An Update from Austin, Texas
In 1986, only universities and the military were using email. Phones had actual dials, gas was 89 cents per gallon, the average monthly rent was $385, and Halley’s Comet skirted by the planet on March 8. That year, the first South by Southwest Conference and Festival was held—dubbed SXSW for short. The organizers expected 150 attendees and had 700 show up.
Now it’s 2018, phones are omnipresent, gas runs $2.61 per gallon, email or text is the only way people seem to communicate, Halley’s Comet isn’t due to visit us again until 2061, and SXSW’s attendees hit a buzzing 70,000. The conference itself is an equally dizzying experience of more than 5,000 speakers and upwards of over a thousand parties and events.
The festival was started by a group of Austinites who wanted to have conversations about the future of entertainment and media. These progressive thinkers held meetings at the offices of The Austin Chronicle with music being their uniting factor.
This year, SXSW showcased artists from 63 countries and had 1,000 acts lined up. Some notables included: Willow Smith (Will Smith’s hair-whipping daughter turned folkie artist), Wyclef & Friends, The Roots (Jimmy Fallon’s late show house band), Los Lobos, Khalid, and Dashboard Confessional. The featured bands play varying venues from hotels and bars, to outdoor venues and ballrooms. If there’s a space for it, the musicians will play at it.
Live-streaming companies such as Pandora had lounges to promote brand interaction and experiences—the festival even has a dedicated SXSW radio station that is streamable from their app. While Austin is the live music capital of the world on an average day, during SXSW it becomes the live musical capital of the universe.
All in all, the most outstanding thing about SXSW is that there is so much to do and it doesn’t even cost a dime. The event now has guest passes, where attendees can tool around the city and have an incredibly rich experience. The SXSW guest pass gets attendees into stellar SXSW free events, including Flatstock 65, Job Market, SXSW Wellness Expo, SXSW Marketplace, Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake, Outdoor Film Screening, and more.
This year, there were replicas of Westworld town Sweetwater and Silicon Valley had a mock of the Pied Piper house. People come from all over the world visited Austin for this interactive experience, and SXSW did not disappoint.
At any given moment during the entertainment fortnight, attendees can see tech-startup entrepreneurs mixing it up with musical artists and corporate marketing professionals. It’s a unique experience, a fun party, and above all, something that just keeps getting better. Check out the 2019 line-up on the SXSW site soon and plan next year’s spring break for Austin.