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SXSW: Austin’s Annual Takeover

Posted by on March 11, 2016

In 2012, I attended South By Southwest (SXSW) as a senior in high school. That week, I decided I had to go to The University of Texas at Austin. It’s now 2016 and I am a senior at UT, and I will be attending what might be my last, full week of SXSW before becoming a real life adult. With this being said, we decided our blog this week should be dedicated to all things South By, first looking closely at SXSW Interactive, an incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity that is absolutely blowing up in popularity, and possibly causing Austin to be the startup hub that it is today.

INTERACTIVE

Austin has become Silicon Valley 2.0. For the first time, the entire state of Texas is now leading the nation in the development of new tech jobs with a yearly growth rate of 5.99 percent. Could SX Interactive be to blame? It certainly doesn’t hurt. Let’s take a look at some history, shall we?

In 1987, SXSW was born with a music portion and a few speakers here and there. 700 people attended, but since then, SXSW has grown to something so much more than that. Now SXSW is threefold event comprised of a music, film and an interactive portion. SXSW Interactive began in 1994, and is claimed to have been a little bit of a bust the first few years. In 1996, the internet began to play a part, but CD-ROMs were about the biggest technological topic for the event, proving that tech was not near as large of a thing that it is now in 2016. There was still much room for growth.

By 2000, everything was in full swing. According to The New York Times, “SXSW, the music, film and multimedia conference… exposed the ferocious effects of new technology on the record business.” As far as the interactive portion goes, 2008 was huge. The interactive portion featured hundreds of speakers, one of them being Mark Zuckerberg. Gowalla, Foursquare and Uber launch in 2009, and Interactive begins to be a huge portion of SXSW. The rest is history.

SXSWi is a huge player in not only the startup industry, but truly ideas and technology as a whole. This year, President Barack Obama will attend SXSW, and First Lady Michelle Obama will be speaking a few days later, making this year’s speaker lineup the most important, ever (also, don’t really expect to travel anywhere by motorized vehicle this Friday). What companies will launch this year? Who knows, but we are excited to see.

If you want to get on the interactive portion of SXSW, lucky for you, there’s a substantial amount of free activities that you can simply get in on by RSVPing. Of course, it never hurts to have an interactive badge. Or you can just be really important, but your best bet is a badge. For all of you others out there who aren’t about spending that much or maybe you’re a broke college student like me, we have the opportunity to attend many free events. Honestly, I’m most excited about tiny tacos.

FILM

Easily the best portion to celeb-watch, the Film portion of SXSW came about in 1994, along with the Interactive portion. In 1995, SXSW held the world premiere of The Return of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but has gone on to premier much larger movies, like Judd Apatow’s ridiculously funny Knocked Up. The Film portion includes everything from small, indie films to major blockbusters, keeping all audiences pleased.

This year, the Narrative Film Competition portion will feature 10 films selected from 1,442 submissions, a Documentary Competition portion, a Headliners portion, along with genres. Demolition will be this year’s big headline, so be on the lookout for Jake Gyllenhaal *swoon*. The ‘Keep Austin Weird’ film portion would most definitely be what SXSW refers to as ‘Midnighters,’ the “scary, funny, sexy, controversial – provocative after-dark features for night owls and the terminally curious,” so if you’re looking to get a good feel for Austin while you’re at the festival, maybe check that out. Or maybe not.

Best way to see these films? Unfortunately, the film portion is, hands down, one of the most exclusive. Film badges or wristbands are a must most of the time, but just like any portion, you can always find little free events sprinkled around the city. Do some Google searching, Facebook searching, and you should be able to find something.

MUSIC

Ahh, here we go. My favorite part. The music portion of SXSW is basically free. Yep, college students, that’s right. The hardest part is RSVPing to events on time, but there are so many small performances everywhere that you can just walk up to and attend. Some companies will make it interesting by sponsoring concerts (great advertising) but making them exclusive for users of their product, like last year’s Kid Cudi concert that was only available to Verizon customers. Good ‘ol South By, always keeping things interesting.

SXSW was created in 1987 with only a music portion. Being the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of The World,” a small group of wonderful people decided to heighten the strength of that self-proclamation by bringing in hundreds of artists each year. In 1994, Johnny Cash appeared. Throughout the years, both big and small names have made appearances in small venues across the city. The intimacy of SXSW is something that is unexplainable. For instance, Lady Gaga performed at a very small venue the same year she was selling out enormous hockey arenas. Another wonderful aspect of the music portion is that you get to really see artists grow. Hundreds of new artists attend each year in hopes that they will gain some notoriety during their time at SXSW, and many have.

So, how do you attend? RSVP. LOOK FOR LISTS. There are a few wonderful people out there who offer master lists comprised of almost any free, non-exclusive music events out there, so be on the lookout for those. Or, like always, you can buy your way into almost all the events with a music badge, but because there are so many free music events, in my opinion, it’s a waste. Think of all the free barbecue you could buy with that money saved.

Some master lists for you. Cheers:

https://keeganslistsxsw.wordpress.com/

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1aTidsOZp9vZnNUHPKaetrsbNJiJKoV80LgRKXLF9zIE/pubhtml

http://coolinaustin.tumblr.com/sxsw

SXSW CHECKLIST:

    ·Empty water bottl

    ·Sneakers, not heels

    ·Portable phone charger

    ·Sweater, umbrella (because this is Texas and we go through all seasons in a day)

    ·Sunscreen

    ·Chapstick

    ·Sunglasses

    ·Earplugs

    ·Gum (close proximity to hundreds of people. This is a great networking event. Don’t blow it with bad breath. Pun intended.)

    ·Energy bars


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