Featured Speakers

SXSW Featured Speakers are leading figures in society and industry, presenting mind-expanding ideas to shape today and tomorrow.

2021 Featured Speakers: Chris Webber, Erin Lee Carr, and Mark Cuban

2021 Featured Speakers: Chris Webber, Erin Lee Carr, and Mark Cuban

About Featured Speakers


Spanning the many themes and trends of SXSW, Featured Speakers present a snapshot of the ideas that can most transform our future.

Hear talks from some of the biggest and brightest names of our time during Conference Featured Sessions including Elizabeth Banks, Mary J. Blige, Erin Lee Carr, James Cameron, Mark Cuban, Dominique Crenn, Ava DuVernay, Cynthia Erivo, Mick Fleetwood, Melinda Gates, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Bill Hader, Taraji P. Henson, Barry Jenkins, Matthew McConaughey, Mark Mothersbaugh, Desus Nice and the Kid Mero, Indra Nooyi, Amber Ruffin, The Russo Brothers, Baratunde Thurston, Werner Vogels, Chris Webber, and many more.

Explore the complete list of 2021 Featured Speakers and Featured Sessions below.

For more high-profile speakers at SXSW, browse the Keynotes page.

2021 Featured Speakers

  • International yoga teacher, actress, writer, and entrepreneur Adriene Mishler

  • Actor, filmmaker, author, and Olympic athlete Alexi Pappas

  • Quantitative futurist, author and founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute Amy Webb

  • Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Streamlytics, Angela Benton

  • Riot Games Chief Diversity Officer Angela Roseboro

  • Leadership strategist and author Ann Hiatt

  • Comedian, writer and How to Citizen podcast host Baratunde Thurston

  • Award-winning design entrepreneur and founder of the creative agency, LAYER, Benjamin Hubert

  • Author, entrepreneur and Freeman Chief Design Officer Bruce Mau

  • Future of Sex founder and podcast host Bryony Cole

  • Mathematician, data scientist and author Cathy O’Neil

  • Executive Director of Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation Cat Packer in conversation with writer and reporter Amanda Chicago Lewis

  • Award-winning writer and publisher of the Water & Music newsletter Cherie Hu

  • Latin Grammy-winning recording artist (singer/songwriter), businesswoman, author, and television star Chiquis

  • Academy Award-winning actor, author, and Minister of Culture and part-owner for expansion club Austin FC Matthew McConaughey in conversation with Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber

  • Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) Dr. Michael Watkins

  • Author and co-founder and CEO of Affectiva Dr. Rana el Kaliouby

  • Oregon Congressman (OR-03), founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and champion of cannabis legalization in Congress Earl Blumenauer with POLITICO federal cannabis policy reporter Natalie Fertig

  • Director, producer, and writer; named one of the “30 Under 30” most influential people in media in 2019 by Forbes, Erin Lee Carr

  • CEO & President of Favor and H-E-B Chief Digital Officer Jag Bath in conversation with Inc editor-at-large Tom Foster

  • Entrepreneur, angel investor, chess master, and the Wall Street Journal bestselling-author of Choose Yourself, James Altucher in conversation with Square co-founder Jim McKelvey

  • Co-founder and CEO of Twilio Jeff Lawson

  • Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Publishing, home to the world’s greatest songwriters, Jon Platt in conversation with Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, bestselling author, and environmentalist, Carole King

  • Entrepreneur, author, and academic Joost van Dreunen

  • Creative director, author, costume designer, celebrity stylist, #Rockmom and social media maven June Ambrose in conversation with Emmy-nominated creative director and choreographer Laurieann Gibson

  • Chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, and president of Sinovation Ventures Artificial Intelligence Institute Kai-Fu Lee

  • Emmy-nominated creative director and choreographer Laurieann Gibson

  • Kansas City Chiefs right guard, medical student and doctorate in medicine graduate Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in conversation with multi-Emmy Award winning journalist Andrea Kremer

  • Author, behavioral scientist, and modern love expert Logan Ury

  • Psychotherapist, writer of The Atlantic‘s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column, co-host of the popular podcast Dear Therapists, and author of the New York Times bestseller Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, Lori Gottlieb in conversation with New York Times bestselling author, host of PBS show Tell Me More, and host of Kelly Corrigan Wonders, Kelly Corrigan

  • New York Times bestselling author Michael Lewis

  • Schwab EVP and Chief Digital Officer Neesha Hathi

  • Two-time Grammy nominated choreographer, director and performance artist Ryan Heffington in conversation with Vulture writer Rachel Handler

  • Emmy Award-winning host of TBS’Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Samantha Bee

  • New York Times Global Head of Advertising and Marketing Solutions Sebastian Tomich

  • Cannabis rights activist Steve DeAngelo

  • Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actor, writer, and producer Taraji P. Henson in conversation with SELF magazine Editor-in-Chief Carolyn Kylstra

  • Co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space Tim Ellis

  • Artist and painter working across multiple mediums to explore the continuity between ecology, infrastructure, and architecture, Torkwase Dyson

2021 Featured Sessions

  • 3D Printing is Launching Rockets to the Future – Society sees space as futuristic. However, aerospace manufacturing hasn’t evolved in 60 years – large factories, fixed tooling, complex supply chains, and extensive manual labor continues to hold the industry back. However, over the past five years, Relativity Space has built an unrivaled team revolutionizing how rockets are built and flown by fusing 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and autonomous robotics. Join co-founder and CEO of Relativity Tim Ellis and space evangelist and influencer @Astroathens Athena Brensberger, for a featured session at SXSW. The two will discuss the origin story of Relativity, how and why the Relativity team continues to build towards the uncharted future, and the company’s role in expanding the possibilities for humanity’s multi-planetary future.

