The cancellation of the SXSW festival has resulted in the lay off of at least 50 employees, which equates to a third of its year-round staff.

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Last week the festival was canceled due to the potential impact of the coronavirus, resulting in the possible loss of tens of millions of dollars, Variety reports.

“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. 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.”

“We are planning to carry on and do another event in 2021, but how we’re going to do that I’m not entirely sure,” SXSW co-founder and CEO Roland Swenson said in an interview to the Wall Street Journal.


Swenson also stated the festival would run out of money if grants or other forms of money did not come in. The insurance policy that covers cancellation for the festival does not cover communicable disease coverage.

The lay off of employees was detailed as “the only way to stop the bleeding’ in a report in the Austin Chronicle.

“They told me they fully intend to come back next year…. They haven’t quite figured out the path yet. But they fully intend to come back,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said.

The city currently has a restriction on events with crowds set to be larger than 2,500.