Expanding Influence of SXSW

Newspaper Clipping; SXSW music fest turns 10: Organizers expect 5,000 will tune in to largest U.S. event of its kind

Newspaper clipping marking South by Southwest's tenth anniversary 

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a conference that takes place every spring in Austin, Texas. At its origin, SXSW was strictly a music festival that sought to bring exposure to small artists. Today, the festival has grown to include conferences around tech, education, and film. SXSW is now internationally recognizable and while it has not strayed too far from its original objective, the path it has embarked on is still unexpected. Not only is SXSW recognizable, but there is credibility and power that comes from being associated with the festival. This newspaper clipping marks the growth of South by Southwest at its ten-year anniversary, referring to the festival as "the largest event of its kind in the United States." Despite growing to such a level, one of the founders of the festival claims that it "rarely makes money." Today, SXSW is largely profitable, demonstrating how much growth was still yet to come for the festival. One of the founders of the festival stated that the festival, “is like a child. It’s not out of control, nor do you have your hands on it. It grows in its own direction, becomes its own person.” This is an interesting way to describe a project as it shows how SXSW is its own living thing and even the people in charge of it do not fully have command of it. It is also noted that the managing director, Roland Swenson, said that from the start it was not meant to just be a local thing. One of their goals was to create a situation where people in the music business had the opportunity to come together outside of the major cities such as Los Angeles and New York, which came to fruition. SXSW demonstrates how festivals have the ability to build social capital, allowing residents to develop connections that provide enhanced opportunities in their respective fields. 

As the festival grew in reputation, it was also growing in size. In order to keep up with the demands being placed on the festival, the production also had to increase. This newspaper clipping points out that hundreds of volunteers were needed to pull off a four-day festival. Today, the festival spans ten days, requiring even more hands. These workers are not paid despite their crucial role in servicing the event. This is because workers are able to be a part of SXSW without having to pay the hefty entrance fees for the event. The clipping also highlights that many of these volunteers are local students. UT Austin's spring break typically aligns with the festival, which allows students the time and opportunity to participate in the all-day events that SXSW runs. These opportunities are deemed reward enough, despite the labor intensity of some of the roles.