  • AI and Great Power Competition – President Xi Jinping claims China will be the AI world leader by 2025. Russian President Vladimir Putin says whatever country leads in AI will be the ruler of the world. Google’s former Chairman Eric Schmidt warned there is a digital Berlin Wall being erected. The link between AI and great power competition will set the stage for the rest of this century. How will the private and public sector in western democracies work together to survive and thrive? More importantly, how can we create technologies that are authentic to our values? Join experts at the intersection of AI and national security who are on the frontlines of this fight – Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman and CEO of Pryon Igor Jablokov. Gain insights on AI advancements and explore what role you can play in this challenge.

  • Alexi Pappas & Bill Hader on Being a Bravey – A conversation with Olympian, actress, and author of the bestselling book Bravey, Alexi Pappas, in conversation with Emmy award-winning actor, filmmaker and creator/star of Barry, Bill Hader. Pappas and Hader will discuss their evolving relationship with mental health in their creative, professional, and personal lives, and on the lessons they’ve learned from mentors along the way.

  • Amplifying Athlete Voices Off the Court – Athletes have been using their platform and voices for decades to bring light to social issues on and off the field of play, but 2020 brought upon new urgency when COVID-19 and the killings of Black citizens like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor coincided in the span of a few months. Bleacher Report and Turner Sports will bring together a panel of stakeholders including, Turner analysts Candace Parker, Chris Webber, Senior Vice President of NBA Digital Content Operations and Diversified Sports Content, Eric Jackson, and moderated by Turner Sports social media producer Morgann Mitchell, and will dive into how these brands are concentrated on raising athletes’ voices on social issues to new heights and the importance of highlighting athlete activism.

  • Aquaculture, Food Systems and Climate Change – Food is simply the biggest lever we have to combat climate change and improve the health and wellbeing of the planet’s growing population. Aquaculture, the farming of aquatic animals and plants, is vital as the planet’s fastest growing food production system. Seafood is one of the healthiest proteins to consume and one of the most efficient and sustainable to produce. Done well, aquaculture can be a powerful force for ecological and social good. The moderated panel of experts will discuss aquaculture’s key role. Join award-winning ocean activist Alexandra Cousteau; four-time James Beard Award-winning TV personality and chef Andrew Zimmern; multi award-winning writer and producer David E. Kelley; and organic seaweed farmer and entrepreneur Sarah Redmond to explore the context of the global climate crisis and aquaculture’s key role in transforming our food systems.

  • Are We the Smartest Kids on the Block? – A conversation with Harvard University Professor of Science Avi Loeb, and New Scientist reporter Leah Crane about the search for extraterrestrial life, one of the most exciting frontiers in astronomy. With the recent discoveries on the cloud deck of Venus and studies of the weird interstellar object `Oumuamua’, find out how the search for unusual electromagnetic flashes, industrial pollution of planetary atmospheres, artificial light or heat, artificial space debris or something completely unexpected holds the promise of advancing and maturing both science and society.

  • Audience Wild West: Insurgent Categories Redefining Marketing – A conversation with Tinder CEO Jim Lanzone; Snap Inc., Chief Business Officer Jeremi Gorman; Peloton SVP, Head of Global Marketing & Communications Dara Treseder; Twitch Chief Marketing Officer Doug Scott; with MediaLink founder, Chairman, and CEO Michael E. Kassan about how the stay-at-home lifestyle has drastically changed consumer media consumption habits. Traditional theatrical, linear, and digital video experiences are now part of a much broader media diet as viewers gravitate toward environments that drive personal connection and provide escapist experiences. As traditional media companies attempt to retain audiences, and as brands pursue alternative advertising environments to engage consumers, four advertising ecosystems are emerging as competitive options. Gaming, online dating, community-driven social apps, and at-home fitness businesses are forging insurgent paths – stealing screen-share and building engaged audiences, and as well providing sophisticated options for brands to integrate and drive value.

  • Ava DuVernay with Franklin Leonard – Filmmaker and founder of narrative change collective ARRAY Ava DuVernay in conversation with film and television producer, and Black List founder and CEO Franklin Leonard.

  • Beyond the Gender Binary – With increasing recognition of the fluidity of gender, the time has come for a 21st century approach to gender justice. Dividing billions of people into one of two categories “man or woman” is not natural, it is political. Gender diversity is an integral part of our existence. It always has been, and it always will be. The gender binary – the idea that there are only two separate and opposite genders – was built to create conflict and division, not foster creativity and humanity. In this conversation ALOK and Demi Lovato will speak about the status of trans rights in the United States and the power of creative self-expression in the face of gender norms.

  • Beyond the Tank: Investing in Your CommunityKendra Scott and Mark Cuban discuss the importance of entrepreneurship on the local level, their own passions for supporting entrepreneurship in their communities, what they each look for in an investment, and advice for the audience in how to secure investors and succeed in business – especially during a pandemic.

  • The Boardroom to the Moon: Repairing our Planet – What do Indra Nooyi (former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo) and Naoko Yamazaki (the second Japanese woman in space) have in common? They’re both passionate about saving our planet. Join these members of The Earthshot Prize Council in their first public appearance together as they discuss needed changes, the best path towards accelerated climate action and their search for the most impactful ways to repair our planet over the next ten years.

