SXSW 2020
Checking In

Everything we know about SXSW 2020, from famous speakers to Austin musical acts

Everything we know about SXSW 2020, from famous speakers to music acts

SXSW 2015 Shoes Vince Staples
SXSW 2020 returns March 13-22. Photo by Daniel Cavazos

What started in 1987 as an funky music and media conference has since swelled into one of the world's largest festivals, ranging from music and film to technology, education, medicine, and everything in between. Today, South by Southwest encompasses three main programming tracks — Interactive, Music, and Film — as well as smaller offshoots like SXSWEdu and Comedy. 

Considering there are so hundreds of speakers, musicians, creatives, and creators appearing in Austin during those 10 days, SXSW has taken to rolling the lineup out slowly. SXSW dropped two big programming announcements this week, so with the festival being only four months away, it's time to review exactly has been announced thus far. 

Keynote speakers 
On November 12, organizers released the latest round of keynote and featured speakers. Added to the keynote roster is director, producer, and writer Erin Lee Carr for Film and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters for Music. They join Kim Gordon, formerly of Sonic Youth, and Reggie Fils-Aimé, former president and COO of Nintendo of America, both of whom were announced in September. 

Carr is the visionary director behind two of the most impactful documentaries in recent years: At the Heart of Gold, a look at the sexual abuse scandal that rocked U.S. Gymnastics, and I Love You, Now Die, HBO's riveting two-part documentary that chronicled the suicide of Conrad Roy and the trial of the Michelle Carter, the young woman held responsible for his death. 

“With four feature documentaries, two of which [SXSW was] privileged to world premiere, [Carr]'s established herself as an extraordinary filmmaker, able to create compelling cinematic work out of provocative subjects that don’t easily lend themselves to film," said Janet Pierson, SXSW director of Film, in a release. 

Rock 'n' roll fans likely need no introduction to Waters, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd. Waters composed Pink Floyd’s multi-platinum albums, including "The Dark Side of the Moon," "Wish You Were Here," "Animals," and "The Wall," thus making him music royalty.

Featured speakers and sessions
Meanwhile, next year's featured speaker lineup got a whopping 15 new additions this week. Composer Michael Abels (Us, Get Out) joins Politifact creator and professor Bill Adair in conversation. Likewise, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger will also take part in a onstage convo with, interestingly enough, the CEO of Tommy Hilfiger Global, Daniel Grieder.

Additional featured speakers include: 

  • Beat Games s.r.o co-founder and head of music Jaroslav Beck
  • Amazon Web Services VP of Public Sector Partners and Programs Sandy Carter 
  • Future of Sex founder and podcast host Bryony Cole
  • Founder, Co-CIO and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates Ray Dalio
  • Founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital Arlan Hamilton
  • Grammy Award-winning musician Ben Lovett
  • Bassist, composer, and YouTuber Adam Neely
  • Canva CEO and co-founder Melanie Perkins
  • Google Stadia Games and Entertainment VP Jade Raymond in conversation with journalist Chris Morris
  • Mojang Studios chief brand officer Lydia Winters

SXSW also took the opportunity to announce 10 new featured sessions. The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen, beloved by millennials and their moms alike, will head off the iPhone screen and into IRL for the team's first appearance outside of New York City. 

Joining them among 2020's sessions is Power's Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Courtney Kemp who chat with Starz president and CEO, Jeffrey Hirsch. See the full lineup of featured speakers and featured sessions here

On November 13, SXSW 2020 announced dozens more musicians, ranging from Austin favorites to global phenoms. Repping the local music scene is Atash, Being Dead, Darkbird, David Ramirez, Fragile Rock, Grivo, Jeff Lofton, Moving Panoramas, Mr. Kitty, My Education, PASTEL GHOST, Pleasure Venom, Shy Beast, Superfónicos, Whitney Rose, William Harries Graham, and World Music Unleashed.

Outside of Austin, expect bands from nearly every corner of the world (and a lot from Los Angeles, apparently). Alex Somers, Automatic, Bodywash, Dos Monos, FAIRE, Grivo, Iguana Death, Jucee Froot, Launder, Nasty Cherry, Otoboke Beaver, Walshy Fire, and Wire are just a handful of hundred of names already confirmed. (A full list can be found here.)

Film and other TBDs
As for SXSW Film, audiences will have to wait a little longer for the lineup. Late deadline submissions closed in mid-October (though Texas High School filmmakers can submit through December 12).

If it's anything like years' past, expect the lineup for the free outdoor concert series, which takes place on Auditorium Shores each year and features a bevy of big-name acts, to be dropped in the two weeks leading up to festival. That news will surely come amidst the non-sanctioned, big-brand activations that have cropped up over the past five years or so.

SXSW returns to Austin March 13-22, coinciding with both AISD and UT Austin's spring breaks (it was a whole big thing last year). Platinum, Interactive, Music, and Film badges are now on sale at discounted rates. Wristbands and locals-only music wristbands will be available closer to start date.