Sydney will soon play host to the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival – the first city in the world outside of Austin, Texas, to do so. The festival will bring the world’s foremost creatives and innovators Down Under in October. If you’re keen to follow along with all the excitement, we’ve pulled together a guide to SXSW Sydney, and what you can expect from the internationally-recognised event.
What is SXSW?
If you’ve never heard of SXSW before, its history starts back in 1987 with a music festival in Austin. From there, it expanded into interactive and film events, and over the years, has continued to grow with big-name speakers, assorted panels and exciting ideas across a spectrum of media forms (everything from music to gaming).
2023 is the first year since the event’s conception that we’ve seen SXSW launch in a city outside of Austin. It’s pretty exciting news for Sydney.
What can you expect from SXSW Sydney?
SXSW Sydney itself describes the event this way:
The harbour city’s tech and culture scene will converge to host this future-focused event that will see the Asia-Pacific’s pre-eminent creative industries come together across content pillars of Tech and Innovation, Gaming, Music, Screen and Culture…
Over the period of a week, you can expect over 400 keynotes, presentations, panels, workshops and mentor sessions, along with live music events, red-carpet premieres, live Q&As with creators and more than 100 local and international games to get stuck into.
On the upcoming event, Geoff Jones, Chair of SXSW Sydney said:
“SXSW Sydney will be a complete game-changer for Sydney and the Asia Pacific. Locally, it will increase visitation and bolster the creative economy. Within APAC, it will facilitate a special connection between creative industries and businesses in the region – the kind that can lead to collaboration and innovation on a global scale. I can’t wait to see the opportunities flow on from October this year.”
SXSW Sydney will be comprised of five main events: the Convergence conference and networking events, the Tech & Innovation Expo, the Games Festival & Showcase, the Music Festival and the SXSW Screen Festival.
So, when and where is it?
You can catch SXSW Sydney from Sunday, October 15, through Sunday, October 22.
Events will be spread out across the Sydney CBD and surrounding suburbs, with venues like ICC Sydney, UTS and The Powerhouse Museum being taken over by SXSW and its creators.
You can find a map of some of the main event locations below.
Key dates for the event schedule are as follows:
- Convergence Conference & Creative Industries Networking Parties and Events: 16th – 21st October
- Tech & Innovation Expo: 18th – 21st October
- Games Festival & Showcase: 18th – 22nd October
- Music Festival: 18th – 21st October
- Screen Festival: 15th – 21st October
Who will be there?
Per the announcement statement from SXSW Sydney, there will be some 600 speakers appearing at the event. Yeah, there are a few.
The first Keynote Speaker announced for the 2023 event is Amy Webb, an American futurist and CEO/Founder of Future Today Institute.
Other speakers include entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of Colossal, Ben Lamm; Andrew Pask of the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne; Chief Evangelist of Canva and former Apple Chief Evangelist, Guy Kawasaki; Jack Reis, co-founder of Baidam Solutions, a cyber security business based in Brisbane; Head of Screen NSW, Kyas Hepworth; Lawyer, writer, filmmaker and Distinguished Professor and Laureate Fellow at Jumbunna Research, University of Technology Sydney, Larissa Behrendt AO and Saudi women’s rights activist, author, podcast host, cyber security specialist and founder of the Ethical Technologists Society, Manal al-Sharif.
The list, obviously, goes on (and on, and on).
Tech & Innovation Expo
What else can you expect from the different expos that make up SXSW Sydney?
A significant part of the event this year is the Tech & Innovation Expo. This will take place at the ICC Sydney and will feature exciting exhibitions and demonstrations such as:
- Qantas – unveiling the future Airbus A350-1000 cabin, aka Project Sunrise
- Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) – offering a glimpse at an air speeder flying race car simulator
- Black Magic Design – Leaders in cameras and software for the film and television industry
- AIE (Academy of Interactive Entertainment) – Showcasing games, animation, film and VFX education programs
There will also be activation spaces and hubs within the Tech Expo, like the Startup Village, a space for emerging brands to showcase their product to the industry, and an XR Showcase, which provides an immersive experience via virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR).
SXSW Screen Festival
The Screen Festival at SXSW Austin is often a preview of some of the biggest movies and TV shows around, and SXSW Sydney’s edition will put that spotlight on Asia-Pacific screen stories.
Some highlights of the program include:
- The red carpet premiere of Hot Potato: The Story of the Wiggles (AU), The film is the improbable story of four friends who record a one-off album of children’s music in the early ‘90s and change the global music industry forever.
- Anita (US), about Rolling Stones Muse Anita Pallenberg
- Cypher (US), a fictional pseudo- music documentary about the artist Tierra Whack
- Gagaland (CN) A rags-to-riches, boy-meets-girl story, set against a viral Chinese dance craze flooding streets and social media feeds.