  • Breaking the Sonic Color Line – A discussion about authenticity of voice in media, defeating racial stereotypes in voice acting, the impact of race in audio ads and how the industry can come together and make real change featuring DJ, actress and entrepreneur MC Lyte; Pandora Group Creative Director Roger Sho Gehrmann; and voice-over and television actress Joan Baker.

  • Bruce Mau: Designing for the ClusterBruce Mau applies his MC24 design principles and his new life-centered approach to confronting the simultaneous cluster cascade of crisis that he calls “The Cluster: Pandemics – Racial and Social Justice – Climate – Food Insecurity – Governance.” In this conversation with philosopher and writer Sanford Kwinter, Mau will demonstrate that all of these global challenges are interrelated and that they have their origin in a fundamental crisis of empathy.

  • Building Equity In Startup Communities – A discussion about scaling equity throughout the technology, startup, and venture ecosystem to ensure a path to shared prosperity for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous People of Color in the fourth industrial revolution and beyond. Foundry Group and Techstars co-founder Brad Feld, and 100 Black Angels & Allies Fund and Opportunity Hub co-founder Rodney Sampson will discuss their strategies for operationalizing diversity, equity and inclusion in the startup ecosystem, moderated by Business Insider reporter Dominic-Madori Davis.

  • Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty – There is a growing movement of businesses around the world who are using their voices to advance and protect human rights. This includes a call to end the death penalty – the most inhumane form of punishment, proven repeatedly too cruel, ineffective, and discriminatory in its application. Hear from Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin and long-time campaigner; Sabrina Butler Smith, only one of two women in the USA exonerated from death row; and Celia Ouellette, CEO, Responsible Business Initiative for Justice and a former death penalty defense lawyer, about the role businesses can play in calling for abolition.

  • Can 5G Transform the Live Music Experience? – In the last year we have felt the absence of live music. Artists have stepped up and gotten creative to reach fans virtually with some amazing results – but it can’t replace the impact of live performances. As we look forward to the return of live music, artists have a new platform to help deliver innovative experiences – 5G. The next generation of cellular delivers capabilities that can take the live experience to new levels of immersion and unlock new opportunities for artist creativity. Join Cristiano Amon, President and CEO-elect of wireless leader Qualcomm, and Grammy-nominated DJ Steve Aoki and hear from two visionaries about the future of the live experience in a 5G world.

  • Can VR Create Real Change? – VR has gotten quite a reputation for creating impact. But does the hype really add up? We are at a pivotal moment in history, with socio-political division at an all-time high and less than a decade left to prevent climate crisis. Could creating virtual realities actually help move us towards a better tomorrow? Join AR/VR producer and director Fifer Garbesi; award-winning immersive artist and professor Gabo Arora; Director of EarthXR Tiffany Kieran; and founder of Emblematic Group Nonny de la Peña as they dig into the impacts of this medium, putting real change and direct action front and center.

  • Celebrities Redefining Cannabis Entrepreneurship – A conversation about the changing landscape in the cannabis industry and how leading cannabis brands are actively challenging social and economic disparities by partnering with high-profile entrepreneurs and amplifying their unique stories. Featuring Mexican-American rapper, businessman, entrepreneur, founder & CEO of Cookies & Vibes Berner; former professional basketball player and CEO and founder of premium cannabis company Viola Inc Al Harrington; and Koko Nuggz founder and CEO Flo Storch in conversation with VP of Greenlane Brands, Eric Hammond.

  • The Chainsmokers on launching MANTIS VC – Grammy Award-winning and Billboard Chart topping artist/producer duo, The Chainsmokers, are a dominating musical force with a diverse repertoire of songs that have led them to become one of world’s biggest recording artists. Alex Pall and Drew Taggart have expanded The Chainsmokers’ empire into film and television, tequila, philanthropy, and most recently their venture capital firm Mantis. Hear their story on how the duo have evolved their music career into so much more with Andreessen Horowitz Managing Partner Chris Lyons.

  • A Conversation with Desus Nice and The Kid Mero – A conversation with multi-talented comedians, authors of the New York Times bestseller God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons from the Bronx, co-hosts of Showtime’s first late-night talk show Desus & Mero and the long-running Bodega Boys podcast, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero.

  • A Conversation with Icons Queen Latifah and LL COOL J – From the mic to the big screen, award-winning rappers, actors and producers Queen Latifah and LL COOL J have been major forces in the entertainment industry for over three decades. Queen Latifah executive produces and stars as the first female Equalizer, Robyn McCall, in the reimagining of the series Equalizer, and LL COOL J stars as Special Agent Sam Hanna on NCIS: Los Angeles. Join them for a lively, in-depth conversation about their illustrious careers in music, television and movies (in front and behind the cameras), the cultural resonance and timeliness of their series, and much more.

  • A Conversation with Kenan Thompson and Chance the RapperKenan Thompson and Chance the Rapper sit down for a fireside chat discussing Kenan’s successful long-ranging career, including his new NBC series, Kenan and his historic 18 seasons on Saturday Night Live.

  • A Conversation with Noah Hawley and Andrew Bird – Set in Kansas City 1950, Fargo’s fourth installment follows two crime syndicates jockeying to control an alternate economy of exploitation and graft while fighting for a piece of the American dream. Join Noah Hawley (creator / executive producer / director / writer) and Grammy Award-nominated musician Andrew Bird for a not-to-be-missed conversation about how a concert in Austin lead to Bird’s acting debut in Fargo. Moderated by Whitney Friedlander. All four installments of the critically acclaimed limited series are currently available to stream on FX on Hulu.

