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Posted on 11.26.2014 / by Cedar Door
Over the years, the South by Southwest music festival held in Austin, Texas, has become a focal point of the music community. What started as a small festival to help introduce local musicians to the rest of the world has grown into an international annual event. The festival has become so popular that its nickname, SXSW, has turned into a powerful buzz word in the music industry.
But what is SXSW? Why is it so popular and what can you do to get the most out of your SXSW experience? The festival has evolved over the years and become something that the locals in Austin have turned into an event looking forward to. The more you know about SXSW, the more you can appreciate and enjoy this diverse music festival.
Why Austin, Texas?
Why did Austin, Texas, feel that it needed a music festival? Actually, the music scene in Austin has been extremely diverse from the day the city was first settled. The eclectic mix of German and Mexican settlers was integrated with the American colonists to create a culture that reveled in its diversity. Even General Custer’s men would stop in to Austin bars after the Civil War for the booze and the music.
Austin took its diversity and created a music scene that embraced original music. The city of Austin has the highest concentration of original music venues in the world, and those venues are traditionally busy seven nights a week. Austin was looking for a way to push its original music into the national spotlight and the music scene organizers in Austin felt that a music festival would be ideal.
What Is SXSW?
The SXSW festival first started in 1987 as a way to help give Austin original music a national platform. The idea was to bring in national acts from around the country to help shine a musical spotlight on Austin and then use that to gain exposure for the city’s local musicians. After only two years of operation, the SXSW festival exceeded everyone’s expectations.
The festival not only helped to attract national acts and record business executives, it also had an international appeal that grows stronger every year. The music portion of the festival has grown from 700 acts in its first year to over 28,000 participants in 2013.
In 1994, the SXSW organizers decided to add a film component to their festival, as well as a forum for national recording artists to discuss the music business with their fans. The new film and interactive discussion portions of the festival also took off in popularity and bring in 23,000 participants each year.
How To Get The Most Out Of SXSW
The official events that take place at SXSW are inaccessible to people who do not have an official SXSW badge. Despite the fact that the badges are hundreds of dollars, there are thousands of people who gladly purchase them. But you can enjoy SXSW without buying a badge or paying for anything at all. You just need to know where to look.
There are literally hundreds of unofficial SXSW musical events that take place during the festival and you can enjoy most of them for free. These unofficial events are usually centered around a proactive band that wants as much exposure as possible. Gaining that exposure means playing official and unofficial shows. You need a badge for the official shows, but you can just walk in and enjoy the unofficial shows.
You should also look around to find unofficial musical events that are sponsored by large corporations. Why? Because these corporations will give you free food and swag just for a moment of your time. Would you gladly exchange 30 seconds of your time to read an ad for Mighty Taco if it meant free tacos? Of course you would. That is how you can get the most out of SXSW.
Each year, SXSW gets bigger and bigger. The opportunities to discover new bands and movies are so bountiful that you will never experience them all. But with a little planning, you can lose your mind in Austin for four days and leave your wallet at home.