March 9-18, 2018
By Claudia Alarcon :: Photography courtesy of SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST®
In 1986, a small group of likeminded Austinites began discussing the future of the local creative and music communities. Based on the premise that Austin’s artists were as talented as those from anywhere else in the world but were limited by a lack of exposure outside of Austin, the group organized the first SXSW® (SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST®) Music Festival in March of the following year.
On that first opening day, the expected 150 registrants grew to 700, with 177 showcasing artists on 15 panels, workshops and sessions on 15 venues and stages. The event was well received by attendees and participating artists, and a tradition was born. On its 20th anniversary, SXSW included 2,085 showcasing artists and 320 panels, workshops and sessions on 104 venues and stages.
SXSW has solidified its place as one of the most important international conferences, featuring 24 tracks of programming that allow attendees to explore what’s next in the worlds of film, culture, music and technology. Over the years, influential figures from all imaginable industries have participated, including Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, and even President Obama crashed the party. For the 2018 edition, topics will range from food tech to artificial intelligence; from health and wellness to the future of the NBA. New this year, the SXSW Eco-curated Cities Summit will offer more opportunities for networking, learning and discovery.
During the 10 days of the conference, Downtown Austin becomes electric with an unmatched atmosphere that brings together a multicultural crowd through cutting-edge presentations, street performances, interactive displays from technology and movie giants, and so much more. A big draw every year is the free concert series at the Auditorium Shores outdoor stage — three nights of diverse programming open to everyone — with no badge or wristband required. Many people who can’t attend the conference enjoy just walking around and soaking it all in, participating in free activities, concerts and parties that pop up like mushrooms. Bring your business cards and get ready to network, even while standing in line for drinks or lunch.
SXSW Conferences have always had innovation as their driving force. 1992 saw the first outdoor stage performances at SXSW Music, with conference programming at the Austin Convention Center starting the following year. For SXSW ’94, often remembered for the Johnny Cash keynote speech and intimate performance at punk rock club Emo’s, two new events — Multimedia and Film — were introduced. The following year the SXSW Film and Media Conference split into two separate events, SXSW Film and SXSW Multimedia. In 1997, Multimedia became SXSW Interactive. That same year brought legendary performers Carl Perkins and Tony Bennett, as well as a Film panel featuring Mike Judge, Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and George Huang. By 1998 the total number of film submissions had grown from 638 to 1,015. This was also the first year for the SXSW Web Awards, honoring the best in websites and digital work.
SWSW also offers a window to the world, with countries such as Great Britain, Germany, Canada, France and Spain hosting weeklong events at designated “houses,” most of which are open to the public during daytime hours. In 2014, thanks to the growing interest and participation from Latin American countries, SXAméricas was launched to curate and showcase music, film and tech companies from Mexico and beyond. Through this initiative, SXSW presented the 2016 Cuban music showcase, as well as panels featuring artists and innovators from Cuba.
Registration is still open to participants in various levels. Visit www.sxsw.com/attend/ to register and see the schedule of panels, shows and events.
1: Film Screening
2017 SXSW Conference & Festivals | Photo by Nicky G. Hernandez Jr.
2: Actress Charlize Theron attends the “Atomic Blonde” premiere | Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW
3: The Urgency Of Now: Launching The Biden Cancer Initiative | Photo by Mindy Best/Getty Images for SXSW
4: A Conversation with Buzz Aldrin and Jeff Kluger | Photo by Hubert Vestil/Getty Images for SXSW
5: Texas native Khalid performs on stage | Photo by Phil Nacionales
6: Film Keynote: Lee Daniels | Photo by Errich Petersen
7: Featured Speaker: John Cena | Photo by Katrina Barber/Getty Images for SXSW