  • A Conversation with the Russo Brothers and Elizabeth Banks – A fireside chat between visionary directors/producers Anthony and Joe Russo (Welcome to Collinwood, Arrested Development, Avengers: Endgame, Relic, Mosul, and Cherry) and acclaimed actress, director, writer, and producer Elizabeth Banks (Charlie’s Angels, The Hunger Games, and Shrill). Banks will talk to the Russo Brothers about their new film, Cherry, as well as the work they are doing with their company, AGBO. Cherry stars Tom Holland and is based on the critically acclaimed debut novel by Nico Walker. It will be released in theaters in February and on Apple TV+ in March.

  • Creating Through a Crisis – Join Adobe executive, author, and entrepreneur Scott Belsky and designer, author, and educator Debbie Millman for an inspiring discussion of the ways creativity will shape our new, post-pandemic world and the exciting ways we can all be a part of the creative revolution.

  • COVID-19: The New RealityDr. Michael Osterholm, joined by health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, will speak to the SXSW community about what is next in the fight against COVID-19. From the immediate concerns around new variants to the “collateral damage” we face from this pandemic, Dr. Osterholm and Ms. Sarasohn-Kahn will share insights to help navigate public health in 2021 and beyond.

  • The Daily Show News Team: Content from Their Couches – Join The Daily Show with Trevor Noah’s News Team Jordan Klepper, Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulcé Sloan, and Roy Wood Jr. in conversation with NPR’s Eric Deggans, where they’ll discuss how the Comedy Central late-night franchise tackles politics, race and social issues on the show — all during a global pandemic. From pivoting production to their living rooms to masking up for campaign rallies, the team will offer an inside look into what it takes to create The Daily Social Distancing Show.

  • Driving Action & Advocacy Through Online Community – Online communities are not new; but as the world has adapted to 2020, these digital spaces have proven their worth in a whole new way. Reddit has witnessed this first hand, as more people have joined its many thousands of communities for connection, distraction, and belonging in a time of unprecedented disconnection. While IRL experiences continue to evolve in unexpected ways, the communities on Reddit remain a constant source of conversation and companionship, as well as a valuable lens from which to examine human psychology, behavior, and sentiment. Join Reddit’s COO Jen Wong and CNN’s Kerry Flynn for a conversation about why online communities were made for this moment, their role in the digital ecosystem, and the value they bring to brands looking to build real connection, advocacy, and drive action.

  • Entrepreneurship Equals Empowerment – A conversation about leveling the playing field for entrepreneurship, empowering our next generation with the tools they need to create economic independence by bringing together businesses, governments, nonprofits, and community orgs to invest in small business and remove barriers for disenfranchised groups, with entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and Operation HOPE CEO and founder John Hope Bryant and Shopify president Harley Finkelstein in conversation with NBC News correspondent Jo Ling Kent.

  • Every Company Needs to Become a Software Company – By making digital business a necessity, the pandemic gave us final proof that every company must become a software company in order to survive. That’s every company, from Ford to Starbucks, and not just digital, but a software company, whose leaders turn to their developers for strategic direction. Instead of envying the nimble innovation machines of Silicon Valley, any company can learn how to become one by tapping the power of software, unleashing the creativity of their developers, and bridging the divide between their technical people and their business leaders. Author and Twilio CEO and Cofounder, Jeff Lawson and Amazon.com VP & CTO, Werner Vogels, will explore how our current crisis will accelerate this trend and provide a playbook for companies on how to run a company using the methodologies of Silicon Valley disruptors.

  • The Evolution of Diversity & Inclusion – Join Maxine Williams, Chief Diversity Officer, Facebook and Jason Wright, President of The Washington Football Team in conversation as they discuss the business case for building an inclusive company. Together, they will explore how the power of diverse perspectives and experiences are good for business and lead to better business outcomes.

  • Evolving the Gaming Industry with CouRage & Loaded – Gaming is taking off and bringing new opportunities for creators, brands and entertainment companies. Loaded, the leading management company for some of the world’s biggest professional gamers will host a special Q&A with leading content creator CouRage to examine the state of the today’s gaming industry and how the creator community has evolved the business for the better. The talk with Loaded VP of Talent Bridget Davidson will highlight key learning from CouRage’s successful career, as well as spotlight how brands and other non-endemic companies can work with creators to capture both eyeballs and engagement.

  • Fan & Band Interaction in Livestream & XR – A discussion about how to transform and engage todays’ audience of active online users and create a connection between fans and bands with two-time Grammy-awarded producer, writer, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and technologist Imogen Heap, and leader, innovator, and Fantracks Digital CEO Ty Roberts.

  • Forging a New Social Contract for Big Tech – Beyond privacy, revised liability laws can hold companies accountable for what they disseminate online. Antitrust actions could check the flow of wealth to the small number of companies that control platforms, aggregators, and algorithms. A lightweight horizontal regulation could add a safety layer to the high-risk applications of artificial intelligence. This discussion features U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar; Denmark tech ambassador Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen; Executive Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager; and President & Co-founder Center for Humane Technology Tristan Harris. The session will focus on the role for technology companies in the 21st Century and what a new “social contract” could look like for Big Tech – in both Europe and the United States.

  • From Moonlight to The Underground Railroad: Barry Jenkins & Composer Nicholas Britell – Join us for a conversation with Academy Award® winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins and with Academy Award® nominated and Emmy® Award winning composer Nicholas Britell (Succession), where they will discuss the joy, delicate nuances, challenges and unexpected discoveries from their work together. The pair will talk about their unique creative process in building a singular audiovisual identity with a specific focus on their upcoming Amazon Original limited series, The Underground Railroad, based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name. Jenkins and Britell first collaborated on Moonlight, which won the Academy Award® for Best Picture. During the making of Moonlight, the duo formed an inimitable rapport that brought them back together again for If Beale Street Could Talk. The Underground Railroad will stream in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide on Amazon Prime Video in 2021.

