Universal Music Group Advises Employees Not to Attend SXSW Due to Coronavirus Concerns (EXCLUSIVE)

Universal Music Group has advised its employees not to attend the upcoming South By Southwest music festival and conference in Austin, Texas, due to the growing concern over the caronavirus, a source close to the situation confirms to Variety.

The move is not a requirement, the source stressed, but rather out of an “abundance of caution,” adding that exceptions may be made — “but no one has asked for one yet.”

Sony Music and Warner Music Group are said to have instituted a similar policy, although reps for the companies and for SXSW did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment late Thursday night.

Universal is the world’s largest music company.

Artists are not affected, as they are not employees of the companies, although several major artists have cancelled this week. Ozzy Osbourne (who has cancelled or postponed two recent tours due to ill health) called off a non-performing appearance on Thursday, while scheduled talks with Trent Reznor and the Beastie Boys were cancelled when the companies sponsoring the films they were connected to pulled out (WarnerMedia and Apple, respectively).

While multiple major tech companies have pulled out of the festival — also including Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, LinkedIn, Audible, IBM and Intel — music companies had been relatively slow to cancel until Thursday.

The film portion of SXSW is due to kick off on March 13, with the conference scheduled to run until the 22th .

Last year’s SXSW drew 232,258 attendees spanning music, film, interactive, and gaming, according to the festival.

In the past few days many have asked why SXSW, which begins in a mere week, pull the plug sooner rather than on the eve of thousands of badgeholders getting on a flight?

There’s no wide consensus to the answers to these questions yet, but one element that’s clearly a factor is letting civic and government authorities ultimately make the call, which stands a promoter in much better stead in collecting on insurance policies to cover the massive losses associated with canceling one of the major annual events on their calendars.

Industry figures Variety spoke with offer mixed-to-negative prognostications for whether the show can go on with SXSW. Sponsors and activations associated with the interactive and film portions of the festival have been dropping out left and right, while the music biz has favored a wait-and-see approach to whether the show can go on.

Variety explores the issue — which defies easy explanation — in this article published Thursday.



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