10 Superstars Who Were Discovered at SXSW

10 Superstars Who Were Discovered at SXSW

SXSW: South by Southwest 2021

SXSW: South by Southwest 2021

Austin, United States of America


There's now less than a month till South by Southwest 2020 kicks off. Another year, another 2,000 artists from over 60 countries performing across the city of Austin.

No doubt there will be a lot written about the new discoveries over the festival's 10 days, with some lucky acts being handed contracts and eventually going on to big things. Potentially in a few years time their 2020 SXSW performances will be held up as the turning point of their career. It is a popular narrative that has played out many times since the festival's inauguration in 1987.

As we get set to look towards the future of music at SXSW this year, let's take a moment and look back at a little history. Here are ten huge acts who managed to segue hit SXSW sets into stardom. 

The White Stripes


Three albums in and Jack and Meg were still rocking out in relative obscurity. Fast-forward a year and their album White Blood Cells was re-released on a major label and they were the focal point of the grunge revival. No doubt this much buzzed-about set helped.  

Amy Winehouse 


OK, so she might have already been turning heads back home in the UK, but SXSW has a strong tradition of introducing British stars to the rest of the world. Along with a 2006 showcase of Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse is the prime example of this. After her showcase in Austin, the troubled singer soon found herself atop the charts on both sides of the pond.

Katy Perry 


After starting as a Christian rock singer and releasing an album under her given name, Katy Hudson, and then being dropped by not one but two major labels, a young Katy Perry turned a critically acclaimed SXSW set into a recording contract with Capitol Records. A year later she was one of the biggest pop stars in the world. 

Bon Iver


Things were already snowballing for Justin Vernon and co when they took the stage at SXSW 2008, their storied debut album For Emma, Forever Ago having been given a short run the previous summer. Releasing the album on famed indie label Jagjaguwar a month before the festival, this set only added to the storm brewing around the band.

Kid Cudi


The ever elusive rapper had already released his breakthrough single Day 'n' Nite, and was signed to Kanye West's GOOD Music label a few months before he took on Austin, but every artist narrative needs a coming out party, and that's what SXSW 2009 was for Cudi. 

Janelle Monáe


The electric lady hasn't always been an entrenched part of the music industry, even if her boss mentality and killer dance moves may make it seem that way. This smooth as silk performance came over a year before the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, and helped spread the word on the eccentric brilliance of Janelle Monáe. 



Having released two albums already, the Canadian electro-pop voyageur rolled into Austin in the midst of a relentless touring schedule. Up on stage by herself, surrounded by synths and beat machines, Grimes put on a clinic, giving an insight into what was to come on her breakthrough record, Visions, which came out a year later.

Odd Future


As was par for the course for them, Odd Future didn't enter Austin peacefully. Riding high off an internet breaking performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, last year's Brockhampton (I kid, of course) came into SXSW 2011 as conquering heroes. Only getting bigger from here, the collective launched the careers of more than a few current industry staples.

Foster The People


All you need is one song to make it. For Foster The People, this was Pumped Up Kicks. I may not be the biggest fan, but I can admit this song is pretty catchy. That being said, I don't know if you could get away with lyrics about shooting your high school classmates these days, but I digress. The song was everywhere in 2011 and this showcase was big in that. 



Over a year before everyone's favourite sister trio released their first official single, the band played a few off-the-beaten-track showcases at SXSW. The classic South by discovery tale, the group garnered a lot of attention from industry execs and music lovers alike, got a record deal and released a world-beating debut album the following year. 

SXSW 2020 takes place March 13-22 throughout Austin, Texas. Find more info on our SXSW 2020 guide and join our SXSW 2020 Mailing List to be kept up to date with the latest festival news. 


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