  • Gene Editing: The Biotech Revolution of our Times – Bestselling author Walter Isaacson has established himself as the biographer of creativity, innovation, and genius. He wrote about Einstein, a genius of the revolution in physics, and Steve Jobs, a genius of the revolution in digital technology. Though the past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet, Isaacson argues we are now on the cusp of a third revolution in science—a revolution in biochemistry that is capable of curing diseases, fending off viruses, and improving the human species. With the invention of CRISPR, we can edit our DNA. CRISPR has been used in China to create “designer babies” that are immune from the AIDS virus and in the U.S. to cure patients of sickle cell anemia. With the life-science revolution, children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study the code of life — and all the moral dilemmas this brings. Isaacson will be joined in conversation with award-winning journalist, New York Times bestselling author, and a co-founder of Stand Up to Cancer Katie Couric.

  • Going Viral: In Your Dreams – Today’s musical artists crave two things: global virality on platforms such as TikTok and career longevity. Mick Fleetwood has achieved both. Sustaining over 50 years in the industry as a founding member of Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood was also part of TikTok’s biggest viral trend of 2020. TikTok has become the music industry’s best promotional tool since launching; breaking artists, new music and giving new life to catalog hits. Billions of video creations are set to music and its leaned-in and engaged community is driving chart success. TikTok’s Global Head of Music Ole Obermann has been at the heart of TikTok’s ascent since joining in 2019. Join Fleetwood and Obermann as they talk music, how to sustain a career, discovering new talent, the role of technology in shaping trends and culture, and what today’s music stars can learn from Fleetwood’s decades at the top.

  • Hi, I’m Dave – Hailed by Rolling Stone as one of the best TV shows of 2020, FXX’s DAVE is based on the life of Dave Burd (aka Lil Dicky), and centered on a neurotic man who’s convinced himself that he’s destined to be one of the best rappers of all time. The critically-acclaimed first season explored ambition, mental illness and masculinity in the world of hip-hop. Join co-creator/executive producer/writer/star Dave Burd (aka Lil Dicky), co-creator/executive producer Jeff Schaffer, executive producer Saladin Patterson and series star GaTa for DAVE’s first panel at SXSW. Season 1 is available on FX on Hulu; season two will premiere on FXX in 2021.

  • How GenZ Duets the News on TikTok – Hear about tactics publishers are using to build relationships with young audiences on TikTok, and the content that moves audiences to action with The Washington Post video producer Dave Jorgenson; NowThis politics producer Ian McKenna; and content creator Jackie James.

  • How to Build a More Authentic Online Community – Join social media pioneer and founder of the venture capital fund Seven Seven Six Alexis Ohanian as he explores the future of online community building alongside three architects at the forefront of social media’s next wave. Realtime’s Vernon Coleman, Gloria’s Victoire Cogevina, and Dispo’s David Dobrik will join Ohanian to deconstruct the social media landscape and discuss how they’re individually building unique, authentic, and sustainable online communities for this new age.

  • How To Not Let the 2020 Crisis Go to Waste – With dramatically increased calls from all layers of society for serious structural change, the opportunities for building a better future are abundant. But how do you translate those into practice? Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands, with a challenging diversity, dependence on heavy industry and deep economic divides, started seizing on their opportunities even before 2020. Lessons from a bold Dutch city, with Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb and Vice President, Head of Centers, EU & Asia for CIC International, Melissa Ablett-Jordaan.

  • How to Scale a Mission-Driven Brand – Join Supergoop! CEO and Founder Holly Thaggard and her early-stage investor, world-class tennis champion and entrepreneur Maria Sharapova, for an inspiring conversation sharing insights on how Thaggard scaled her company from a mission to end the skin cancer epidemic to a business with millions in revenue, all while innovating a category and changing consumer behavior. Hear from Sharapova first-hand about how she identified a promising investment opportunity in a young, but high-growth brand with an authentic mission as its north star, and advice for other emerging entrepreneurs prioritizing mission and doing good.

  • Immersive Retail: Connected Shopping in a New Era – A conversation about the acceleration in changes to the retail environment and what major initiatives the retail industry is pursuing to enable the widespread proliferation of AR/VR and 3D content for e-commerce and retail with TechTalk/Studio president and co-founder Kevin O’Malley, IBM Global Business Strategy Partner Silke Meixner, and Unity Head of Industry Verticals, Operate Solutions, Tony Parisi.

  • Immunized: COVID-19 and the Race for a Vaccine – Join CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta with molecular virologist Dr. Keith Chappell (University of Queensland) and immunologist, Professor Katie Ewer (University of Oxford) as they discuss scientific innovation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Gupta will also share a sneak peek from the forthcoming documentary for CNN Films and BBC, Race for the Vaccine/ Vaccine: The Inside Story, produced by Wingspan Productions and Global Health Reporting Center in association with the HHMI Tangled Bank Studios. The film has also been supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. This program is presented in partnership with CITIZEN BY CNN, the network’s civic engagement platform designed to engage voters in conversation about issues that matter.

  • Impacts of ActivismCNN anchor and author of This is the Fire and host of the podcast Silence is Not an Option Don Lemon joins journalist Jemele Hill and Malcolm Jenkins, two-time Super Bowl Champion and founder of Broad Street Ventures, to talk about using personal platforms to fight against racism, the impact and potential consequences.

