A day after the consulting firm Populous issued an analysis of both SXSW and the City of Austin, SXSW has issued a formal press release to CultureMap and other news outlets distancing itself from the report, which garnered headlines both in Austin and across the world.
The full, un-edited statement appears below, and responds to a number of points discussed during Wednesday's news frenzy. The most controversial issues include both the idea that all non-SXSW sanctioned events would be prohibited and the suggestion that SXSW would consider relocating if the Austin City Council failed to put into motion a streamlined event permitting process. "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," SXSW said.
This comes just a day after SXSW co-founder and managing director Roland Swenson told the Austin American-Statesman, “SXSW is so tied up in Austin and we reflect each other so much that I can’t really imagine [a move] happening.” Instead, said Swenson, “Our fear is that we’re just not going to be able to do it anymore because of all of these different factors that are emerging and growing out of control.”
The statement also says, "the Populous report is their expert assessment and opinion, not ours, and we agree with most of it, but not all of it." It should be noted that it was a SXSW consultant who was credited with originally giving the report to the Austin American-Statesman.
Whether or not the Austin City Council does decide to implement an event permitting process as outlined by SXSW has yet to be determined.
SXSW Official 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.