The 2020 editions of Miami’s Ultra Music Festival and Austin’s SXSW have been canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus. As both events were scheduled to take place this month, their last-minute cancelations have undoubtely left many attendees in a financial bind with non-refundable airline tickets and hotel reservations. Now, it’s been revealed that ticket-holders also won’t be receiving monetary refunds from the festivals directly.
In an email sent to ticket-holders on Monday evening, Ultra organizers said that tickets for the 2020 festival will “remain valid and will be honored at either the 2021 or 2022 Ultra Miami event.” The festival is also offering “an extraordinary added value package” that includes an exclusive DJ performance at a future festival; a discount code for merchandise; and “exclusive access” to purchase additional general admission tickets or premium tickets at discounted price. Ticket-holders are being given 30 days to decide which event — 2021 or 2022 — they will attend.
What Ultra is not offering, however, is a cash refund. According to the festival’s reddit channel, several ticket-holders who contacted the festival directly were told there will be no refunds, as the event has been postponed and not canceled. (One ticket-holder did manage to receive a refund after visiting Ultra’s Miami offices in person.)
Consequence of Sound reached out to Ultra representatives for clarity, but has yet to receive a response.
Meanwhile, SXSW appears to be abiding by its strict no refund policy, which is detailed on its website: “Any and all payments made to SXSW are not refundable for any reason, including, without limitation, failure to use Credentials due to illness, acts of God, travel-related problems, acts of terrorism, loss of employment and/or duplicate purchases.” Instead, like Ultra, SXSW is allowing badge-holders “to defer their registration to 2021, 2022 or 2023.”
Even if SXSW did want to offer refunds, it’s unlikely the festival has the financial resources to do so. SXSW co-founder Roland Swenson told the American-Statesman that the festival did not have an insurance policy that provides it with coverage for cancellation because of “bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics.”
Further to that point, on Monday, SXSW laid off roughly a third of its 175 year-round employees. In a statement to the Statesman, SXSW said the company “has been rigorously reviewing our operations, and we are in the unimaginable position of reducing our workforce,” adding, “We are planning for the future and this was a necessary, but heartbreaking, step.” Speaking to The Austin Chronicle, a “high-ranking official” put it in more bleak terms, saying the downsizing was “the only way to stop the bleeding”
Representatives for SXSW also did not respond to Consequence of Sound’s request for comment.