  • Indigenous Peoples Hold the Key to Saving Earth – For centuries, Indigenous communities have served as guardians of the environment, protecting nature, respecting flora and fauna, and using traditional knowledge and wisdom passed down over generations. They safeguard 80% of biodiversity left in the world, which is key to turning around the climate crisis, as biodiverse areas are major carbon sinks. In this panel, Nemonte Nenquimo, a leader from the Waorani community in Ecuador and founding member of Indigenous-led nonprofit organization Ceibo Alliance and Amazon Frontlines speaks with Julia Jackson, Founder of Grounded.org, to discuss why climate philanthropy must be reimagined to protect the future of our planet, by directing resources to indigenous communities who are at the frontlines of our climate emergency.

  • Inside GENIUS: ARETHA, the Story of the Queen of Soul – National Geographic’s GENIUS is an Emmy-winning anthology series that dramatizes the fascinating stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators, exploring their extraordinary achievements along with their volatile, passionate, and complex personal relationships. The third season will explore Aretha Franklin’s musical genius, incomparable career and the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world. She will be portrayed by Oscar-nominated Cynthia Erivo (Harriet, The Color Purple) and Emmy-winning Courtney B. Vance (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) will play Aretha’s father, C.L. Franklin. Our acclaimed panelists including GENIUS: ARETHA executive producer and director Anthony Hemingway; multi award-winning producer and author Brian Grazer, multi award-winning actress and singer Cynthia Erivo; Broadway and television costume designer Jennifer Bryan; and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks will explore the craft and care that goes into honoring her legacy and bringing her story to life.

  • Late Night Girls Club: Samantha Bee & Amber RuffinSamantha Bee (host and executive producer of the WGA nominated, Emmy Award-winning show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee) in conversation with Amber Ruffin (writer, executive producer and host of WGA Award-nominated series The Amber Ruffin Show). The two will discuss the trials and tribulations of covering politics in today’s unpredictable climate from a unique, comedic point of view. As the longest running correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Bee eventually went out on her own in 2016 with Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. The show continues to use political satire to entertain, educate, and empower viewers while keeping the government in check. Ruffin is also an Emmy and WGA Award-nominated writer and performer for Late Night with Seth Meyers, and was the first African American female to write for a late-night network talk show in the U.S.

  • Leading Safely + Motivating Empathetically – Learn how the hospitality industry have changed their tactics to adapt to the ever-changing health and wellness regulations and lead, motivate and engage their employees, colleagues and communities; eaturing Blackberry Farm Vice President of Food & Beverage Andy Chabot; Food & Wine editor-in-chief Hunter Lewis; executive chef and Cúrate Bar de Tapas and La Bodega by Cúrate co-owner Katie Button; and award-winning chef and activist Marcus Samuelsson.

  • Live Music in Venues: What’s Next? – 2020 was a year of catastrophic impact for the live music industry as the pandemic brought the industry to a screeching halt. A year later, this session brings together independent venue perspectives from across the US., including Troubadour talent booker Amy Madrigali, Iridium director of artist relations & programming Grace Blake, First Avenue Productions president and CEO Dayna Frank and moderated by Pollstar, VenuesNow executive editor Andy Gensler. How have they been able to support developing talent? What’s ahead for their establishment and how they can get back to supporting a full schedule of acts?

  • Making Emotional Connections With Volumetric Video – Hear from three seasoned creatives on the most effective way to make emotional connections through volumetric video with writer, director, and new media artist Illya Szilak; Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Capture Studios creative director Jason Waskey, producer and Atlas V co-founder Antoine Cayrol, and VR Director and founder of Double Eye Studios Kiira Benzing.

  • Melinda Gates + Kelly Corrigan Talk Big Change – For more than two decades, Melinda Gates has been on a mission. Her goal, as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, she has come to a critical conclusion: when we lift up women, we lift up humanity. In conversation with podcaster, PBS host, and bestselling author Kelly Corrigan, Gates will discuss her bestselling book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, and its stories of the empowered women Gates has met over the years. Gates will talk about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work around family planning, education, and gender equality, and she will call us to action—urging us to drive progress in our homes, workplaces, and communities.

  • Music’s Limitless Variations – Hear from Lenzo Yoon, the Global CEO of BTS’ label Big Hit Entertainment (hereafter referred to as Big Hit), as he explains how Big Hit was able to see what comes next, as well as prepare for the future at every critical juncture, and share Big Hit’s past, present and tomorrow. Yoon presents prospects and insights on the future of the K-pop industry and, furthermore, on the future of the global entertainment industry.

  • The New Marketplace of Music Royalties – A discussion around maximizing and navigating royalty opportunities for musicians and how the music modernization act will transform the landscape for music royalties with head of educational partnerships for The Mechanical Licensing Collective Serona Elton; founder and CEO of Sound Royalties Alex Heiche; entertainment lawyer Robert A. Celetsin; and Grammy award-winning musician and actor Wyclef Jean.

