Wednesday, April 27, 2011


For those unfamiliar with South By South West (SXSW), it is every March from the 9th to the 18th. SXSW is one of the biggest music and media conferences in the world. The 2011 festival marked its 25th anniversary on over eighty stages throughout downtown Austin. News stations and magazines regularly follow the event, everything from the Rolling Stone to the local Austin Chronicle. The festival also draws sponsorship from big businesses like Miller Lite, Chevrolet, AOL, Brisk Iced Tea, Monster and many others. These big companies are often seen on the streets giving out free products and promotions.
There are three main categories of events in the SXSW festivities, the Interactive branch (March 9-13), The film side (March 9-17), and last but most certainly not least is the music side (March 14-18). The entire SXSW event is a huge tourist attraction in Austin but the music side is the focus of my map. Famous artists and their fans of all kinds come from around the world. There are two kinds of music events during this time, official SXSW events and unofficial SXSW events. This Google map illustrates a number of free events, both official and unofficial, throughout Austin. The official events are usually big names that draw world audiences but not always they can be things like the Pepsi tent that hosts various genres of free music and free unlimited sodas. People can purchase SXSW badges that allow them to get into the official shows and parties that would require the general public to pay a cover. The process is kind of like county fairs, you can pay $3 for each ride or you can pay $20 and ride as many as you want. SXSW badges are usually expensive but leading up to the festival they are used as prizes at radio stations and local competitions. Volunteering is also a way to get a complimentary badge. Unofficial SXSW is quite a bit different from the official events and are aimed at the local Austin crowd. These shows are almost all free and usually place more emphasis on free drinks. Local bars and venues put on these parties but there are no rules to unofficial events.
I have been to SXSW every year since I have lived in Texas and few things have changed until this year. A number of bands were booed off stage for comments teasing Texan pride and local culture while some fans also pushed the patience of venues by breaking down fences, being exceptionally rowdy, and even in some cases like Screaming Weasel, bands getting into fights with the audience. Since SXSW is free for the most part many are questioning whether the festival will continue to hold free events with the destructive manner that many people displayed. What makes the festival special is the coming together of the music community but if people take advantage of the system they may lose the entire festival as we know it.

View Julia McVey SXSW 2011 in a larger map