We gasped the other day when it emerged that SXSW didn’t have an insurance policy that would cover cancellation due to “communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics” – like the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). If that was the shot, here’s the chaser: it appears that both SXSW and the also-cancelled Ultra Music Festival will not be refunding people who’d bought tickets for this year’s events.
An email sent to SXSW ticketholders stated that “SXSW has to rely on the registration terms you agreed to when you purchased your credential, which acknowledge that SXSW will not issue refunds”. It noted that 2020 badge purchasers can “defer their registration to 2021, 2022, or 2023, with additional benefits that we will update you on as soon as possible”. Ultra Music Festival in Miami is adopting a similar approach: an email made no mention of refunds according to the Miami Herald, but instead said “all tickets purchased will of course remain valid and will be honored at either the 2021 or 2022 Ultra Miami event, at your option”.
The financial impact of the cancellations, which has already been talked about a lot in terms of local businesses in Austin and Miami as well as the artists who were due to perform, is now also trickling down to the music fans (and in SXSW’s case, startups and industry folk) who’d bought tickets. Oh, and also employees in the case of the SXSW organisation: it laid off a third of its full-time staff yesterday, while CEO Roland Swenson has already voiced doubt on SXSW’s ability to “carry on and do another event in 2021” in a Wall Street Journal interview. A very difficult situation when this year’s badge-buyers are being invited to defer their registration to next year.
Meanwhile, the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals in the US have both been postponed until October, as had been predicted; artists including Pentatonix and Carlos Santana have postponed their upcoming tours; BMI’s annual Latin Awards have also been postponed; and Spotify has asked its employees to work from home for two weeks – CEO Daniel Ek announced this in Swedish in a tweet, adding “I hope other companies in Sweden will follow suit” (still in Swedish: that’s a translation) so it wasn’t immediately clear whether the policy was global.
This continues to be a fast-moving story: the stress and uncertainties for our industry (and, necessary perspective-check, the world generally) continue. We’re well aware that you may not want to be confronted with a big Coronavirus lead story every day in this bulletin, so we’ll be working hard in the coming days and weeks to keep our coverage proportionate, thoughtful and non-clickbaity.