South by Southwest Moves Toward 2021: Digital Festival Announced, With ‘Plans’ for a Physical Event


South by Southwest, the giant annual music, film and digital festival in Austin, Texas that was canceled due to the pandemic just days before it was to begin in March, has made its first announcements for 2021: A digital festival, with “plans for a 2021 physical event.”

The digital experience, “featuring conferences keynotes and sessions, screenings, showcases and more” will take place March 16 – 20, 2021; updates on the proposed physical event, which the festival is currently working on with the City of Austin, will be given as more information becomes available.

SXSW is launching SXSW Online as part of our 2021 offerings,” the announcement reads. The digital experience will feature conference keynotes and sessions, screenings, showcases, networking, and exhibitions. The dates for SXSW EDU Online are March 9 – March 11, 2021 and SXSW Online will take place March 16 – March 20, 2021.

As for musicians, “In lieu of the standard showcase application process, the Music Festival will be curated by programming staff with priority given to showcase presenters and artists who were scheduled for the 2020 event,” the announcement reads. The cancellation of the 2020 event, especially so close to its launch, was devastating not only for the musicians, films and projects that were to be showcases there, caused enormous hardship for the festival itself, which was forced to lay off one-third of its staff almost immediately after the announcement.

For film submissions: “The SXSW Film Festival celebrates raw innovation and emerging talent from both behind and in front of the camera. Featuring provocative dramas, documentaries, comedies, genre standouts and more, the Film Festival has become known for the high caliber and diversity of films presented, and for its smart, enthusiastic audiences. Screening sections include Feature Film, Short Film, Episodic, Music Video, Virtual Cinema, Texas High School Short, and Title Sequence.

  • Submissions Open: October 6, 2020
  • Early Deadline: October 14, 2020
  • Official Deadline: October 28, 2020

For those pitching panels: “PanelPicker® is the official SXSW user-generated session proposal platform for Conference programming. This easy, two-step online process was developed to encourage the SXSW community to enter proposals and have a significant voice in Conference programming. The SXSW community is then able to browse proposals, leave comments, and vote to help shape the programming. Explore the 2021 Themes to get inspired for your session proposal idea.

  • Applications Open: October 6, 2020

More information can be found on the SXSW website.

CEO and cofounder Roland Swenson added: “The challenge of building a new future is one that we’re excited to tackle. This has been such a year of change and we, like the entire world, are reshaping our perspective on how we connect. We’re pleased to be working on SXSW Online as part of our program for 2021, and regardless of platform, we will continue to bring together the brightest minds from creative industries worldwide.”