South by Southwest is nowadays known worldwide as a major festival for great music, films and interactive conferences. What started as a regional festival for residents of the beautiful Austin and central Texas area has grown exponentially and gained some major recognition in the world of entertainment over the past 5 or 7 years. John Mayer, James Blunt, and Lena Dunham were discovered at SXSW. 21st Jump Street and Bridesmaids premiered at South by before they landed on major distribution deals. Even Academy Award winning films such as The Hurt Locker and Undefeated (Documentary) had their public screening cherry popped during this wonderful time of the year. For that and many other reasons, SXSW is perhaps one of the most amazing things in the world ever.
During South by local bars, restaurants and music venues open their doors to a growing pool of talented individuals that wish to showcase their talent. Industry professionals come to the festival, so many of these artists actually find new management and label deals. A lot of big companies like to bring their corporate money and throw parties with FREE booze and music so that you’ll discover and/or continue using their products and services, which is actually not a bad trade-off. New apps launch during South by. Spotify, Tumblr, and Pitchfork materialize IRL and showcase cool bands and offer FREE booze too. Surprise performances happen, such as that time Justin Timberlake, Prince and Fall Out Boy threw secret shows. Last year everyone thought Daft Punk would make a special appearance somewhere, but that never happened. The speculation was fun anyway. Twitter held all the secrets to the universe. Anyway, there is FREE stuff everywhere: music downloads, food, condoms, sample bags, t-shirts, booze, etc. Are you convinced yet?
How to Attend
Wristbands and badges are available online for a million zillion dollars a piece. Neither you or any of your friends will be able to afford one (unless you are the kind of person that has their shit together and hangs around other people of the same caliber), but having one of these babies really comes in handy during the festival. Why? Two words: PRIORITY ACCESS. A lot of broke ass individuals will try to get in on the FREE booze and music, so most day events will give preference to badge and wristband holders. If you don’t have either of the two, forget about attending ANY of the nighttime showcases.
“OMG that is not fair! What will I do?” – a broke person
Don’t worry. I couldn’t afford one of these babies either, so instead I am working at the festival for it. “How can I do that?” You ask. Feel free to look online and use the internet as the powerful tool that it is. Social media and your own network of friends and colleagues may actually be the best resource tbh. They may work for hip companies doing cool things during the festival. Just ask around! Volunteer opportunities become available around late January and there is a bunch of meetings and other things to do prior to working there, but it’s totally doable and it kind of works out.
I do have some good news if none of this works out, though! Non-badge-holders can still attend a lot of SXSW-related events for FREE. It’s simple. Just add your name, and your friends’ names, to all the FREE SXSW RSVP lists that you find interesting. Spotify house, Fader, and Filter Magazine host some of the biggest events, but the list is actually pretty big. RSVPster is a great service, as is RSVP for Your Life.
My advice is that you RSVP to as many events as you can find, even if you won’t actually make it to them. It will be your back-up plan. Your chances of getting into a FREE show and having a FREE beer increase exponentially when you take the time to do this. So do it! It’s FREE!
For Badge-Holders ONLY (otherwise skip this part)…
The world hates you. Your friends probably hate you a little bit too, but they just won’t tell you. You have access to things not everyone has access to. The world gets it. Don’t flaunt your badge too much, share your goodie bags and try to wait in line with your friends as much as you can. It’s not that fun to be all by yourself even at these kind of events, unless you’re like a really independent person. In which case, God bless you. I want to be like you.