Force Majeure

How Ongoing Event Cancellations Are Challenging the Event Industry

Austin is strong. We rally. The first rule of evolution is “adapt or die,” and our city continually adapts, innovates and thrives. We’ll do it again in the aftermath of the SXSW and ongoing event cancellations. We’ll move forward and find ourselves somewhere better than we were before, because that’s who we are.

But in order to move forward, we think it’s important to take an honest look at where we are right now. The hard truth is that 30% of the SXSW staff was laid off — a heartbreaking turn of events for the people who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into 34 years of programming and parties that put our little city into the world’s consciousness.

Canceling SXSW (and an entire event season) also laid off and immensely impacted the revenues of 100% of event businesses and ancillary service businesses. As event designers, event producers and owners of a boutique event furniture rental company, we’ve taken a tremendous hit, and our friends and partners have too. In event production alone, this includes:

  • Event production & experiential marketing firms

  • Venues, including hotels, event venues, music venues, recording studios, theatres, movie theatres, co-working spaces, parking lots, private homes

  • Furniture rental companies

  • Lighting & Audio Visual companies

  • Fabricators & signage makers

  • Catering companies & their staff

  • Restaurants, food trucks, bars & their staff

  • Musicians & other talent

  • Freelance event producers, managers and workers

  • Security companies

  • Florists

  • Artists & Creatives

  • And many more….

The situation we are facing is unprecedented. How we react will set a precedent moving forward. We’ve huddled with our teams and other industry friends in our respective “war rooms” assessing the best way to weather this storm. It’s gonna take a minute. We have to strategize against the current bottom-line reality, while simultaneously planning how to navigate the next few months of canceled events. Though SXSW is a keystone of the Austin event industry, the spring event season is filled with races, weddings, festivals, corporate meetings, and culinary events that make up a large portion of our annual revenue. Austin is an event city. It’s in our DNA.

But maybe this breath of fresh hand-sanitizer is good for us. One thing we’ve realized in the brief time we’ve had to reflect is that people don’t come to Austin just for our signature events. They come because it’s Austin. They come because everything is oddly delicious here, and because we’re cool and kind and we make strangers feel like friends. So as scary as this moment is for everyone affected, we need to remember who we are, to know that if we build it, they will come. We need to step out of our fear and open ourselves up to inspiration and to the possibilities the future holds. Opportunities we can’t even imagine yet. This current discomfort might just be the birthplace of a whole new generation of events.

Meanwhile, the larger Austin community is asking how they can help, and that’s awesome. That’s Austin. Here are a few suggestions (for when you emerge from quarantine):

  • Go to restaurants, see live music and tip well.

  • Buy your next bouquet from a local florist or a local market.

  • Have your next dinner party catered.

  • Give your admins a break and hire an event producer for your next big sales meeting, conference, or holiday party.

  • Throw your kid a great graduation party.

  • Order new business cards or marketing collateral from a local printer.

  • If you’ve worked with a great events based business in the past, take ten minutes and leave them a review, visible to all the potential clients out there.

  • Donate to one of these organizations: Stand with Austin, Rally Austin, or Banding Together.

Don’t forget, Austin hosts a multitude of conferences and corporate and social events we never hear about. Every effort helps, and every effort is appreciated.

For now, we’re going to give a shout out to some of our longtime vendor partners, venues, and friends and favorites. We’re asking you to take some time to visit their website, get to know them, put them on your mental list for the next time you’re planning something, or the next time someone asks you if you know a good event designer, caterer, venue, etc.

7CO, 800 Congress, Antone’s, Arlyn Studios, Avec Mode, Big House Sound, Birch and Brass, Brazos Hall, Capital Factory, Contigo, Echelon Transportation, Event Power, Fair Market, FBR, Giant Noise, Gypsy Floral, Ilios, Little Yellow Flower Design, Loot Rentals, Marquee Event Rentals, Media Event Concepts, McGuire Moorman Hospitality, Native Hostel, New Waterloo, Nomad Sound, Party at the Moontower, Pershing, Premiere Events, Ruckus & Co, Service to Go, Strong Events, Table Manners, Texas Disposal Systems, The Peached Tortilla, The Sunset Room, Thomas Printworks, Trinity Hall, W3 Security, Werd, Whim Hospitality

We would love for you to use the comments on our socials and tag your own business, or others who have been affected. It’s important for all of us to know we’re not alone, to have honest conversations, and to build a community that’s stronger than it was before.

One of our favorite mantras for times like this: “I request and give thanks for the most benevolent outcome in this situation. I give thanks for the outcome being better than I can even imagine.”

We look forward to creating more inspiring experiences in the near future, and we can’t wait to party with you soon!

Sending good vibes-

Autumn Rich & Lisa Hickey

Co-Founders, Panacea Collective