SXSW was arguably the first Texas company to fall victim to the pandemic. On March 6, just days before the 2020 festival was scheduled to begin, Austin officials issued an emergency order, effectively banning large-scale events as the novel coronavirus began spreading across the U.S. As a result, SXSW canceled its flagship 10-day festival for the first time ever.
In retrospect, the decision likely saved lives and helped curb the spread of COVID-19, but SXSW's corporate fallout was fast and brutal. Within days, SXSW laid off 30 percent of its Austin-based workforce, and many were left wondering if the festival would ever return.
Finally, a bright spot of news in a dark time: SXSW is back. Yes, it will look different than years past, but registration has opened for SXSW Online, taking place March 16-20, 2021.
"This year has been one like none of us have faced. At SXSW, the impact has been profound and has involved substantial changes in how we work, so it means a lot for us to have the chance to plan a 2021 digital event where we can share experiences and exchange ideas at this crucial time," says SXSW cofounder and CEO Roland Swenson in a release.
Since its founding in 1987, SXSW has grown from a little Texas music festival to an internationally renowned festival that attracts the brightest minds in technology, film, music, and comedy. The 2021 digital version will capture much of that spirit, with signature keynote addresses, conference sessions, music showcases, comedy sets, film screenings, and other "unexpected discoveries."
Badges went on sale November 10, and are priced at $149 for a limited time. By March 2021, that rate will go up to $399. Student and group discounts are also available. Digital passes grant access to the following:
- SXSW Keynotes and Featured Speakers
- Mentor sessions and workshops
- SXSW Film Festival screenings, events, and exclusive premieres
- SXSW Music Festival showcases and events
- SXSW Comedy Festival content
- Online exhibitions
- Networking opportunities
A lineup isn't yet available — SXSW usually announces details in the two months leading up to the festival — but community voting on SXSW session proposals is underway through November 20. Peruse the more than 1,500 panels here, and vote for the ones you want to attend next year.
"It’s a new day for America and for the world," Swenson adds. "We have the opportunity to face challenges that affect us all, and we’re honored to bring you the conversations that will renew your hope in tomorrow."