Photo by Julia Reihs/KUT
Wednesday, September 23, 2020 by Marisa Charpentier, KUT

SXSW will have online events in 2021. A physical festival in Austin is still a possibility.

South by Southwest will host an online event next year, but plans for a physical one are still in the works, the organization announced Tuesday.

The annual series of conferences and festivals, which attracts hundreds of thousands to Austin each spring, was canceled in March because of Covid-19, the first of many festivals to be shut down this year as officials issued stay-at-home orders and put limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings. Shortly after the cancellation, the company laid off a third of its full-time staff, leaving many to wonder what the future of SXSW would entail.

Tuesday’s announcement gives some insight: SXSW Online, organizers say, will have “conference keynotes and sessions, screenings, showcases, networking, and exhibitions.” The education-focused segment, SXSW EDU Online, will take place March 9-11, and SXSW Online will be March 16-20.

“The challenge of building a new future is one that we’re excited to tackle,” Roland Swenson, CEO and co-founder, said in a press release. “This has been such a year of change and we, like the entire world, are reshaping our perspective on how we connect.”

SXSW will start accepting proposals for digital programs and sessions on Oct. 6 for SXSW and SXSW EDU, as well as submissions for the film festival. Rather than doing its typical showcase application process for the music festival, staff will curate music programming, “with priority given to showcase presenters and artists who were scheduled for the 2020 event,” organizers say.

SXSW is working with the city and public health officials on plans for a physical event next year. In 2019, SXSW brought in an estimated $356 million and attracted more than 400,000 attendees from around the world. This year’s cancellation was the first in the festival’s 34-year history.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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SXSW: Organizers of the massive annual festival that takes over the City of Austin each March. SXSW has donated to the Capital of Texas Media Foundation.

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