This morning, we learned that SXSW had commissioned a report from the design and planning firm Populous, which suggested that the Austin festival should try to pressure the city to limit the unofficial shows that always surround the festival. The report also recommended that the festival pull the ultimate team-owner dick move and threaten to move to another city. The idea of corporate interests dominating SXSW even more than they already do understandably freaked everyone out. But the festival has now issued a statement that makes certain clarifications: They have no intention of ever leaving Austin, and they think that, for safety reasons, companies should not scramble to throw gigantic last-minute shows along the densely populated 6th Street corridor. Fair enough! This is a PR statement, and all PR statements should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s hard to find fault with anything the SXSW organizers say. Here’s that statement:
We’ve been careful not to say anything that implies we’re trying to ban unofficial events because, even if we could, we wouldn’t try to do that. We totally get that unofficial events are part of the appeal of SXSW, though the line between “official” and “unofficial” can be hard to distinguish.
The Populous report is their expert assessment and opinion, not ours, and we agree with most of it, but not all of it. In our own statements we’ve been careful not to imply a threat to relocate SXSW, and have also explicitly stated that is not our position numerous times.
What we’re asking the City to do is put a limit on the number of permits issued for events that require temporary permits, based on location, capacity and infrastructure. The City did that for the first time this past year, and we think it was a common sense move that should be a standard procedure. Parts of 6th Street are severely overcrowded and can’t support more pop-up events. The majority of the unofficial events are in existing businesses and this would not affect them.
The most important part of what we’re asking for is a comprehensive safety plan that will include not just SXSW events, but every other significant activity downtown during our event. Marketing companies are fond of the tactic of keeping everything a secret until the last minute to avoid scrutiny. SXSW, the unofficial events, and the City all need transparency in order to plan for safety properly.
Meanwhile, you can read the whole Populous report here.