Mar 8, 2024 - News

South by Southwest kicks off

A SXSW sign with the Austin skyline in the background.

SXSW signage at the 2019 festival. Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

South by Southwest begins on Friday, bringing hundreds of thousands to Austin for nine days of programming and parties centered around music, film and technology.

What to expect: Gear up for traffic jams, long waits at restaurants, a busy airport terminal and a generally hectic month around Austin.

  • The festival starts today and ends March 16, with airport officials warning of a busy spring travel period through the end of the month.
  • SXSW, NASCAR and Texas Relays take place in rapid succession, or in some cases at the same time.
  • Meanwhile, the University of Texas, Austin ISD and many surrounding districts have their spring break next week.

Yes, but: As SXSW kicks off, organizers are facing pushback over an exhibit and sponsorship from the U.S. Army and defense contractor Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of RTX Corporation, formerly Raytheon.

What they're saying: Ella Williams, whose stage name is Squirrel Flower, called for other musicians to drop out this week.

  • "A music festival should not include war profiteers," Williams wrote in an Instagram post. "I refuse to be complicit in this and withdraw my art and labor in protest."

Between the lines: It's not the first time musicians have expressed their displeasure with SXSW officials.

  • This is the first year artists are under a new compensation structure, the first bump in pay for more than a decade for performing at the festival.

What we're watching: Whether additional musicians and creatives will boycott, and how conference speakers juggle the pressure to speak out against Israel over its war tactics.

New this year: Festivalgoers can attend sessions under an artificial intelligence track.

  • Plus, big names like Meghan Markle, The Black Keys, Kendra Scott and Jane Fonda are set to appear on panels across the conference.
  • Expect comedy shows from Conan O'Brien, Judd Apatow, Punkie Johnson, Robert Smigel and more, and a film festival lineup with a wide array of movies from A-list celebrities to emerging talent.

If you go: It's not too late to buy a badge or wristband, but there's plenty of free programming and music around town.

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