South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival announced a barrage of featured speakers for the 2021 event, which runs online from March 16-20. The Conference and Festivals has announced political leader and best selling author, Stacey Abrams as their keynote speaker for the year in conversation with author N.K. Jeminson.
SXSW will be featured online for 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will contain premiere digital experiences featuring Conference sessions, music showcases, Film Festival screenings, networking, and the unexpected discoveries that are always a part of SXSW.
Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer of SXSW Online stated, “In the 30 plus years of SXSW, we’ve showcased so many incredible voices who have shown tremendous courage and leadership, which is why we’re excited to add Nobel Peace Prize nominee Stacey Abrams as a Keynote for 2021. Moreover, her conversation with science fiction writer N.K. Jemisin taps into the kind of creative energy that only happens at SXSW.”
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The SXSW Conference explores what’s next, not only in entertainment, but also in culture and technology. Presented in a variety of formats, SXSW Online programming sessions are organized by themes, which are specifically focused what the future could look like. More information about SXSW programming formats and themes can be found here.
For an updated list of Keynote speeches and events announced as of Feb 11, see below:
Newly-announced SXSW 2020 Keynotes include:
- Entrepreneur, political leader, and New York Times bestselling author of Our Time is Now and Lead from the Outside Stacey Abrams in conversation with Hugo award-winning writer and author of the New York Times bestselling book The City We Became N.K. Jemisin.
Newly-announced Featured Speakers include:
- Entrepreneur, angel investor, chess master, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Choose Yourself, James Altucher in conversation with Square co-founder Jim McKelvey
- Creative director, author, costume designer, celebrity stylist, Rockmom and social media maven June Ambrose in conversation with Emmy-nominated creative director and choreographer Laurieann Gibson
- CEO & President of Favor and H-E-B Chief Digital Officer Jag Bath in conversation with Inc editor-at-large Tom Foster
- Oregon Congressman (OR-03), founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and champion of cannabis legalization in Congress Earl Blumenauer with POLITICO federal cannabis policy reporter Natalie Fertig
- Entrepreneur and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, wrongfully convicted death row exoneree Sabrina Butler-Smith, and founder and CEO of the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice Celia Ouellette
- Director, producer, and writer named by Forbes as one of the “30 Under 30” most influential people in media in 2019, Erin Lee Carr
- Kansas City Chiefs right guard, medical student and doctorate in medicine graduate Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in conversation with multi-Emmy Award winning journalist Andrea Kremer
- Artist and painter working across multiple mediums to explore the continuity between ecology, infrastructure, and architecture, Torkwase Dyson
- Psychotherapist, writer of The Atlantic’s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column, co-host of the popular podcast, “Dear Therapists,” and author of the New York Times bestseller Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, Lori Gottlieb in conversation with New York Times bestselling author, host of PBS show Tell Me More, and host of Kelly Corrigan Wonders, Kelly Corrigan
- Two-time Grammy nominated choreographer, director and performance artist Ryan Heffington in conversation with Vulture writer Rachel Handler
- Co-founder and CEO of Twilio Jeff Lawson
- Chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, and president of Sinovation Ventures Artificial Intelligence Institute Kai-Fu Lee
- Executive Director of Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation Cat Packer in conversation with writer and reporter Amanda Chicago Lewis
- Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Publishing, home to the world’s greatest songwriters, Jon Platt in conversation with Grammy Award®-winning singer, songwriter, bestselling author and environmentalist, Carole King.
- Head of Amazon Studios, where she oversees all aspects of television and film development as well as production for Amazon’s global entertainment division, Jennifer Salke
Newly-announced Featured Sessions include:
- 3D Printing is Launching Aerospace to the Future: A conversation about automating aerospace manufacturing and how rockets will be built and flown with co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space Tim Ellis and Astroathens CEO Athena Brensberger.
- Alexi Pappas & Bill Hader on Being a Bravey: A conversation with Olympian, actress, and author of the bestselling book Bravey, Alexi Pappas, in conversation with Emmy award-winning actor, filmmaker and creator/star of Barry, Bill Hader. Pappas and Hader will discuss their evolving relationship with mental health in their creative, professional, and personal lives, and on the lessons they’ve learned from mentors along the way.
