SXSW’s Cancellation Affects Local Austin Businesses
By Mason Carroll
Photography By Mason Carroll
AUSTIN,TX – South by South West brought in over $355 million to Austin’s economy in 2019. Businesses across the city rely on the festival for a huge chunk of their annual income, especially after a slow January and February season.
This year SXSW was cancelled when Mayor Steve Adler and other city officials announced a state of disaster in Austin because of COVID-19 leaving many businesses to worry about where this income will come from.
Topaz McGarrigle is the leader of the alternative band Golden Dawn Arkestra. They were supposed to have half a dozen shows the week of SXSW and use the money made to help fund the rest of their year.
“It’s an exceptionally slow time for us,” McGarrigle said. “Definitely my bank account is down to about $20, and this was going to be, you know, the time we get out of debt.”
Local artists and musicians aren’t the only ones hit. Texas Monthly reporter Dan Soloman said many local businesses take out loans or start their companies around the festival.
“You know it’s like 20% of their annual income sometimes,” Soloman said. “There are people that start businesses because they know that SXSW will happen, and they will make a lot of money off of it.”
McGarrigle said they still played some of their shows, but sponsors had already dropped out. He said what’s most frustrating is all the work he and everyone else put into SXSW.
“We’ll survive, but it’s a blow,” McGarrigle said. “I’ve been stressed out and working my ass off on this for months, and that’s nothing. The people that put on (SXSW) have been working on it all year.”
Essential businesses are still open, and while many restaurants’ sitting areas are closed, they are still doing pick up or delivery. Soloman said working class people are already on the front line for any type of disaster because of the long hours they work.
“For those people, they’re really more panicked for the economic impact it will have on them because they already know they could get hit by a drunk driver during SXSW, and they’re going to show up to work anyways,” Soloman said.
There was a petition to cancel SXSW that received over 55,000 signatures, and many Austin citizens were worried about bringing the virus into the city.
“I guess it’s like a precautious thing to do to cancel the South by South West event,” student Jonathan Teal said.
McGarrigle said people can still help by supporting local businesses any way they can.
“The best thing you can do to help alleviate the burden that we are taking on is just go see live shows, go eat out, go to your local bar, tip your bartender,” McGarrigle said.