“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett
As we Austinites brace ourselves for the possibility of SXSW 2020 amidst a COVID-19 outbreak across the US and around the world, we believe that SXSW, LLC faces a far greater long-term risk: turning the City of Austin against the very organization credited with fueling the city’s unprecedented expansion over the past 32 years.
At this point in time, it seems very clear that the public by and large believes there are serious risks that come with the idea of bringing over 150,000 people from all corners of the world into our city for 10 days.
Some of the many voices showing their concern include:
- Over 51,000 people who have now signed a petition calling for the cancellation of the event (Change.org)
- Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Intel, Netflix, Apple, WarnerMedia, China Gathering, Mashable, TikTok, Amazon Studios, Vevo, SAP, The Latinx House, and Capital Factory all canceling their events (KVUE)
- Jack Dorsey, Tim Ferris, and other planned keynote speakers backing out (NPR)
- Beastie Boys, Ozzy Osbourne, and Trent Reznor, all scheduled to appear at the film portion of the festival, have now pulled out (Pitchfork)
We fully understand the impact of the economic boom this event brings the city each year. This would no doubt cost many businesses lost revenue opportunities and sunk costs on event production. This won’t be an easy hit for them, and we can’t imagine it would be an easy hit for SXSW, LLC to endure.
But lives are at stake here. The Coronavirus disease has already claimed 3,356 lives around the world and 12 in the US. Over 2,700 residents in New York are now quarantined due to the gravity of this situation.
While measures may be taken to prescreen people showing symptoms, this is far from a solution to the issue. It can take up to 14 days for someone to show symptoms, and up to 80% of people afflicted are said to never show symptoms.
As Austin residents and supporters of this great city, we urge you, SXSW, to take independent action NOW to postpone your 2020 SXSW festival plans. Not just for the sake of our city and its residents, but for the sake of your business and its future.
Even just one additional life taken by the accelerated spread of this disease due to SXSW could be enough to turn the city’s residents against this festival indefinitely.
Make no mistake that your reputation could be permanently tarnished if this festival is attributed to the spread of this terrible disease in our city.
We don’t envy the extremely difficult position you are in and we understand you want to do what is best for everyone. We are only 8 days out from SXSW’s kickoff on Friday, March 13, 2020.
In the days ahead, you’ll see this pressure to cancel build. The angst will increase as you wait longer, and the goodwill you’ve seamlessly built up will show signs of slipping away with voices who call for boycotts and more. Your attendees will also be put off by short notice, so it’s in your interest to act swiftly.
On behalf of concerned Austinites, we urge you to act in the best interest of the public and cancel SXSW 2020.
As they say, there’s always next year.