus continued to heighten. Fans, artists, and industry folk alike had been prepping for the massive Austin music and arts fest for months, and the revelation that all this planning was for nought was a little more than disappointing, even if it made the decision of whether or not to risk exposure to large crowds from around the world easier.

But for many local Austin restaurants, venue owners, record stores, and service industry workers, the cancellation was devastating—if not fatal. While the city also hosts Austin City Limits, among other major music and arts fests, SXSW has become such a dependable source of income for many of the city’s independent business owners and contractors that the cancellation will have a considerable effect on their yearly income. “[I’m] out so much money that I don’t even want to say it,” one special event bartender told KUT, Austin’s NPR affiliate. “Our spot isn’t a regular bar—without the events, we have no work.” 

There’s also, of course, hundreds of independent musicians and labels scrambling to cope with the news, as the yearly festival has become a necessary means of income and exposure for artists. “We picked March to put out our record because we were gonna go to SXSW,” Moaning frontman Sean Solomon explained to Billboard, reflecting upon the loss of over a dozen SX gigs. “Every time we played past years, we were able to reach as many people as we would touring for a whole month, because you’re playing three or four shows a day.”

In spite of everything, the Austin capital is doing everything it can to soften the blow to the indie music scene, with venues launching GoFundMes to cover expenses and wages for SX artists, and plenty of food services offering discounted meals to everyone with non-refundable plane tickets. If you want to get involved, there are a handful of websites that have been launched to support the artists and workers who’ve been affected by the cancellation—including I Lost My Gig—or, as many have noted, you can simply buy merch from the bands you were hoping to catch at the fest.

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