Time to pull out the calendar and start thinking about time off because the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival has just announced its dates for 2010. The prominent festival/conference returns, once again, to Austin, Texas, with the music section of the festival slated for March 17-21, and the film and interactive events beginning March 12.

Artists participating in the 2010 event have not yet been announced, but bands, filmmaker and artists who would like to be part of SXSW 2010 can now apply.

The SXSW festival debuted way back in 1987. It has evolved into an important showcase for music, independent films and emerging technologies – and their steady convergence.

The industry shindig also announced that it’s accepting submissions for panel ideas for all three festivals (Music, Film, and Interactive) by way of a “Panel Picker interface,” which allows the SXSW community to submit their own panel topics and vote on others.

Participants can submit their ideas through the Panel Picker interface at

The open submission process has begun and runs through July 10. So if you have a cool idea for a panel, now is the time to submit.

The second step will run from August 10-28, which allows the SXSW community to browse all of the ideas and rate which of the proposals they think are the best fit for the March 2010 event.

“Our experience has proved that the Panel Picker interface is an invaluable way to connect with the thousands of professionals and informed consumers that make up the worldwide SXSW community,” says SXSW Interactive Festival director, Hugh Forrest. “Not only does it help generate fresh ideas, it gives our participants an outlet to share with us what is most exciting, timely and relevant to them.”

It feels like SXSW 2009 just ended, but are you already getting excited about next year’s festival?