What you need to know about SXSW Online 2021
Any other year — OK, not 2020 — we’d be doling out survival tips for Austin’s biggest party. But for this year’s South by Southwest, you probably already know the best place to find a free drink: your own liquor cabinet. We’re spending the week online, see.
Last year’s conference and festivals were canceled at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. In its wake, everything from Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion to Austin City Limits Music Festival to Sundance Film Festival reinvented itself for the social distancing era. As the coronavirus pandemic persists exactly a year later, organizers will present SXSW Online, March 16-20.
Here’s how to do the fest, virtually.
How to get access
Gone are the different types of badges for this year. SXSW is offering one pass that covers the entire event and lets you watch all the keynotes, sessions, screenings and showcases. The online pass costs $325.
How to watch
If your question is, “Can I tune in on my device?” then the answer is most likely yes. It’s all in the SXSW Online platform, which you can access from your computer or mobile device. Chrome and Firefox are recommended; Internet Explorer is not supported. The SXSW Online mobile app is available for iOS and Android. SXSW also will have connected TV apps for Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TV and Android TV.
Most of SXSW’s XR (extended reality) programming, including virtual cinema selections, will be available in virtual reality worlds accessible through PC, PCVR and Oculus Quest headsets.
Content will stream over five channels from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.
What to watch
You can browse the schedule and build your own at online.sxsw.com. Find our critics’ picks for films and music showcases in this issue and at austin360.com. (C’mon, you trust us.)
Keynotes will air at 1 p.m. every day of the fest:
• March 16: Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams in conversation with N.K. Jemison
• March 17: Country music icon Willie Nelson in conversation with Andy Langer
• March 18: Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
• March 19: Author Charles Yu in conversation with Lisa Ling
• March 20: Author and podcast host Priya Parker in conversation with Anand Giridharadas
Those big guns, plus all the featured sessions, will then be available on demand the day they’re scheduled to air.
Films will be available on demand the day they are scheduled to premiere, and some have limited capacity (so you’ll want to RSVP ahead of time through the SXSW Online schedule). SXSW will drop new film programming March 16-18, and movies will be available to watch until they hit capacity limit or until the fest ends March 20, whichever comes first. If you’ve secured your spot through an RSVP, you can watch the film any time until the end of the fest. (And if you're not going to use your "seat," hey, release it for someone else.)
Some films to note that have limited viewing windows, according to the fest: "Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil": 6 to 10 p.m. March 16), "Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free" ( 6 to 10 p.m. March 17) and "Under the Volcano" (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 20).
Music showcases will mostly be available at specific air times the week of the fest between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. That means you’ll want to tune in right on time.
Hey. It should all be fun. Go to sxsw.com and follow SXSW and Austin360 on social media to stay up to date on the latest.