For 37 years, Austin, Texas, has hosted South by Southwest (SXSW), a festival and conference that takes over the entire city, bringing together the worlds of music, tech, film and TV. It’s helped launch the careers of Hanson, the White Stripes, Janelle Monae and Lena Dunham, and generated early buzz around platforms like Twitter and Foursquare. Even Barack Obama has been a keynote speaker. In October, Sydney will officially become home to a second iteration of the event – the first time it’s been held outside of North America. And the headline speakers (just four of more than 700) have just been announced: Queer Eye star and fashion designer Tan France, Coachella CEO Paul Tollett, Slack co-founder Cal Henderson and futurist Amy Webb.
Alongside talks by the above foursome, there’ll be more than 300 panels and sessions, 400-plus artist performances, plus industry and networking parties, and opportunities to pitch to leaders in tech. Topics span the revolutionary future of Aussie hip-hop; Asia’s creative community; how centring connection to culture, Country and the arts can improve educational outcomes for Indigenous children; and the impact of music in advertising. Events will happen all over Sydney CBD, Darling Harbour, Chippendale and other suburbs. Here’s what else to expect.
The SXSW music festival is one of the Texas event’s most famous components, and so far more than 100 acts are confirmed for the Sydney version. Expect performances from Australia-based artists including Andrew Gurruwiwi Band, Caitlin Harnett & the Pony Boys, Chanel Loren, Death by Denim, Grievous Bodily Calm and Teenage Joans, alongside gigs by international artists such as New Zealand’s Fazerdaze, South Korea’s Lil Cherry, Indonesia’s Isyana Sarasvati, UK’s Connie Constance and Canada’s Hotel Mira.
It’s not just performances, though. A range of panels and talks will explore new music trends in China, the use of AI in songwriting, and next-gen Blak storytellers.
Film buffs will also get a lot out of SXSW Sydney, via screening festivals, networking events and a conference. Already announced film screenings include documentary Anita, about actor and Rolling Stones muse Anita Pallenberg; Gagaland, a Chinese rags-to-riches tale set against a backdrop of social-media dance trends; Tokyo Uber Blues, about a film-school graduate who takes up Uber delivery; and Jamojaya, which follows an emerging Indonesian rapper in the US. There’ll also be a First Nations screening festival, as well as talks by Binge executive director Alison Hurbert-Burns, academic and filmmaker Larissa Behrendt, Bluey music composer Joff Bush, and Netflix ANZ director of content Que Minh Luu.
The creative industries pillar of SXSW Sydney – spanning design, PR, marketing and advertising – will feature panels and talks digging into big ideas: ethical living with robots, the future of lab-grown meat, reimagining news media, AI in music videos and much more. Speakers and panellists include Silverchair’s Ben Gillies, journalist Brooke Boney, sexologist Chantelle Otten, Holly Rankin (aka Jack River), presenter Jan Fran, Ozharvest’s Ronni Kahn, presenter Osher Günsberg, and comedian Wil Anderson.
Sextech expert Bryony Cole, Atlassian work futurist Dom Price, cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell, author and marketer Guy Kawasaki, Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor, Expedia CTO Rathi Murthy and Reddit CMO Roxy Young are just a few of the speakers covering tech at the conference. Expect them and many others to speak on subjects spanning big tech transparency, female-led tech businesses, using more First Nations knowledge in design, the future of music tech, and the future of love.
Games showcases and launches, parties and networking opportunities constitute the games pillar of SXSW Sydney. Hear from industry leaders including Riot Games’ Andrei van Roon and Kjartan Arsaelsson, Dentsu’s Brent Koning, Q-Ctrl founder Michael Biercuk and Twitch chief product officer Tom Verrilli on topics like death and dying in video games, the myth of the single user, and brain-computer interfaces.