Transforming the Entertainment Landscape – 2021 Themes

Transforming the Entertainment Landscape - 2021 SXSW Theme

This year, our annual festival will take place on a digital landscape, SXSW Online from March 16-20. Along with musical showcases, film screenings, competitions, and more, Conference sessions are organized by seven themes specifically focused on our unique moment in history and a glimpse into what the future could look like.

Conventional wisdom from entertainment industries has lost its shine in the face of evolving consumer habits, technological advancements, and an increased focus on social issues. These pressures are forcing a much needed metamorphosis. What lessons can music, film, television, sports, and gaming learn to keep up with an ever-accelerating pace of change?

Ask the hard questions and find answers with session highlights under the Transforming The Entertainment Landscape theme below.

Cultural Appropriation: A Fixable Cultural Crime

Cultural appropriation is a sensitive topic. Who has the right to say what is and isn't cultural appropriation? When someone uses what they think is "Native American themed" or "inspired", it's likely appropriating cultures that are still alive today. It can be someone telling everyone that their great great grandmother is Cherokee with only family lore as "proof". It's fake dreamcatchers and headdresses. Cultural appropriation is harmful. It promotes and perpetuates stereotypes. It seeps into every aspect of Native lives. Hard to believe, but it's true. It may not affect the average non-Native, but too many people are guilty of it for it to continue today. Learn how defensiveness and accusations of "PC culture" are wrong. There are respectful ways to show appreciation! Learn how.

Speakers: Alexandra Watson (, Chelsey Mooner (Chelsey Mooner), Ancynita Small (, Regina Brave (, Mickey Barrett (

Navigating Accelerated Change in Music Industry

The recorded music industry used to have neatly defined functional silos - labels, publishers, PROs, distributors, artist management - while artists signed traditional label/pub deals. Now, we are seeing fundamental shifts in roles, who does what for whom, and evolving power structures. Publishers are buying master recordings, rightsholders are investing in distribution and technology, management companies are acquiring labels and publishers, and artists are retaining their IP rights. 2020 was a year accelerated by yet another major shift of pandemic-fueled change in how artists perform and engage their fans, with ripples felt throughout the industry. In this panel, we will examine why these changes are happening and what the implications are for the industry and for artists.

Speakers: Vickie Nauman (CrossBorderWorks), Gigi Johnson (Maremel Institute, Center for Creative Futures), Andrew Sparkler (Downtown Music Holdings), and Bob Bruderman (Kobalt Music)

Reimagining Entertainment Through Mobile Gaming

Mobile gaming is the next frontier of entertainment, with the power to drop players into their favorite universes to interact with beloved characters and storylines, and take their fandom to the next level. Because of mobile games, players have the ability to weave their own narratives within well-known arcs, all while forging connections with other enthusiasts across the world. Join leading mobile games company Scopely, along with other gaming industry leaders to dive into how these companies are leveraging iconic IP and reimagining it across different game genres to create these successful titles. Panelists will provide examples of home-runs and flops when it comes to strategy, and how they have innovated within this multi-billion dollar market.

Speakers: Mike DeLaet (Scopely), Veronica Hart (ViacomCBS), Rich Cleveland (Hasbro), and David Bloom (Forbes/Tubefilter/Bloom In Tech Podcast).

Rising from the Ashes: Indie Film in a COVID World

If independent filmmakers have one skill, it's pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. They wear many hats to bring stories to life, and despite challenges presented by COVID, are in the unique and privileged position of being able to capitalize on the inherent DIY nature of indie production. The time to shine is now, as high-budget projects requiring massive crews and heavy infrastructure are largely infeasible in our socially distanced world. And while a content shortage is looming, audience appetites are more robust than ever. This panel will explore how indie filmmakers can best take advantage of today's limitations.

Speakers: Nic Marshall (Maven Screen Media), Kristen Konvitz (ICM), David Kaplan (Animal Kingdom), and Eric Boshart (Forest Road Company).

Streaming and Discovering Indie Music in 2021

Music streaming services have transformed the music landscape, driving dramatic changes in listening, distribution, and discovery, introducing consumers to music by artists that they never would have found before, and who were often ignored by analog era music distribution platforms. This panel will examine the relationship between the streaming services that millions of fans use to listen to music and the indie musicians who have tapped into these innovations to connect in never before possible ways, weaving together data and real-world experience. Panelists will share both a macro view and personal insights about what it means to democratize the music industry.

Speakers: Garrett Levin (Digital Media Association), Richard Burgess (American Association of Independent Music), Marisa Fair (Pandora), and Madeline Nelson (Heads Music).

Check out the seven conference themes and browse all Transforming The Entertainment Landscape sessions.

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Register for SXSW Online 2021

From March 16-20, experience Conference sessions and Keynotes, music showcases, film screenings, world-class networking, online exhibitions, networking events, mentor sessions, professional development, and more, all in a digital setting. SXSW Comedy Festival content will be announced as we get closer to the March event.

Groups of 10 or more can save big with Group Registration rates. Currently enrolled students may also apply to purchase a SXSW Online Pass at a special discounted rate.

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By Hailey Hess