With SXSW around the corner, the annual Fader Fort is gearing up for its 17th consecutive edition at the Austin festival, featuring a three-day lineup of live programming from March 13 through 15.
On the initial bill of Fort performers: Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion, Chicago R&B artist Omar Apollo, pop four-piece Charly Bliss, rap upstart Queen Key, grime MC Novelist and Atlanta hip-hop artist Lil Gotit, with more to be announced. For the second year in a row, the guest list-only event will be hosted at an indoor-outdoor venue at 1501 East 7th Street in Austin.
“We’re focused on emerging music and diversity. It’s never changed,” The Fader president and publisher Andy Cohn tells Billboard over the phone. “We want to put people from all over the world onstage: Hip-hop, trap, indie rock, country; the best of what we feel is emerging music that’s relevant at that moment.”
This year, guests can expect an on-site VIP gaming lounge hosted by Xbox Game Pass, while RED will be there to showcase the new HYDROGEN One smartphone. Between sets, short form video platform TikTok will screen memes and entertainment onstage, and launch a Fader Fort hashtag challenge.
Fort is also announcing today (March 6) its first-ever set of informal panels at the festival, held in partnership with Spotify Premium, with more details to come. Cohn says the panels, open to Spotify Premium subscribers, were a natural next step for the Fort, which gathers influential voices from across the music industry. “We’ve always had such an incredible cross-section of people there — managers, artists, brand people,” he explains. “And there’s so much going on in the world with regards to music, culture, controversy and gender. There’s so many topics to talk about. Why not take advantage of all these people in one place?'”
Along with presenting the panels, Spotify Premium will offer subscribers fast-track entry into the Fort, a special viewing platform and more. “The Fader Fort has been an institution in Austin for 17 years, and this year Spotify Premium wanted to give our subscribers unprecedented access to The Fader‘s legendary flagship event,” says Veda Partalo, vp of premium brand and marketing at Spotify, over email. “From fast-track entry, limited edition merch and an elevated viewing platform, to a renowned artist lineup and an invite-only panel discussion with some of the industry’s most coveted minds, this year Premium and The Fader will deliver a next-level experience.”
Other partners for this year’s Fort include Austin FC, which was recently recognized as the 27th club in Major League Soccer, INTRINSIC Wine Co., cannabis brand Select and Smartwater, which will debut a “smartbeats” initiative to fuse music, technology and wellness at the event.
Cohn adds that this year’s Fort builds on the event’s longstanding reputation as a music tastemaker — over its history, the event has hosted early, intimate performances with everyone from Amy Winehouse to Cardi B and Billie Eilish. All this is chronicled in the newly-released collectible photography book FADER FORT: Setting The Stage, which’ll be on hand for purchase at the event.
“Fort is still about seeing Cardi B two years ago, when people were looking at the stage like, ‘who is this person?'” Cohn remembers. “Those are the moments for discovery, the moments where you see something that then really blows up. That’s the beauty of the Fort experience.”