  • The New York Times Climate Debate – With 2020 tying the record for the hottest year, there is agreement that we have to combat global warming, but there is less agreement about how to get there. Some argue that we don’t have all of the tools – and that if we are to halt global warming, we must pursue new solutions, such as accelerating renewable initiatives that will help us to bring carbon emissions to net-zero. For others, the tools for creating a sustainable economy already exist. It’s simply a matter of changing behavior and holding accountable policy-makers and business leaders, who have set lofty ambitions. Join us as two sides debate and share their perspective on the most sustainable path to net-zero, exploring these issues ahead of The New York Times Climate Hub. Moderator Somini Sengupta (International Climate Reporter, The New York Times). Judge: Nigel Topping (High-Level Climate Champion for COP26). Debaters: Chris Stark (CEO, Committee on Climate Change), Dr. Leah Stokes (Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, UCSB; Author, Short Circuiting Policy), Emma Howard Boyd (Chair of the Environment Agency, UK Government), Mohamed Adow (Founder and Director, Power Shift Africa), Rhian-mari Thomas (C.E.O., Green Finance Institute), and Joseph Majkut (Director of Climate Policy, Niskanen Center).

  • Ocean Storytelling with James Cameron & Brian Skerry – Join world-renowned filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer at Large James Cameron and National Geographic Explorer and Photographer Brian Skerry on a guided adventure into the deep blue to discuss the upcoming Disney+ original documentary series Secrets of the Whales. Filmed over three years in 24 locations, avid underwater conservationists Cameron and Skerry join forces to deliver an epic, awe-inspiring look at the incredible life and culture of whales and how the world’s largest mammals are facing the challenge of an ever-changing ocean. Moderated by OceanXplorers executive producer Orla Doherty.

  • The Pandemic’s Hottest Concert Series – Musicians didn’t think twice about internet concerts before 2020. They could make more money in one night on the road than they could in a year on Twitch or Instagram Live. But the pandemic has stranded thousands of professional musicians at home, and brought out their innermost creativity. Of all the biggest at-home concerts, nothing comes close to Verzuz, a recurring event that is part concert series, part history lesson. Every few weeks, two musicians gather and take turns playing their biggest hits and telling stories from their careers. The project is the brainchild of Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, two producers responsible for some of the biggest hits of the past 25 years. The old friends started by talking live on Instagram from their respective homes. But what started as an impromptu conversation between two music industry kingpins quickly morphed into must-see programming. Join Grammy-winning music producer, entrepreneur, and visionary Swizz Beatz; multi-platinum Grammy-winning, super-producer Timbaland; and music industry veteran Fadia Kader in conversation with Bloomberg News reporter and author of the Screentime newsletter Lucas Shaw, for a conversation about the pandemic’s hottest concert series.

  • Postcards for Democracy: A Collective Art Demo – Artistic visionaries DEVO cofounder Mark Mothersbaugh and self-proclaimed “musical weirdo” Beatie Wolfe share a love of tangible artforms, in and amongst their futuristic explorations. In light of the threat to our 225yr old postal service, at a time that could jeopardize the democracy of the country, Mothersbaugh and Wolfe joined forces for this collective postcard art demonstration. The aim of this campaign is to encourage as many people as possible to support USPS (if we don’t use it we’ll lose it!), our right to vote, and democracy as a whole via the power of art.

  • President George W. Bush in Conversation with Evan Smith – 43rd President of the United States of America, and author of the upcoming book Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants, George W. Bush in conversation with co-founder and CEO of The Texas Tribune, Evan Smith.

  • The Quest Effect: Inside VR’s Next Chapter – Anyone who has entered virtual reality knows what a transformative experience donning a headset can be. Until recently, that experience was enjoyed mainly by hard-core VR enthusiasts. This year, all-in-one VR has become better, more powerful, and more affordable, expanding and changing the makeup of who spends time in VR. Now, that new group is discovering how great VR can be — not only for games, but also for fitness, media, hangouts with friends, and even real work. Join Mark Rabkin, Vice President of Oculus at Facebook, in conversation with Scott Stein from CNET, for a discussion about the future of VR, its changing ecosystem, and what its recent success means for the development of the next computing platform.

  • Raising the Bar: Accelerating Diversity in Music – This session with Warner Music Group Global Head of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Maurice A. Stinnett; Recording Academy Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Valeisha Butterfield-Jones; Color Of Change president Rashad Robinson; Sony Music EVP, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Tiffany R. Warren; and SVP, Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Officer at the Universal Music Group Liliahn Majeed will evaluate how inclusive the music industry is at this time across race, gender, age, and across all genres of music, highlighting the good, the bad, the ugly. Immersed in the day to day, music leaders on the panel will take a step back and discuss the most surprising and least surprising DE&I insights from within their organizations and their communities.

  • Reinventing the Telethon for the Digital Generation – Learn about how creators are leveraging their influence for good, and social platforms are supporting them with new technologies and features including the ability to fundraise and lead an evolution of social good. Join Tiltify CEO Michael Wasserman along with content creator Jacksepticeye and Alison Moore of Comic Relief US to highlight some of their biggest collaborations of 2020, as well as examine how creating more interactive, live, and personalized experiences on social platforms make it easier than ever for the next generation of donors to support their favorite charities and causes worldwide.

  • RIP Live Shows? Concerts in the Time of COVID – A conversation about the ways the live/touring industry are trying to stay afloat, what’s working, what isn’t, and what still needs to be done to save the music we love, featuring Driift general manager Adam Shore; Panache Booking and Panache Management founder Michelle Cable; and Paradigm Talent Agency Executive, Wilder Records founder and Home School co-founder Tom Windish.

  • STARZ’S “Power” Universe Collides – Join STARZ’S Power Universe co-creator, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson; Power Book II: Ghost cast: Michael Rainey Jr., Mary J. Blige, and Cliff “Method Man” Smith; Power Book III: Raising Kanan cast: Mekai Curtis and Patina Miller; and Power Book IV: Force lead: Joseph Sikora, for the first time ever as the Power Universe collides. Moderated by media personality and bestselling author Angie Martinez, Power stars will discuss: the legacy of the Power Universe, the latest on upcoming seasons, the future and fate of new and iconic characters.

