Every year I look forward to the week of Spring Break; not because I want to go to the beach, not because I want to go skiing, not even because I get a break from school... but because South by Southwest week is my absolute favorite time of year! Since 1987 (might I add, before I was even born!) people from all over the world gather in the heart of Texas. No matter what kind of background or group you come from, SXSW will guaranteed have something for you. The festival consists of all types of arts: film, music, graphic arts, and even the interactive events. Here, I'll tell you a little bit about it, and why its my "vacation" every year!
The first South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) was held in 1987 in Austin, Texas. Even though Austin was not a Top 20 major market at the time, the background and character of our city made it a perfect location for the conference. Austin was considered a fairly cosmopolitan town for its size because of the University of Texas, which draws people from all over the world. As home to the state government and Texas Legislature it has also always been a popular party town, with a reputation that goes back to the 19th century when numerous nightspots and bars were populated by General Custer's troops after the Civil War. These nightspots are located in the same areas where the 6th Street and 4th Street club and bar scenes now exist.
Austin's eclectic music scene goes back to early in the city's history (even from Mexican, German and colonial origins!) and encompasses a wide variety of music including country, folk, jazz, blues and rock. Central Austin boasts more original music nightclubs in a concentrated area than any other city in the world. If you know anything about Austin, its that 6th street is the place to be!
The classic problem facing Austin musicians was being isolated from the rest of the world here in the middle of Texas (sounds boring, right?). SXSW was a way to reach out to the rest of the world, and bring them here to do business. To do that successfully, SXSW needed to appeal to people other than local artists whether they were from Austin, Ft. Worth, Chicago, Toronto, Munich or Tokyo.
The music event has grown from 700 registrants in 1987 to over 16,000 registrants. As Austin has grown and diversified, film companies and high-tech companies have played a major role in Austin and Texas economies. In 1994, SXSW added a film and interactive component to accommodate these growth industries. SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive events together attract approximately 32,000 registrants to Austin every March.
The original goal for SXSW was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas. That continues to be the goal today whether it is music, film or the internet. And Austin continues to be the perfect location for people of all different cultures to come together and share common interests.
Austin has everything. No matter who you are, this is a place for you. Every year SXSW proves that to be even more so, by attracting thousands of people to come to the middle of boring ole Texas and enjoy common grounds with like minds! If you have never experienced the joys of walking 6th street, rather you're an Austinite or not, I would recommend everyone make some time to come experience SXSW. Not only do they offer wristbands with unlimited entry's, but Austin also provides a lot of free activities, too. Check it out for yourself, you wont regret it! Until next time, keep it clean!