- Amplifying Athlete Voices Off the Court: Athletes have been using their platform and voices for decades to bring light to social issues on and off the field of play, but 2020 brought upon new urgency when COVID-19 and the killings of Black citizens like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor coincided in the span of a few months. Bleacher Report and Turner Sports will bring together a panel of stakeholders including, Turner analysts Candace Parker, Chris Webber, Senior Vice President of NBA Digital Content Operations and Diversified Sports Content, Eric Jackson, and moderated by Turner Sports social media producer Morgann Mitchell, and will dive into how these brands are concentrated on raising athletes’ voices on social issues to new heights and the importance of highlighting athlete activism.
- Are We the Smartest Kids on the Block?: A conversation with Harvard University Professor of Science Avi Loeb, and New Scientist reporter Leah Crane about the search for extraterrestrial life, one of the most exciting frontiers in astronomy. With the recent discoveries on the cloud deck of Venus and studies of the weird interstellar object `Oumuamua, find out how the search for unusual electromagnetic flashes, industrial pollution of planetary atmospheres, artificial light or heat, artificial space debris or something completely unexpected holds the promise of advancing and maturing both science and society.
- Beyond the Gender Binary: With increasing recognition of the fluidity of gender, the time has come for a 21st century approach to gender justice. Dividing billions of people into one of two categories “man or woman” is not natural, it is political. Gender diversity is an integral part of our existence. It always has been, and it always will be. The gender binary – the idea that there are only two separate and opposite genders – was built to create conflict and division, not foster creativity and humanity. In this conversation ALOK and Demi Lovato will speak about the status of trans rights in the United States and the power of creative self-expression in the face of gender norms.
- Beyond the Tank: Investing in the Heart of Texas: Joining designer and entrepreneur Kendra Scott and entrepreneur, author, Shark Tank star and owner of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban discuss the importance of entrepreneurship to the state of Texas, their own passions for supporting entrepreneurship, what they each look for in an investment, and advice for the audience in how to secure investors and succeed in business – especially during a pandemic. Moderated by Fast Company editor-in-chief Stephanie Mehta.
- Bruce Mau – Designing for the Cluster: Bruce Mau applies his MC24 design principles and his new life-centered approach to confronting the simultaneous cluster cascade of crisis that he calls The Cluster: Pandemics – Racial and social justice – Climate – Food Insecurity – Governance. In this conversation with philosopher and writer Sanford Kwinter, Mau will demonstrate that all of these global challenges are interrelated and that they have their origin in a fundamental crisis of empathy.
- Building Equity In Startup Communities: A discussion about scaling equity throughout the technology, startup and venture ecosystem to ensure a path to shared prosperity for Black, Latinx and Indigenous People of Color in the fourth industrial revolution and beyond. Foundry Group and Techstars co-founder Brad Feld, and 100 Black Angels & Allies Fund and Opportunity Hub co-founder Rodney Sampson will discuss their strategies for operationalizing diversity, equity & inclusion in the startup ecosystem, moderated by Business Insider reporter Dominic-Madori Davis.
- Creating Through a Crisis: Join Adobe executive, author and entrepreneur Scott Belsky and designer, author, and educator Debbie Millman for an inspiring discussion of the ways creativity will shape our new, post-pandemic world and the exciting ways we can all be a part of the creative revolution.
- Can 5G Transform the Live Music Experience?: In the last year we have felt the absence of live music. Artists have stepped up and gotten creative to reach fans virtually with some amazing results – but it can’t replace the impact of live performances. As we look forward to the return of live music, artists have a new platform to help deliver innovative experiences – 5G. The next generation of cellular delivers capabilities that can take the live experience to new levels of immersion and unlock new opportunities for artist creativity. Join Cristiano Amon, President and CEO-elect of wireless leader Qualcomm, and Grammy nominated DJ Steve Aoki and hear from two visionaries about the future of the live experience in a 5G world.
- The Chainsmokers on launching MANTIS VC: Grammy® Award-winning and Billboard Chart topping artist/producer duo, The Chainsmokers, are a dominating musical force with a diverse repertoire of songs that have led them to become one of world’s biggest recording artists. Alex Pall and Drew Taggart have expanded The Chainsmokers’ empire into film and television, tequila, philanthropy, and most recently their venture capital firm Mantis. Hear their story on how the duo have evolved their music career into so much more with Andreessen Horowitz Managing Partner Chris Lyons.
- A Conversation with Desus Nice and The Kid Mero: A conversation with multi-talented comedians, authors of the New York Times best seller God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from the Bronx, co-hosts of Showtime’s first late-night talk show Desus & Mero and the long-running Bodega Boys podcast, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero.