  • Stepping into Space: The ISS Experience – Join NASA astronaut Jessica Meir; Creative Director from Felix & Paul Studios Félix Lajeunesse; and Executive Producer from TIME Studios Jonathan Woods, as they discuss the making of Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, the largest production ever filmed in space. Shot over two years, the series offers an intimate take on the joy, wonder, and dangers of life in orbit as Jessica Meir and seven of her fellow astronauts take on life-changing missions aboard the International Space Station. Joined by moderator Laura Mingail, Meir, Lajeunesse, and Woods will share their personal experiences, challenges and the meaning that their epic four-part immersive series conveys for each.

  • Space is for Everybody: Insights from NASA Astronauts – For 20 years, humans have conducted science from humanity’s home in orbit — the International Space Station. Join NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Kate Rubins for a conversation from 250 miles above as these space travelers provide insight about their experience working and living in space, international collaboration aboard the station, space technology, and how research in microgravity benefits everybody back on Earth.

  • Ted Lasso: Emotion in the Edit – Join producers and members of the Ted Lasso editorial team in a panel discussion on the magic of Bill Lawrence shows (Scrubs, Cougar Town, Spin City) and how editorial is the true partner in landing the jokes, drawing out emotion, and making it feel like you’re spending 30 minutes with your long time pack of friends. American Cinema Editors (ACE) CinemaEditor Magazine writer Nancy Jundi will moderate the panel with representatives from the Ted Lasso creative and editorial team (Bill Lawrence, Kip Kroeger, Melissa McCoy, and A.J. Catoline) to elaborate on the many considerations that go into building and honoring a character across episodes, seasons and a series.

  • The Way Forward for Artists – A candid conversation about the future of creating a sustainable income for artists and controlling their own destiny with former global head of music at William Morris, founder of Lollapalooza, and recent founder of Savelive – a national live venue network designed to reinvent and rescue music clubs across the U.S. – Marc Geiger and founder and former CEO of Pandora and co-founder of live-streaming platform Sessions Tim Westergren.

  • What is Taste? – Without taste, the experience of eating would be a routine and joyless chore. Taste is an almost magical part of our individual experience because everyone’s perceptions and preferences are so unique; but what IS taste, really, and what informs it? It is so much more than a chemical reaction on our taste buds. Taste is made up of shifting cultural norms, food science and technology, and the art of cooking, of bringing a dish to life through careful preparation and the right ingredients. And by better understanding how all of these elements work together, you can develop an even deeper appreciation for your favorite food experiences. Cofounder of So Vegan Ben Pook, three-Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn, CEO of Motif FoodWorks Jonathan McIntyre, Ph.D, author and scientist of senses and emotion Rachel Herz, Ph.D. will discuss how culture, science, and technology shape one of the most important aspects of our lives.

  • Who Controls the Past: The Tulsa Race Massacre – How is it possible that the 1921 massacre of as many as thousands of Black people in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was almost erased from US history? And why is it finally penetrating the national consciousness? Featured in HBO’s The Watchmen and Lovecraft Country, this history survived because of the dedicated efforts of Black Tulsans, including the descendants of survivors, who have made it their life’s work to uncover what really happened and make sure we never forget. This session, moderated by Jeffery Robinson from Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, examines the work of activists Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Chief Egunwale F. Amusan, and Kristi Orisabiyi Williams to take control of the historical narrative, and in so doing, to force a reckoning on racial justice in this country and a long overdue conversation on reparations for Black Americans.

  • Why Do We Fear Innovation? – A conversation featuring actress, author, and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik and historian, philosopher, and bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari, moderated by Tech Open Air founder Niko Woischnik. From the printing press to vaccines to artificial intelligence, the introduction of almost any transformative technology has been met with wonder as well as fear and rejection. Many of history’s greatest inventors were considered heretics – the archetype of the mad scientist exists for a reason. Why does the new still scare us? What does it take to build acceptance for transformative ideas? How does the unprecedented scientific progress to deliver COVID vaccines influence this? What role does disinformation play in shaping our fears? How can we ensure innovators consider ethical issues, so outcomes can lead to the betterment of people and the planet? What can innovators learn from artists and creators of fiction?

  • Why The Music Biz is Buzzing About the Metaverse – In the midst of the 2020 global pandemic, one of the biggest concerts ever took place in the virtual worlds of Roblox. Two-time Grammy Award winner Lil Nas X gave a performance debut of his new single ‘Holiday’ and other top hits, dancing and socializing with fans, and attracting over 30 million concert views in this revolutionary music experience. The concert’s unprecedented success was made possible by the Metaverse, a social and technological phenomenon driven by a new generation growing up online and global platforms paving a new way for people to be together, even when they can’t in person. Hear from Maverick Management music manager Zach Kardisch, futurist and CEO of Futures Intelligence Group Cathy Hackl, Roblox Global Head of Music Jon Vlassopulos, and Columbia Records SVP, Experiential Marketing and business development Ryan Ruden about how the Metaverse is shaping the future of music business, today.

Explore the SXSW Conference

Conference Sponsors

White Claw logo
High Grade Hemp Seed logo
Showtime logo
MTN DEW Rise Energy logo
Audible logo
Dell logo
TikTok logo
Austin Chronicle logo

Stay Tuned

Sign up to receive the latest announcements, tips, networking invitations and more.