I started going to SXSW in 2006 and have been there every year since 2006 (except 2010). It started out just for the chance to discover new music and to see artist that were skipping Austin at the time. There was a time when hip-hop was almost impossible to find at SXSW, but I’ll never forget seeing Pimp C’s first show with Bun B in Austin after he got out of prison because unfortunately it was his last show here or Peter Bjorn and John with 50 people in the middle of the day.
It became a passion in 2009 when we heard a rumor Kanye was in town then ended up front row watching him and Erykah Badu introduce all of G.O.O.D. music. In 2011 is when it really morphed from “what music can I see” to “how can I drink and eat for free all day, plus maybe catch a good band”. Most of my friends couldn’t afford the badge so we started hosting these RSVP parties where we would schedule out whole days. At the end of them we had RSVP’d to hundreds of events a day and put them all on shared calendars so at all times we had options to eat and drink for free. Eventually that turned into Twitter pages we created that somehow got nicknamed the “SXSW mafia”.
In 2012, I began to work with Scoremore, the Illmore and the Fader at SXSW. Since then, my role has changed from the kid who’s figuring out how to sneak into the event to street team leader for those companies/part-time event producer for Illmore. At the core of it all the main reason I put my body through days of no sleep and walking miles around Austin is still the music and chance to meet like-minded people.
I personally think SXSW is still a very big role for artists, but I really think more for press coverage. Not sure of the day of record label execs walking into an event and seeing Adele with 20 other people are still around because so many companies are curating their own events.
For the industry I think it provides a great place to meet because so many people are already here from all over the world. I personally meet most agents, assistants, etc., that I work with all year during that week for the first time face-to-face. For fans it still provides an awesome chance to experience a music festival like no other in the world. That week an average guy might be able to see his favorite artist walking down the street to perform for a couple thousand people.
I see SXSW continuing to grow but also gain control over the free non-official events that way that allows even the greenest consumer to enjoy both. I think they have found their niche and should stick with it. There is a lot of things in the music industry that people just don’t talk about. The main one being health. I would love to see something around the general health of music industry professionals.