- A Conversation with Noah Hawley and Andrew Bird: Set in Kansas City 1950, Fargo’s fourth installment follows two crime syndicates jockeying to control an alternate economy of exploitation and graft while fighting for a piece of the American dream. Join Noah Hawley (creator / executive producer / director / writer) and GRAMMY ® Award nominated musician Andrew Bird for a not-to-be-missed conversation about how a concert in Austin lead to Bird’s acting debut in Fargo. Moderated by Whitney Friedlander. All four installments of the critically acclaimed limited series are currently available to stream on FX on Hulu.
- A Conversation with the Russo Brothers and Elizabeth Banks: A fireside chat between visionary directors/producers Anthony and Joe Russo (Welcome to Collinwood, Arrested Development, Avengers: Endgame, Relic, Mosul and Cherry) and acclaimed actress, director, writer and producer Elizabeth Banks (Charlie’s Angels, The Hunger Games, and Shrill). Banks will talk to the Russo Brothers about their new film, Cherry, as well as the work they are doing with their company, AGBO. Cherry stars Tom Holland and is based on the critically acclaimed debut novel by Nico Walker. It will be released in theaters in February and on Apple TV+ in March.
- COVID-19: The New Reality: Dr. Michael Osterholm, joined by health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, will speak to the SXSW community about what is next in the fight against COVID-19. From the immediate concerns around new variants to the “collateral damage” we face from this pandemic, Dr. Osterholm and Ms. Sarasohn-Kahn will share insights to help navigate public health in 2021 and beyond.
- Evolving the Gaming Industry with CouRage & Loaded: Gaming is taking off and bringing new opportunities for creators, brands and entertainment companies. Loaded, the leading management company for some of the world’s biggest professional gamers will host a special Q&A with leading content creator CouRage to examine the state of the today’s gaming industry and how the creator community has evolved the business for the better. The talk with Loaded VP of Talent Bridget Davidson will highlight key learning from CouRage’s successful career, as well as spotlight how brands and other non-endemic companies can work with creators to capture both eyeballs and engagement.
- Fan & Band Interaction in Livestream & XR: a discussion about how to transform and engage todays’ audience of active online users and create a connection between fans and bands with Two time Grammy Awarded producer, writer, singer, multi-instrumentalist and technologist Imogen Heap, and leader, innovator and Fantracks Digital CEO Ty Roberts.
- Forging a New Social Contract for Big Tech: Beyond privacy, revised liability laws can hold companies accountable for what they disseminate online. Antitrust actions could check the flow of wealth to the small number of companies that control platforms, aggregators, and algorithms. A lightweight horizontal regulation could add a safety layer to the high-risk applications of artificial intelligence. This discussion features U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Denmark tech ambassador Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, and President & Co-founder Center for Humane Technology Tristan Harris, and will focus on the role for technology companies in the 21st Century and what a new “social contract” could look like for Big Tech – in both Europe and the United States.
- Gene Editing: The Biotech Revolution of our Times: Bestselling author Walter Isaacson has established himself as the biographer of creativity, innovation, and genius. He wrote about Einstein, a genius of the revolution in physics, and Steve Jobs, a genius of the revolution in digital technology. Though the past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet, Isaacson argues we are now on the cusp of a third revolution in science—a revolution in biochemistry that is capable of curing diseases, fending off viruses, and improving the human species. With the invention of CRISPR, we can edit our DNA. CRISPR has been used in China to create “designer babies” that are immune from the AIDS virus and in the U.S. to cure patients of sickle cell anemia. With the life-science revolution, children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study the code of life—and all the moral dilemmas this brings. Isaacson will be joined in conversation with award-winning journalist, New York Times best-selling author, and a co-founder of Stand Up to Cancer Katie Couric.
- How to Build a More Authentic Online Community: Join social media pioneer and founder of the venture capital fund Seven Seven Six Alexis Ohanian as he explores the future of online community building alongside three architects at the forefront of social media’s next wave. Realtime’s Vernon Coleman, Gloria’s Victoire Cogevina and Dispo’s David Dobrik will join Ohanian to deconstruct the social media landscape and discuss how they’re individually building unique, authentic, and sustainable online communities for this new age.
- Indigenous Peoples Hold the Key to Saving Earth: For centuries, Indigenous communities have served as guardians of the environment, protecting nature, respecting flora and fauna, and using traditional knowledge and wisdom passed down over generations. They safeguard 80% of biodiversity left in the world, which is key to turning around the climate crisis, as biodiverse areas are major carbon sinks. In this panel, Nemonte Nenquimo, a leader from the Waorani community in Ecuador and founding member of Indigenous-led nonprofit organization Ceibo Alliance and Amazon Frontlines speaks with Julia Jackson, Founder of Grounded.org, to discuss why climate philanthropy must be reimagined to protect the future of our planet, by directing resources to indigenous communities who are at the frontlines of our climate emergency.
