So, first of all, SXSW is an Interactive, Film, and Music Conference and Festival where various artists pay lots of money to have the opportunity to showcase their work. This means industry executives will be in attendance and will be able to see what they have to offer. This could mean a record contract or film deal for thousands of hopeful artists. But SXSW is also a great opportunity for fans of both music and film to get to see a wide variety of artists from around the globe. Never, at any other time in the year do we have the opportunity to see so many different forms of artistic expression. I personally, have not experienced the film part of the festival, so as I am more knowledgeable about the music scene, I will be discussing my experiences there.
There are 3 different ways to get in to see the various shows. You can be part of the artist/media/industry entourage and pay up to $550 and get a badge that allows you to access all the different forms of musical entertainment as well as the conferences and after parties that might not be available to others. Conference panels range in topic from Legal Issues to Insurance Coverage. There are also many opportunities to meet with numerous veterans of the industry in “Mentor” sessions and interviews. There are literally thousands of these badges out there, but for the average fan, this isn’t the way to get into see the shows.
So, we are blessed with the highly-coveted alternative to the badge, the wristband. These start out as low as $130, but are quickly snatched up, as they only offer a minimal amount (600 this year) for this price and later are upwards of $200 and go at record speeds every year. In fact, this year, the first 600 sold out in less than an hour. And of course, there are the wristbands that are purchased and sold on EBay These also allow you access to the many different venues, but you have to wait for the badges to gain access and then you can get in. What are the perks of having a wristband? Basically, it seems that you can get in where the others can’t, not to mention you’ll have a memoir of the hard-earned money that you spent. You also earn entry into the Austin Music Awards, an annual award show for Austin’s local musicians that takes place on the opening night of the Music Festival. These awards are based on the votes of thousands of Central Texas residents through the Austin Chronicle’s Music Poll.
But, for some, even these are too much of a price to pay. And why pay for what you can get for free? Now, in the evening, the big showcases are not free. But you can get into a multitude of shows during the daytime and in the evening simply by showing up with your ID. And not only can you get free entrance, you can get free schwag (CDs, stickers, etc.) and sometimes even free beer. But better than that, you are getting free entertainment by some of the best musical acts from all over the world. Sure, maybe you’ve never heard of them, but they are going to rock your socks off simply because they can. And that’s what they are here to do. So, you are going to remember them, find out more, and go home to tell everyone you know about this great band you saw at one of the free day parties. Oh, and guess what, you even have a CD with a website on it to show to your buddies.
Which brings me to my next point-SXSW is one of the best ways to market your band, even if you don’t have a showcase slot at one of the many venues. There are more people walking through the 6th street in 10 minutes than there might be all night during other times! Just stand there with your home-burned CD you and your band spent time putting together and hand them out to the throngs of people walking by. Everyone’s got their hands out waiting for something free and the “object of the game” is to see how much free stuff you can get! Later, everyone will get together and compare all the goodies they were able to procure just like a bunch of trick-or-treaters.
Inevitably, festival goers will go home with so many CDs and bumper stickers you won’t know what to do with them all. But you will listen. And you just might find your new favorite band. If nothing else, you will get lots of great ideas of ways to market your own band.