SXSW Going Down Under

Launch party

Skift Take

For 36 years, SXSW and Austin have been synonymous. Not anymore. In October, this annual convergence of creativity will descend upon Sydney, Australia, focusing on the Asia-Pacific region.

South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin have been indelibly connected since 1987. However, that is about to change as it heads to Sydney in October. The event’s official annual Asia Pacific installment will focus on music, screen, gaming, technology, innovation, and culture.

SXSW Sydney will have its work cut out as it breaks away from Austin, its spiritual home.

“I know South by Southwest has been very passionate about its brand. Many different destinations around the world have approached them over the years, and they chose Sydney as much as we chose them,” said Steve Cox, chief executive officer of Destination New South Wales, the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency.

Cox said all eyes will be on SXSW Austin in March and Sydney in October. It also offers opportunities for meeting groups and events.

“It will be an indispensable platform in the Asia-Pacific region to help creative people share ideas and achieve their goals. And that is totally aligned with the vision that the team in Austin has had from the very beginning as far as connecting with creative people and helping them have that platform to show what they can create and to celebrate that. So, we’re going to carry that through,” said Cox. “The Asia Pacific focus will be a really distinct part of our value proposition, really becoming that platform for the fastest growing region in the world.”

Projecting the Impact

At least 27,000 visitors are expected to come to Sydney for South by Southwest Sydney’s inaugural gathering. And thousands more within the city itself will experience South by Southwest. The estimated economic impact of those visitors is more than $24 million. “It’s going to be a really strong return economically and important socially for the people in New South Wales,” said Cox.

The Sydney event is already making modifications. One of the focuses of SXSW Austin is film, but in Sydney, it will be screen. “We’re broadening the scope to include TikTok, YouTube. All the different platforms that we communicate and share content and tell stories through screen. I’m sure the Austin team will learn some things from Sydney, and we’re certainly learning a lot from them,” said Cox. In addition, gaming will be a focus of the Sydney event.

It’s the collision of industries that makes SXSW unique. That will continue to be a focus. “The Sydney brand position is about its incredible diversity. It’s the fifth most multicultural city in the world. It’s got incredible creative industries and art experiences. But it’s on the doorstep of the most spectacular natural backdrop there at the harbor.”

A True Citywide Experience

Sydney Harbour skyline at dusk. Image courtesy of Destination NSW.

Key precincts in Sydney will host the gathering, including Haymarket, Darling Harbour, Central, Ultimo, and Chippendale. The conference will occur at various venues, including ICC Sydney, UTS, and The Powerhouse Museum. More than 400 presentations, panels, workshops, and mentor sessions will focus on tech and innovation, games, music, screen, and culture. In addition, the SXSW Sydney Games Festivals will include activations, esports tournaments, and product launches. The SXSW Sydney Music Festival will consist of a dedicated Asia Focus Showcase Program.

SXSW Sydney is a collaboration of TEG, the NSW Government, and Destination NSW.

“It’s all about the feelings that you get and this optimism for the creative industry and amazing people who have incredible ideas about how to do things differently, and I think that will continue to surprise and delight year after year, both here in Austin, of course, and South by Southwest Sydney,” said Cox.