- Immersive Retail: Connected Shopping in a New Era: A conversation about the acceleration in changes to the retail environment and what major initiatives the retail industry is pursuing to enable the widespread proliferation of AR/VR and 3D content for e-commerce and retail with TechTalk/Studio president and co-founder Kevin O’Malley, IBM Global Business Strategy Partner Silke Meixner, and Unity Head of Industry Verticals, Operate Solutions, Tony Parisi.
- Late Night Girls Club: Samantha Bee & Amber Ruffin: Samantha Bee (host and executive producer of the WGA nominated, Emmy Award-winning show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee) in conversation with Amber Ruffin (writer, executive producer and host of WGA Award-nominated series The Amber Ruffin Show). The two will discuss the trials and tribulations of covering politics in today’s unpredictable climate from a unique, comedic point of view. As the longest running correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Bee eventually went out on her own in 2016 with Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. The show continues to use political satire to entertain, educate, and empower viewers while keeping the government in check. Ruffin is also an Emmy and WGA Award-nominated writer and performer for Late Night with Seth Meyers, and was the first African American female to write for a late-night network talk show in the U.S.
- Live Music in Venues: What’s Next?: 2020 was a year of catastrophic impact for the live music industry as the pandemic brought the industry to a screeching halt. A year later, this session brings together independent venue perspectives from across the US., including Troubadour talent booker Amy Madrigali, Iridium director of artist relations & programming Grace Blake, First Avenue Productions president and CEO Dayna Frank and moderated by Pollstar, VenuesNow executive editor Andy Gensler. How have they been able to support developing talent? What’s ahead for their establishment and how they can get back to supporting a full schedule of acts?
- Melinda Gates+ Kelly Corrigan Talk Big Change: For more than two decades, Melinda Gates has been on a mission. Her goal, as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, she has come to a critical conclusion: when we lift up women, we lift up humanity. In conversation with podcaster, PBS host, and bestselling author Kelly Corrigan, Gates will discuss her bestselling book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, and its stories of the empowered women Gates has met over the years. Gates will talk about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work around family planning, education, and gender equality, and she will call us to action—urging us to drive progress in our homes, workplaces, and communities.
- Music’s Limitless Variations: Hear from Lenzo Yoon, the Global CEO of BTS’ label Big Hit Entertainment (hereafter referred to as Big Hit), as he explains how Big Hit was able to see what comes next, as well as prepare for the future at every critical juncture, and share Big Hit’s past, present and tomorrow. Lenzo Yoon presents prospects and insights on the future of the K-pop industry and, furthermore, on the future of the global entertainment industry.
- The New Marketplace of Music Royalties: A discussion around maximizing and navigating royalty opportunities for musicians and how the music modernization act will transform the landscape for music royalties with head of educational partnerships for The Mechanical Licensing Collective Serona Elton; founder and CEO of Sound Royalties Alex Heiche; CMO of The Mechanical Licensing Collective Ellen Truley; entertainment lawyer Robert A. Celetsin; and Grammy award-winning musician and actor Wyclef Jean.
- Ocean Storytelling with James Cameron & Brian Skerry: Join world-renowned filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer at Large James Cameron and National Geographic Explorer and Photographer Brian Skerry on a guided adventure into the deep blue to discuss the upcoming Disney+ original documentary series Secrets of the Whales. Filmed over three years in 24 locations, avid underwater conservationists James Cameron and Brian Skerry join forces to deliver an epic, awe-inspiring look at the incredible life and culture of whales and how the world’s largest mammals are facing the challenge of an ever-changing ocean. Moderated by OceanXplorers executive producer Orla Doherty.
- The Quest Effect: Inside VR’s Next Chapter: Anyone who has entered virtual reality knows what a transformative experience donning a headset can be. Until recently, that experience was enjoyed mainly by hard-core VR enthusiasts. This year, all-in-one VR has become better, more powerful, and more affordable, expanding and changing the makeup of who spends time in VR. Now, that new group is discovering how great VR can be — not only for games, but also for fitness, media, hangouts with friends, and even real work. Join Mark Rabkin, Vice President of Oculus at Facebook, for a discussion about the future of VR, its changing ecosystem, and what its recent success means for the development of the next computing platform.
