So, the breaking news: Coronavirus cancels SXSW. The festival was due to begin on March 13 and run until March 22. It is a sorry sight, the Austin Festival is a true supporter of new music, it is not a facade.
SXSW’s cancellation is not unique, many festivals and music events around the world will face the same fate as Covid-19 spreads. Whilst its abandonment is fair, health is priority, it throws a tonne of bands into a precarious, difficult position, many of whom are based in the UK. The music community must support them.
SXSW garners formidable reputation amongst the industry. Fans and music officials alike flock to the city of Austin, Texas, for a celebration of hot new music. Here, upcoming musicians, household names, keynote speakers and industry insiders collide in what is the worlds front-running music conference.
Its function depends on your title. For fans, it is a celebration. For industry, it is a key scouting opportunity. For artists, it is both. The opportunity to break the world stage. It is an epicentre of worldwide musical culture. Concerning Covid-19, this is its downfall.
Speaking on the cancellation, festival organisers state:
“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.”
The road to Austin for many artists, especially those from the UK, is long. Funding talks begin a year in advance. Touring musicians signed to major labels are generally speaking, looked after. It is those unsigned, independent artists, who clamour resourcefully to obtain their metaphorical ticket to SXSW. Little is done on government level. In truth, I find the multiple SXSW fundraising nights a welcome, but sorry site. In most Western nations, said trips are funded by Arts councils and funds set up specifically to aid musical culture. As torrid and capitalistic as it sounds, music is a true British export. Our decadent government clearly spites this.
Self funded artists face high financial reparations in the face of SXSW’s cancellation. Most bands lacked even the smallest of funding. Many are unable to obtain refunds for flights, accommodation and visas. Many are out of pocket in regard to online marketing campaigns, some have run for months in advance. Generally speaking, most unsigned artists are already in a vicarious financial position anyway given the top-down nature of this industry. The financial repercussions of SXSW’s cancellation are dangerous, long lasting and could lead to the end of musical career for many.
As a community, what can we do? SXSW may be cancelled but music is universal, it does not have to stop. Many forward thinking promoters are in the planning stages for British based SXSW showcases. From Werkhaus to the team behind Independent Venues Week, it is clear that large events will occur across the country in support of these artists. With venue hire coming free and all proceeds given to the musician, these exciting projects can be a fruitful savour for many.
Secondly, buy merchandise. Invest in a vinyl. Pay for a download. Attend their next local gig. Every little helps right now. If we are true music fans then this should be an obligation. The industry must help too. SXSW is an opportunity for exposure. Let’s favour some of the bands out of pocket and give them that, virtually. The internet can be a wonderful thing, sometimes.
And finally… Let this be a lesson. British music is at crossroads, our unsigned musicians are more vulnerable now more than ever. Our venues are closing. Gender disparity. The domination of big labels. We need change. We should invest in the culture, nurture it, for the creative arts are more important than anything, duh!
The message is as clear as ever. We need to support our unsigned musicians. The cancelation of SXSW merely emphasises their fragility. It is time for musical revolution!
Image via SXSW press office
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