- Jamojaya (US), Indonesian rap star Brian Imanuel (Rich Brian) stars as an up-and-coming musician.
- Knit’s Island (FR) ‘DayZ’ is survivalist fiction in the form a videogame. Knit’s Island documents some of the 963 hours the directors spent in there in an at times unsettling blurring of the real and the virtual.
- Plastic (JP), teenagers Juna and Ibuki set out to find the psychedelic rock band Exne Kedy.
- The Last Year of Darkness (US/CN) Bass-heavy and neon-coloured portrait of alternative Chinese youth.
- Tokyo Uber Blues (JP), an in-debt graduate Film Student turns to Uber driving to make ends meet.
- You’ll Never Find Me (AU) A lonely mobile home resident has an unexpected visitor on the night of a relentless thunderstorm.
SXSW Sydney will play host to 300 musical performances during the festival from both Australian and international artists.
Some of the artists include TikTok track stars Flyana Boss, Indonesian triple threat Isyana Sarasvati, Korea’s own ADOY, young country music star Alex Mather and emerging R&B powerhouse Chanel Loren.
Venues include the Landsdowne, the Lord Gladstone, the Hollywood Hotel and the Chippo Hotel.
Rounding out the major events at SXSW Sydney is the Games Festival. This will be comprised of an indie games showcase, an awards night and a Tabletop Expo. Some more details on those below:
- Games Festival Showcase – Experience Australia’s biggest curated collection of brand new and upcoming indie games from over 150 game developers from around the world. Hosted at Eddy Multispace and Mercure Sydney, the showcase will also include takeover events from leading local publishers, Playside Studios and League of Geeks. New additions to the showcase include Nine Sols (Red Candle Games), Kinder World (Lumi Interactive), Mika and the Witch’s Mountain (Chibig), The Dungeon Experience (Bone Assembly), Mortal Sin (Doronik Games Inc), Toroa (Atawhai Interactive) and many more.
- Tabletop Expo – Taking place in the ICC over three days, the Tabletop Expo is your destination for traditional board games, card games and roleplaying games (RPG) featuring a mix of hands-on demos, freeplay tables and retailers with the latest releases.
- Festival Stage – This feature stage will run day-to-night with a mix of live gameplay, performances and special screenings. It will also serve as the base station for themed feature nights, including Midnighters Horror Games collection and Queer Creator Showcase.
- Games Awards – An evening event celebrating the best on show and hosted by local comedian and muso Tom Cardy.
- Charity Marathon Stream-Part talent show, part stage show, part live stream; featuring a huge roster of local content creators coming together for the common good and raising money for SXSW Sydney charity partners.
The Games Expo will take place at Fortress Sydney, Eddy Multi Space and the Mercure Sydney.
SXSW Sydney tickets
If you’d like to come along to SXSW Sydney, there are a few different ways you can purchase tickets.
You can purchase an industry badge which will give you access to the week of events. Different badges give you different levels of access, so you’ll want to check out which option makes the most sense to you.
At the time of writing, badges are in Release 4 and will still set you back a decent amount of coin. Here’s the breakdown.
- Platinum Badge, $1,695: Offers VIP meet-ups and networking invitations along with primary access to conference keynotes, shows, events and more (across all areas).
- Tech & Innovation Badge, $1,195: Primary access to keynotes, panels, tech and innovation expo, workshops and mentor sessions (and more). Secondary access to other events in gaming, music and screen.
- Gaming Badge, $1,195: Primary access to keynotes, panels and gaming events. Secondary access to events across music, tech, and screen.
- Music Badge, $1,195: Primary access to keynotes, panels and music events. Secondary access to workshops and events in tech, innovation, gaming and screen.
- Screen badge, $1,195: Primary access to keynotes, panels and screen events. Secondary access to workshops, events and festivals in gaming, tech, innovation and music.
That’s obviously pretty pricey, so SXSW Sydney has also launched a wristband system that provides more affordable access to the different events. Wristbands go on sale from Friday, August 25, and pricing details are as follows:
- Tech & Innovation Expo Day pass – $35 (early bird)
- Screen Festival wristband (gives you access to all of the screen events around Sydney) – $240 (early bird)
- Music Festival wristband (gives you access to all the live music events) – $280 (early bird)
- Games Festival wristband (gives you access to six days of programming) – $165 (early bird)
If you’re confused about the difference between the ticket types, badges essentially get you access to everything that the festival has to offer, including priority access, networking sessions, industry parties and pitching events. Wristbands, meanwhile, are more accessible for the general public who just want to attend a few sessions or events.
If you’d like to read more, you can find the SXSW Sydney website for 2023 here.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.