- Stepping into Space – The ISS Experience:Join NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Félix Lajeunesse, Creative Director from Felix & Paul Studios, and Jonathan Woods, Executive Producer from TIME Studios, as they discuss the making of Space Explorers: The ISS Experience,the largest production ever filmed in space. Shot over two years, the series offers an intimate take on the joy, wonder, and dangers of life in orbit as Jessica Meir and seven of her fellow astronauts take on life-changing missions aboard the International Space Station. Joined by Moderator Laura Mingail, Meir, Lajeunesse and Woods will share their personal experiences, challenges and the meaning that their epic four-part immersive series conveys for each.
- STARZ’S ‘Power’ Universe Collides: Join STARZ’S Power Universe co-creator, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson; Power Book II: Ghost cast: Michael Rainey Jr., Mary J. Blige, and Cliff “Method Man” Smith; Power Book III: Raising Kanan cast: Mekai Curtis and Patina Miller; and Power Book IV: Force lead: Joseph Sikora, for the first time ever as the Power Universe collides. Moderated by media personality and bestselling author Angie Martinez, Power stars will discuss: the legacy of the Power Universe, the latest on upcoming seasons, the future and fate of new and iconic characters.
- ‘Ted Lasso’: Emotion in the Edit: Join producers and members of the Ted Lasso editorial team in a panel discussion on the magic of Bill Lawrence shows (Scrubs, Cougar Town, Spin City) and how editorial is the true partner in landing the jokes, drawing out emotion and making it feel like you’re spending 30 minutes with your long time pack of friends. American Cinema Editors (ACE) CinemaEditor Magazine writer Nancy Jundi will moderate the panel with representatives from the Ted Lasso creative and editorial team (Bill Lawrence, Kip Kroeger, Melissa McCoy, and A.J. Catoline) to elaborate on the many considerations that go into building and honoring a character across episodes, seasons and a series.
- The Way Forward for Artists: A candid conversation about the future of creating a sustainable income for artists and controlling their own destiny with Marc Geiger, former global head of music at William Morris, founder of Lollapalooza and recent founder of Savelive a national live venue network designed to reinvent and rescue music clubs across the U.S. and Tim Westergren, founder and former CEO of Pandora and co-founder of live-streaming platform Sessions.
- Who Controls the Past: The Tulsa Race Massacre: How is it possible that the 1921 massacre of as many as thousands of Black people in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was almost erased from US history? And why is it finally penetrating the national consciousness? Featured in HBO’s The Watchmen and Lovecraft Country, this history survived because of the dedicated efforts of Black Tulsans, including the descendants of survivors, who have made it their life’s work to uncover what really happened and make sure we never forget. This session, moderated by Jeffery Robinson from Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, examines the work of activists Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Chief Egunwale F. Amusan, and Kristi Orisabiyi Williams to take control of the historical narrative, and in so doing, to force a reckoning on racial justice in this country and a long overdue conversation on reparations for Black Americans.
- Why Do We Fear Innovation?: A conversation featuring actress, author and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik and historian, philosopher and best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari, Moderated by Tech Open Air founder Niko Woischnik. From the printing press to vaccines to artificial intelligence, the introduction of almost any transformative technology has been met with wonder as well as fear and rejection. Many of history’s greatest inventors were considered heretics–the archetype of the mad scientist exists for a reason. Why does the new still scare us? What does it take to build acceptance for transformative ideas? How does the unprecedented scientific progress to deliver COVID vaccines influence this? What role does disinformation play in shaping our fears? How can we ensure innovators consider ethical issues, so outcomes can lead to the betterment of people and the planet? What can innovators learn from artists and creators of fiction?
- Why The Music Biz is Buzzing About the Metaverse: In the midst of the 2020 global pandemic, one of the biggest concerts ever took place in the virtual worlds of Roblox. Two-time Grammy Award winner Lil Nas X gave a performance debut of his new single ‘Holiday’ and other top hits, dancing and socializing with fans, and attracting over 30 million concert views in this revolutionary music experience. The concert’s unprecedented success was made possible by the Metaverse, a social and technological phenomenon driven by a new generation growing up online and global platforms paving a new way for people to be together, even when they can’t in person. Hear from Maverick Management music manager Zach Kardisch, futurist and CEO of Futures Intelligence Group Cathy Hackl, Roblox Global Head of Music Jon Vlassopulos, and Columbia Records SVP, Experiential Marketing and business development Ryan Ruden about how the Metaverse is shaping the future of music business, today.
SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Although the event has moved to a digital format for 2021, more information can be found on sxsw.com, and registration for the above events may be completed here.
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