SXSW 2013 Staff Preview
A common misconception with SXSW is that it works like every other festival and you need to have a pass to do anything. This is not true. Over 2000 bands have been announced so far, only a number of headlining acts, and we are one week away from the start of the “music week.” People that go to SXSW don’t go for the headliners. They go to see the bands you’ve never heard of so they can be pretentious for the following 6-8 months. I saw Kanye West and Rick Ross in 2008 in a 400 person venue called the Fader Fort (sponsored by Fader Magzine. Literally a tent in the middle of a parking lot). Budweiser and Jack Daniels sponsored the show. There were free Budweisers and Jack and Cokes all night long and I hung out with hot 19-year-old Budweiser girls drinking free beer and listening to artists perform unreleased material and hits alike to a tiny venue. For free. It’s that kind of festival. Sort of.
Unsigned or independently signed bands submit press kits to SXSW in early November to be considered for showcases: a mainstay of the festival. Media and industry gurus from all over the country swarm Austin and hover — looking for the talent that will matter in the coming year. These bands often are repeat visitors and plan their entire Spring touring schedule around visiting Texas in late March. This is the point to really notice: you can catch bands like Maps and Atlases or Religious Girls, whom all tour to the southeast very rarely, in rare form gearing up an audience for a trip around the country.
These guys also have to make a buck. Austin is there to accommodate Imagine any middle-sized American city. Now imagine all of its shops as venues: everything from a taco stand to a laundry mat will be converted to a venue, serve free alcohol provided by a corporate sponsor, and will have bands playing from as early as 11 a.m. to as late as 2 or 3 a.m. All week long. These aren’t just cover bands: these are bands like the Black Lips whom all play 20 + shows in a five day period. You, the patron, can see these bands for free (or for a cover less than ten bucks), without a pass. Austin takes care of the bands and the patrons, and makes the industry and corporate elites pay the tab through ticket sales and sponsorships for the “festival”.
How do you keep it all together? How do you find out where the best sponsors are giving away the best drinks with the best bands? SXSW has you covered. Download the apps. They’re incredible. Get the SXSW app, the Unofficial SXSW app, and subscribe to our Spotify playlist (we will update it regularly with what we’re listening to). Also, ATX parties, FreeSXSW events, SXSW World, and SXSW Eco are resourceful tools with push notifications about what to do, where to go, and when.
I know it sounds pretentious, but they kind of make it that way. Think about it. How many festivals do you know that don’t tell you who their headliners are? None. This is a festival everyone goes to for the chaos. You have to be on your toes to do it right, for sure. But you don’t need a pass to have the time of your life in Austin in March.