Mar 11, 2022 - News

What you need to know about South by Southwest

Festivalgoers experience the PC Arena during SXSW on March 16, 2019. Photo: Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW

Ready or not, South by Southwest is back.

The big picture: Friday marks the return of the first in-person SXSW in three years, and while festival organizers have said attendance is down compared to 2019, Austinites can expect downtown to feel, well, normal as spring break and SXSW collide.

Yes, but: There are plenty of changes as event organizers juggle the coronavirus and crowds through March 20.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Despite Austin's move to its Stage 2 risk-based guidelines, attendees are required to submit proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of picking up their passes. Those who are showing a negative test have a seven-day interval for required re-testing.
  • The Austin Convention Center will be home to a free COVID testing center, and pop-up testing sites will be sprinkled throughout the event.
  • Masks will be required in all conference rooms, exhibitions, all Film Festival theaters and many other indoor locations.
  • Badge holders also can access online events, but not all programming will be available virtually.

By the numbers: Conference registration numbers aren't expected to match 2019 figures, but SXSW organizers say they've seen an uptick in sales over the last several weeks, likely due to dwindling COVID numbers.

  • There are fewer music acts this year — just more than 1,400 — down by about one-third from the 2019 event, event organizers told Axios.
  • But organizers expect conference sessions and Film Festival screenings to be on par or close to 2019's event.

Still, SXSW will include big names: Lizzo, Jonathan Van Ness, Donald Glover, Dolly Parton, Beto O'Rourke, Mark Cuban, Chrissy Teigen and more.

Some notable events include:

  • Billboard and Samsung Galaxy will host a three-day concert series at Moody Amphitheater, featuring Young Thug, Gunna, Kygo and Shawn Mendes.
  • KUTX 98.9 will host a concert series at the historic Studio 6A on the UT campus.
  • The red carpet is back, and film festival attendees can catch headliners, including Glover's "Atlanta;" "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" with Nicolas Cage and Tiffany Haddish and "The Lost City" starring Sandra Bullock and Daniel Radcliffe.
  • As always, big brands like CNN, Twitter, Peacock, Dr. Martens and more will take over Rainey Street.

Of note: Like previous years, most events will be held in the downtown area: the Austin Convention Center, the Red River Cultural District, Rainey Street District and the Paramount Theater.

  • Pro tip: Don't plan on driving anywhere close to downtown.

What to watch: SXSW 2019's economic impact on the local economy totaled $355.9 million, and total attendance at all SXSW events surpassed 280,000. Keep an eye on what smaller crowds and attendance means for this year's economic impact.


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