Event Preview: South by Southwest (SXSW) Goes Virtual in 2021

We break down how SXSW is going virtual this year.
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SXSW

Since SXSW’s founding in 1987, this Austin based event has grown from a grassroots music festival to an international conference and festival celebrating the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries.

In 2021, SXSW moves to a digital format in light of the ongoing global pandemic. From March 16-20, 2021, SXSW Online 2021 will offer conference sessions, music showcases, film screenings, exhibitions, and a variety of networking and professional development opportunities. For those who have wanted to participate in SXSW, this virtual event gives participants the chance to experience the program’s global offerings from the comfort of their home.

CNN's Jake Tapper and The Daily Show's Trevor Noah speak onstage at the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 9, 2019 in Austin, Texas

CNN's Jake Tapper and The Daily Show's Trevor Noah speak onstage at the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 9, 2019 in Austin, Texas

The SXSW Conference will present conversations ranging from Keynotes and Featured Sessions to over 230 sessions curated by SX staff and sourced from the SX community. Keynotes include Stacey Abrams, Pete Buttigieg; Priya Parker, Charles Yu, and Willie Nelson. Among the Featured Speakers will be Emmy Award-winning host Samantha Bee, former President George W. Bush, The Daily Show News Team, Ava DuVernay, Mick Fleetwood, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, DEVO cofounder Mark Mothersbaugh, and Reddit’s COO Jen Wong.

Stacey Abrams speaks onstage at Featured Session: Lead from the Outside: How to Make Real Change during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Hilton Austin on March 11, 2019 in Austin, Texas.

Stacey Abrams speaks onstage at Featured Session: Lead from the Outside: How to Make Real Change during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Hilton Austin on March 11, 2019 in Austin, Texas.

Of particular interest is the emergence of Cannabusiness as a viable topic for discussion alongside categories like government & politics, media & journalism, future of music, design, advertising & brand experience, and startups. Also, the SXSW Comedy Festival has emerged in recent years to include a diverse lineup of rising stars and headliners showcasing a range of comedy from standup, improv, and sketches, to podcasts, panels, and parties.

Matthew McConaughey attends the "The Beach Bum" Premiere 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 09, 2019 in Austin, Texas.

Matthew McConaughey attends the "The Beach Bum" Premiere 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 09, 2019 in Austin, Texas.

The 2021 Film Festival will showcase 75 features with 57 world premieres. Films screened include the Opening Night Headliner Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil; the Centerpiece film Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free, and the Closing Night film Alone Together.

While past festivals have filled the streets of Austin with sounds of music and revelry, this year, the SXSW Music Festival will give pass holders the opportunity to see artists performing from their home countries at unique venues like a Norwegian cable car, Abbey Road Studios, a Brazilian greenhouse cafe and a Taoist temple. Stream the SXSW Official 2021 Playlists on Apple Music, Spotify, and Qobuz.

Atmosphere - Robert Ellis

Atmosphere - Robert Ellis - Piano

SXSW Online 2021 will be streamed via web, mobile, and the SXSW Online Connected TV app (Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, Samsung TV Plus, and Android TV).

Select showcase live panels, meet ups, special events, live theatre performances, and a selection of 360° videos from the Virtual Cinema program, will be available at SXSW Online XR on VRChat. On this platform, select Austin venues will be recreated in the space to give participants a feel of being present in Austin.

The range of competing programming can easily overwhelm even an experienced festival goer. Upon registration, participants can access the SXSW online portal. Browse though the offerings or utilize the targeted search functions to search through the myriad offerings by genre, artists, accessibility, and other markers. As with any festival, participants can search for freebies and merchandise deals via the Creative Industries Exhibition, Products & Services, and Swag Bag links.

The 2021 SXSW Online pass pass affords participants access to the entire line of live and on-demand programming including Keynotes & Featured Sessions, Conference Sessions, Mentor Sessions & Workshops, Film Festival Screenings, Music Festival Showcases, Comedy Festival Showcases and Podcasts, Discussion Channels, Creative Industries Exhibition, Networking Events, and Special Events. To register for this pass, please visit sxsw.com/attend.

Follow SXSW on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) or subscribe to SXSW Event Updates for the latest news. 

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