READY TO ROLL: Empire is among the venues participating in the push to salvage SXSW-related business. (Brittany NO FOMO)
Effort combines previously scheduled showcases, new bookings
Music venues in Austin have pitched in together after the cancellation of this year’s South By Southwest festival, rescheduling showcases and adding new bookings to recoup money that will be lost during the city’s busiest 10 days of the year.
On Wednesday roughly two dozen of the city’s venues and promotion companies announced the “We Can Do Magic!” collective marketing effort to encourage the city’s residents and visitors to attend concerts booked March 16-22, which would have been the heart of the music portion of SXSW.
The festival was canceled March 6 when city and county health officials declared a state or emergency related to the possible introduction and spread of the new coronavirus by some of the thousands of attendees who flock to the city each year from all over the globe. That decision followed announcements by many of the largest technology and consumer companies — Apple, Facebook, Twitter — that they were pulling their involvement in the festival in part because of concerns over employee travel.
The wave of cancellations followed by the festival’s shutdown is expected to put many of the city’s clubs and music venues in peril since most earn between 20% and 30% of their yearly revenue from sponsorships, ticketing and alcohol sales during SXSW.
The non-SXSW effort being mounted in venues such as Antone’s, Mohawk, Empire Control Room & Garage and smaller rooms will be individually ticketed or use a simple cover charge structure to pay artists, who otherwise would’ve received compensation from SXSW.
The Banding Together ATX fundraising campaign coordinated via GoFundMe was created to cover production and staff costs for venues and events taking place in the city’s Red River Cultural District, which contains its essential cluster of clubs booking original local and touring acts.
Club owners said they’ll likely end up with calendars made up half of lineups from previously booked festival showcases, with the other half booked on the fly.
“We started to think we should have the showcases that were booked previous, so the objective is to have discussions with those artists that were coming and gauge their interest to see whether or not they want to proceed,” said Ryan Garrett, general manager of the Stubb’s downtown amphitheater and co-owner of the Beerland nightclub.
“The good news is out of the gate I’d say half of the showcases we had at Beerland want to, so we’re throwing that up on the calendar and moving forward.”
Garrett said he was still working with C3 Presents, the Live Nation subsidiary based in Austin, to determine what acts could be reconfirmed into Stubb’s for large ticketed shows with a turnaround of less than two weeks to promote.
Stephen Sternschein, co-owner of Empire, said he’d spent most of his time since the festival’s cancellation pursuing existing sponsors and rallying fellow venues to work together.
“There are brands that were still ready to go when the cancellation happened and we’re working to let them know of the opportunity to donate to this cause and receive some benefit from being included in the companies that are supporting this. So far everyone has been very supportive and wants to be a part of it. We have a great group of companies that are ready to help, along with national liquor sponsors that have a strong interest in the event continuing on, and they have strong relationships with us from our other work in the district,” he said.
“Then we have the folks who were coming but canceled their plans and are looking for a way to help mitigate the damage that’s caused.”