Yes, SXSW Is Still Happening In 2021 — But Will People Pay $249 for Online Access?

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Austin, Texas. Photo Credit: Carlos Alfonso

Despite facing far-reaching financial obstacles and an uncertain future after a last-minute cancellation in 2020, SXSW is moving forward with its 2021 edition – albeit as a digital event, with passes currently available to purchase for $249 apiece.

SXSW 2020 had been slated to kick off on March 13th, but was canceled just one week before that due to an order from the City of Austin. (Earlier, on March 6th, the Big Three record labels added their names to the long list of businesses and professionals that had withdrawn from the happening.)

After the unexpected early-pandemic cancellation, SXSW promptly laid off one-third of its full-time workforce, and higher-ups relayed that their 24-year-old event’s insurance policy didn’t cover disease-related expenses. Moreover, cofounder Roland Swenson stated that SXSW’s future was uncertain, owing both to the cancellation and the lack of insurance.

Ahead of the fast-approaching SXSW Online – set to begin on Tuesday, March 16th, and wrap on Saturday the 20th – the timetable of SXSW 2020’s cancellation bears reiterating because it underscores the high financial stakes associated with the 2021 edition. It’ll be interesting to see how many fans purchase passes to the all-online event – particularly because of these tickets’ substantial price tag (relative to those of most other paid livestreams), the nearly year-long absence of crowd-based live music, and SXSW’s considerable popularity.

In terms of the latter, a cumulative total of 159,258 individuals attended the SXSW Music Festival in 2019, and 1,964 acts performed the event. At the aforementioned per-pass price of $249, SXSW Online would generate nearly $20 million if just half of the 2019 Music Festival attendees purchased tickets. In total, the multifaceted SXSW attracted a grand total of about 280,000 fans that same year, and SXSW Online’s $249 pass covers the entirety of the South By experience (music, film, speeches, etc.).

SXSW Online will feature speakers including Mark Cuban, Tim Ellis, and Erin Lee Carr, organizers announced today. Plus, 97 indie acts are tentatively booked to perform live from venues in their home countries – Japan, Ireland, Nigeria, New Zealand, Cuba, Denmark, and Chile among them, aside from the United States – as part of the music-festival portion.

Worth noting in conclusion is that the single ticketing option available for SXSW Online will later increase in price to $399, according to SXSW’s website. And for groups, “the more people you bring, the more you can save,” higher-ups stated of potential group discounts. Additionally, a limited number of student passes are available for $59 apiece, and guests will be able to stream the event on the web, mobile devices, or through the SXSW Online Connected TV app.

2 Responses

  1. Tom Hendricks

    Want corporate generic music with ads, Austin is your choice.
    Want music revolution, d pop, pennies for play, and no ads, then Dallas is your choice.

    • urias

      Texas is not the only place for music. There are many cities out side of that state with a much better music scene.