SXSW organiser says festival didn’t have insurance for coronavirus cancellation

Disease outbreak was not covered by the event's various insurance policies

One of the organisers of SXSW has admitted the festival wasn’t covered by insurance for cancellation due to coronavirus.

The Austin, Texas festival was due to begin on Friday (March 13) and run until March 22, with attendees coming from all over the world.

On Friday (March 6), festival organisers released a statement confirming the city of Austin had cancelled the event. “We are devastated to share this news with you,” they said. “‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”


Speaking to The Austin Chronicle, SXSW co-founder Nick Barbaro confirmed that the festival didn’t have insurance for cancellation in the event of a disease outbreak. He also said that reports the event would be covered by their insurance policies because the decision to cancel was made by the city declaring a “local state of disaster” were untrue.

Co-founder and Managing Director Roland Swenson reasserted that to Music Business Worldwide. “We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather),” he said. “However, bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered.”

The cancellation of SXSW followed Miami’s Ultra Music Festival being called off. Artists including Green Day, BTS, Yungblud, and Mariah Carey have all cancelled dates in Asia over concerns about coronavirus.

Last week (March 3), Glastonbury organisers responded to fans fears the Worthy Farm festival could be cancelled. “Glastonbury Festival thoroughly plans each year’s event, and puts in place all necessary measures to protect the public and maximise safety,” Head Of Event Operations Adrian Coombs said. “We work closely with all of the relevant agencies, including Public Health England and the NHS, and always review our plans as any circumstances change.

“With this in mind and with our 2020 Festival still 16 weeks away, we continue to plan and prepare for the event, whilst at the same time closely monitoring developments with the coronavirus situation.”


If you are an artist who has been affected by the SXSW cancellation and are interested in an alternative showcase, please email with the subject line: “NME X SXSW show.”

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