SXSW on the cheap.
It has become the stuff of legends. The SXSW-goer who manages to crash all the great parties, visit all the best free food and see all the great music, without ever owning a badge, wristband or ticket. You hear them speak of running into Anthony Bourdain behind the bar of an exclusive party, or standing shoulder to shoulder with Rachael Ray at her first Feedback Party, at the now-defunct Beauty Bar.
Truth is, as you’ll hear the curmudgeonly Austinites chant, from time to time, those stories were infinitely possible during “the olden days” of SXSW. Before SXSW became Spring Break for the post-collegiate crowd, it was a quiet launchpad for corporate brands, who threw more than a little money at the week to establish themselves in the hearts and minds of trendsetters who made their annual pilgrimage to innovation Mecca. SXSW was where the trends broke, and companies sought to be affiliated, if not to wholesale pilfer talent from the cultural currents in Austin for the festival and conference.
These days, SXSW’s corporate involvement is patently obvious. High dollar events compete for Interactive, Music and Film attendees’ attention with all the subtleties of a five-story bag of Doritos on 5th Street. The free party has all but taken over Downtown during all three facets of the festival (though there is still NO SUBSTITUTE for having a badge or wristband – so get yours TODAY!), but the question that all of these parties bring to the forefront is:
How do I get in? Can I buy my way in?
Sure, there are plenty of websites and bloggers who will blatantly try to sell you on a service, allowing you to pay a flat fee and get someone to grant you access (mirroring a system in Las Vegas, where VIP access can be bought to any or all of the exclusive clubs). But there has been and always will be something inorganic about paying for access, especially when so much is available if you take a moment to look. That being said, here are the sources to follow, read and listen to as SXSW approaches to make sure your hard-earned money stays in your hands and can be used for tipping the unthanked masses of service industry professionals who make your SXSW partying possible (seriously, they work overtime for the same pay, deal with 1000s of inebriated and entitled fools and may get 3 hours of sleep a night, if they’re lucky…save your SXSW RSVP service money and give it to them).
Homegrown and now with outlets in multiple cities across the United States, DO512 learned how to manage multiple events over multiple days and forged their significant skills in the fires of SXSWs past. Now, they are full-on experts of where to be, how to RSVP and how to craft your own schedule for SXSW. They devote a segment of their site to the endeavor, and they are usually one of the first places to know when a new free party or insider piece of information is available.
Celebrating over 15 years of covering SXSW, SXSWBaby is a blog that focuses on all of the information that fits, regarding SXSW. Carefully curated into categories of information on each of the SXSW entities, as well as the parties and life of SXSW, the blog is already in full-swing, covering every piece of news they can get their hands on and keeping a SXSW-going public well informed. We draw your attention to the 30-day checklist they provided as example (http://www.sxswbaby.com/2016/02/sxsw-babys-thirty-days-to-go-checklist/) of why they’re so good to follow.
1) SXSWhoa (@WhoaCo)
Having done this for years, SXSWhoa is exactly that – WHOA. Their feed is like drinking from the fire hydrant of SXSW information. Parties, band announcements and important tips and times are their main lifeblood until the chaos begins, when they turn into a highlight reel for everything going on. And, in retrospect, they become a repository of breakout bands, with proof that they “were THERE” when the amazing happened (as in Mumford & Sons, relative unknowns in 2009, playing a Manor Rd. Pizzeria that became the Salty Sow – see HERE).
2) Cameron@SXSW (@CameronAtSX)
Cameron used to have a blog where all of his SXSW scoop was posted, but the ease and immediacy of Twitter provides too simple a solution for disseminating information to the masses. And so all of his effort has been poured into a GREAT Twitter feed.
Formerly known (accurately) as @SXSWISLIFE, this handle is a more collated amalgam of sources and editorials about SXSW. Not only does the account scour the internet to get the best scoop on bands, but they provide the links for all the best events, and even collate the free drinks and free food for the 10 day extravaganza. It’s easy to follow and easier still to pick through and attend the events you want to attend.
SXSWster James is not confined to music alone. Having traversed the industries of both Interactive and Film, his feed is full of the greatness that those two arms of SXSW have to provide, as well as Music, of course. Full of personality and playlists (and emojis!), James is not to be overlooked.
Dani Dudek doesn’t live in Austin, anymore. She’s moved to the Carolinas. But, while she was here, she put a stamp on the Austin Celebrity Scene and established herself as the authority on all Celebrity Buzz in Austin. She still comes back for events and festivals, and it keeps her VERY well informed, and her connections keep her even better informed. As shown by her regular list of “Who’s coming to SXSW?”, she combs through the appearances and schedules to sift out the great gossip nuggets that will ensure you run into the celebrity you want to find during SXSW.
Few people in Austin have been paying as much attention to SXSW for as long as Andy Langer. A KGSR dj, Esquire Magazine contributor and all-around expert on breaking trends in music, Langer provides the bird’s eye view on the elite happenings during SXSW. Always in the right place at the right time (watching Bruce Springsteen walk past en route to a surprise stage appearance, for example), Langer is a great source for the highest-end of appearances and shows in town. You might not be able to go where he goes during the festival, but you MIGHT, and that’s worth at least a follow.
Nothing will take the place of purchasing a badge or wristband, but armed with these people and sites and with their sources of information, there’s no reason not to have a fun and FREE time at SXSW 2016.