Published Mar 10, 2020SXSW and Ultra Music Festival are two of the largest U.S. music events to have been cancelled so far over recent coronavirus concerns. It has now been revealed, however, the pair of events will not be offering refunds to those who purchased passes and tickets ahead of time.
An email sent by SXSW staff last week notes that "2020 registrants can opt to defer their registration to 2021, 2022, or 2023," while failing to mention an option for refunds.
"We will be in touch soon with a system for deferral and FAQ," the email reads. "You don't need to take immediate action regarding your 2020 registration. It will remain in our system for future opportunities that will be available to you."
According to the Miami Herald, a similar email was sent to Ultra attendees. That festival's message reads, "ALL tickets purchased will of course remain valid and will be honored at either the 2021 or 2022 Ultra Miami event, at your option. You will have 30 days to choose which Ultra Miami event you want to attend. Additionally, we are also working to offer a digital online Ultra experience as soon as possible."
SXSW's cancellation has also led the festival's parent company, SXSW LLC, to lay off roughly a third of its 175 year-round employees. In a statement [via Variety], the company wrote that organizers have "been rigorously reviewing our operations," leading them to "unimaginable position of reducing our workforce."
"Today we said goodbye to approximately one-third of our full-time staff," the statement continued. "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."
The Austin Chronicle reports that terminated employees spanned multiple departments and included both veteran staffers and recent hires. The publication adds those who were laid off received severance pay.
SXSW LLC's statement followed the publication of a Wall Street Journal interview with festival co-founder CEO Roland Swenson. "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," he told the publication, citing "tens of millions of dollars" as a figure of loss for the organization.
After cancelling SXSW, Austin city officials also declared that no events with a capacity of over 2,500 could proceed, while events at mid- and large-size venues can proceed if "mitigation plans for infectious diseases are in place."
In addition to SXSW and Ultra, Coachella organizers are reportedly seeking to postpone their annual event to later this year. An official announcement is expected within the next 48 hours.
Outside of festivals, a lengthy list of artists have also recently cancelled tours over coronavirus fears, including Pearl Jam, Mac DeMarco, New Order, Avril Lavigne, the National, Wolf Parade, Green Day and many more. The forthcoming James Bond film No Time to Die also had its release delayed until November.
COVID-19 has now killed more than 4,000 people worldwide and infected well over 113,000.