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SXSW Sydney

  • Things to do, Fairs and festivals
  1. Concert crowd at SXSW
    Photograph: SXSW/Brittany Hallberg
  2. SXSW Austin Texas
    Photograph: SXSW/Time Out Austin
  3. Chance The Rapper
    Photograph: SXSW Sydney/Keeley Parenteau | Chance The Rapper
  4. Technology demo at SXSW
    Photograph: SXSW Austin/Jane Greer

Time Out says

This futuristic festival is about to take over Sydney with exciting headliners and over 1,000 events for its first outing outside of Texas

Sydney has scored a new annual festival, and it’s a biggie. If you’ve heard of South by Southwest (SXSW) before, you’ll know it’s a pretty wild place, where very big things happen. Traditionally held in the depths of Austin, Texas, this world-famous conference of cutting-edge tech, music, film and ideas has seen the introduction of the meteoric likes of Billie Eilish and Uber. 

After 36 years of only ever being held in Texas, SXSW is making history and is (believe it or not) coming to Sydney in 2023 from October 15-22, with this being the first time it's ever left the United States.

With more than 1,000 sessions, screenings, performances, activations and parties, the festival will be encompassed in a “walkable footprint” within the Sydney CBD and surrounding neighbourhoods – including Haymarket, Darling Harbour, Ultimo and Chippendale – in addition to some of Sydney's legendary live music venues.

Map of SXSW Sydney festival footprintImage: Supplied/SXSW Sydney

For unfiltered access to everything, you can drop between $1,000-$2,000 on an all-access festival Badge. But there are also other (more affordable) ways to get involved. Here's our full guide to the best cheap and free stuff at SXSW Sydney.

SXSW Sydney has dropped accessibly-priced wristbands that gain you entry to certain festival streams, so you can focus on your area of special interest, including the Music, Gaming or Film streams. A bunch of free public events were also announced in September, centered around a vibrant festival hub in Tumbalong Park and featuring concerts, science talks and interactive technology demos. We're also told that one-off event tickets will drop closer to the start of SXSW Sydney.

The international headliners just keep coming, too. Multiple Grammy-winning artist Chance The Rapper is coming down to Sydney to honour 50 years of Hip Hop, in what will be his first visit Down Under in six years. Other speakers include Australian superstar Nicole Kidman, Coachella CEO Paul TollettBlack Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, Slack co-founder Cal Henderson, AI futurist Amy Webband Reddit CMO Roxy Young. Local names include broadcaster Osher Günsberg, Adam SpencerDr Karl Kruszelnicki and world surfing champion Layne Beachley.

You can also get to get down to more than 400 musical performances by a curious mix of mainstream and fringe artists. You can expect to see USA’s Flyana Boss and Almost Monday, Australian up-and-comers South Summit, Chanel Loren and Gut Health, the UK’s SORRY and South Korea’s ADOY and Lil Cherry and GOLDBUUDA

Concert event at SXSW AustinPhotograph: Supplied/SXSW

Music industry leader Colin Daniels is the managing director for SXSW Sydney, and he's also been to SXSW Austin some 19 times. He explained what you can expect from a typical day at SXSW:

“You wake up in the morning, you might have a breakfast meeting, then you will head off to a networking brunch for a technology company. You'll see a screening, and on the way you'll pass five or six incredible activations, whether it be a film launch, or a new technology launch. After lunch, you'll start seeing bands at day parties, then you might go to a gaming launch. Then you'll see more bands and more screenings. There's the parties, the networking events every day, from morning to night – there are meet-ups, happy hours, late-night parties...” 

This epic undertaking isn't be a one-off thing, either. SXSW Sydney will be the official annual Asia-Pacific instalment of the fest, creating a major tourist drawcard, both interstate and international, every spring. 

The festival was established in 1987 in Austin, Texas, and the list of luminaries who have presented at previous SXSW festivals reads like a who’s who of pop culture and the zeitgeist, including Lady Gaga, Barack Obama, Taika Waititi, Steven Spielberg, Prince and Snoop Dogg.

SXSW Sydney is on October 15-22, 2023. Check out our guide to the best free and cheap stuff at the festival.


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Alannah Le Cross
Written by
Alannah Le Cross


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