Back in 1986, a few people in Austin, Texas were looking for a way to keep the local music venues filled with people the week that all the college kids took off for Spring Break, while also showcasing musical talent across the city. By March of 1987, their plan for a festival started to come to fruition, with expectations that maybe 150 people would register for their new music conference. Spread out over 15 participating venues, more than 700 people attended, and — after going strong for 32 years — SXSW has never stopped growing.
Today, SXSW is one of the biggest, most diverse festivals out there — drawing talent from all over the world to showcase their music, movies, and technology, along with hundreds of thousands of attendees. This means it can be a little confusing when trying to make sense of how it all works 9and fits together). Even if you’ve attended before, it can still be difficult to effectively navigate everything that’s going on.
With that in mind, here’s a complete rundown on what to expect if you’re attending SXSW, and how you can make the most out of your time in Austin.
Breaking Down The Basics
There are a lot of components to SXSW, with more events added every year. Before getting into the specifics, here’s a quick look at the schedule of exactly what happens when:
SXSW Music is still what SXSW is best known for, which starts on Monday, March 12th and goes through that Saturday the 17th. The official showcases are held at venues all across the downtown area starting around 8:00 pm and go until the bars close at 2:00 AM.
You can check out a comprehensive list of who’s playing here.
SXSW Film is unlike the rest of the conferences since it runs the entirety of the festival, starting on Friday, March 9th and going until Saturday the 17th. While there are about 400 movies being shown, there are only a handful of theaters that show them, and all but one is in the downtown area.
SXSW Interactive happens during the first half of SXSW, starting on March 9th and wrapping up Tuesday, March 13th. It’s big on networking, awards, and product demos where companies show off their latest tech.
You can find out more about SXSW Interactive by clicking here.
SXSW Gaming runs the last few days of the festival, starting on Thursday, March 15th and wrapping up on Saturday the 17th. It includes a massive gaming expo, competitions, panels, and awards.
For more information on SXSW Gaming, click here to get a rundown of what’s in store.
The SXSW Marketplace is held downtown inside the Austin Convention Center (the epicenter of SXSW) and is open to badge-holders as well as the general public. It runs in conjunction with SXSW Gaming (March 15th-17th), and is more-or-less a giant pop-up store featuring local and international vendors selling everything from clothing, art, music, and just about everything in-between.
To get a better idea of what to expect from the SXSW Marketplace, click here.