Activism at SXSW

Newspaper clipping; Beating the odds for life: LIFEbeat gets active at SXSW and shows

Newspaper clipping highlighting activism in action at South by Southwest

While South by Southwest was founded with the intent to focus on music, that is not all they do. As much of the entertainment has expanded into other industries at the festival, there has been a focus on sharing ideas and perspectives. As a result, many people have found opportunities to demonstrate activism at the festival with the support of SXSW. One of the ways South by Southwest promotes activism is by giving nonprofits an opportunity to reach the public. LIFEbeat is one of the nonprofits involved at SXSW. This organization had a booth at the 1994 SXSW Festival which allowed them to raise money and educate festival patrons on HIV and AIDS. This activism carried forward even ten years later as the Managing Director of SXSW, Ronald Swenson, urged the audience to participate in political activism as SXSW premiered an anti-Bush documentary during Bush's administration. As recently as 2022, the festival has hosted panels such as "Policy, Legislation, and The Next Music Business,” "Legislation Affecting Your Livelihood: A View From Capitol Hill,” and “Music and Activism: Activating Your Voice for Social Good.” The latter event highlighted panelists who are either musicians or they work within the music industry, but also spend a significant portion of their time as activists. These kinds of opportunities have created opportunities to discuss the intersection between music and politics. SXSW may be a place of leisure, but social change can still occur within these spaces as people are organized and engaged with the events surrounding them. This creates a bigger community by bringing people together who care about and value the same things.