The Ultimate 57 Tip Guide to Owning SXSW 2015
Posted in SXSW on February 26, 2015
As an Austin-based company, we've had the opportunity to take part in SXSW over the years. It's always nice when one of the largest festivals takes place in your own backyard.
Through our time together, Ticketbud has experienced the fest from many perspectives. Our team has done the badge thing, helped organize parties, and spoke at panels. We even have a guy who moonlights as a bartender during the week.
When mulling over our plans for this year's SXSW, we had an a-ha moment: With all the first-hand experience under our belts, why not compile our tips into a super-sized SXSW guide?
We've blogged about SXSW before but wanted to go bigger. Leaning on the expertise of our SXSW friends, we're excited to present these 57 tips to owning the festival. This guide is for the festival goer, that brave soul who is mentally preparing themselves for limited sleep and a mostly liquid diet.
Without further ado, read on to digest all 57 of our tips for owning SXSW 2015.
Part 1 of our guide is all about taking advantage of the tech you need before the big week in March.
1.) Follow these Twitter handles
These guys and gals have a pulse on everything that matters at SXSW. Big artist announcements, party announcements, you name it.
Also check out RSVPster's post on must follow twitter accounts.
2.) Create a list from those Twitter handles
This will make it easier to digest all that SXSW goodness in a single Twitter feed. We compiled our own list here.
This can act as a catch-all for any other SXSW related updates coming through the Twitter firehose. We recommend saving these searches so it's easy to go back to.
- #SXDrinks - tips on where the free drinks are at
- #SXLines - updates on lines
- #RBxBR - Ray Ban party hashtag
4.) Phone batteries: Get 'em!
A first of many tips from our friend @CameronAtSX of RSVPster fame: "Order a portable battery pack off of Amazon for your phone. They cost like $30 and are well worth it. The higher the mAh, the better. This one, for example, holds 4 1/2 iPhone 6+ or Galaxy S5 charges."
5.) Keep tabs on your Snapchat
This is the first SXSW where Snapchat has hit crazy critical mass. I’m expecting some nifty marketing campaigns & ticket giveaways via the ephemeral platform. See how @SouthByFREENoms is already starting to leverage it.
6.) We’ve been hearing some noise from SkoopApp
It’s like a social network app just for SXSW. Get it here.
There’s a chance someone breaks news of a secret party on one of these. Saw it happen on Secret last year. YikYak seems to be the popular one now though tech peeps use Secret more frequently. At the very least, it’s interesting to read interactive festival goers talk shit about how crappy they think SXSW has become.
8.) HippoHonk if you're looking to discover new music
Great site for reviews on bands being at SXSW.
9.) Use Foursquare/Swarm to track abnormal foot traffic
This is how I caught the secret Spoon show at ACL live a couple years back. Foursquare recently split their app into 2 so you might want to refresh yourself a bit. To my knowledge Swarm is going to be the one for seeing the foot traffic. You'll get notifications on where more check-ins are occurring downtown. It's also a good way to see which events are super crowded.
10.) Get the apps that startups tell you to download for entry
Yea it's a ploy for these startups to drive user growth. From experience, a lot of these events will check to see if you've downloaded the app. It can be a bit annoying since no one seems to download beforehand leading to a clusterfuck of a line. Be proactive and download it to your phone. They might open a separate line for people who already have the app.
11.) Setup your Ridesharing App
Check out Lyft and Uber to see if they're running any promotions this year for free rides. Transportation is a mess so have some semblance of a plan if you’re staying outside of downtown. Other corporate brands usually do some free ride sharing stuff too so be on the lookout. This also includes sponsored pedicabs. Braintree did it last year and Samsung the year before. They're usually free.
Part 2 is a deep dive into the big parties that always make a showing every SXSW.
12.) Fader Fort
This sums it up perfectly. The mecca of parties, Fader Fort never disappoints on the music & drinks front. They always have a couple special guests up their sleeve (See Usher's only SXSW performance here). If you're one of the lucky ones to receive a RSVP at Fader Fort, understand that it'll more than likely be an all-day endeavor. The place gets insanely packed and lines are ridiculous if you don't show up early. This is especially the case if you don't have an official badge or wristband. If you want the lowdown on Fader, check out MissKris's post here.
UPDATE: Looks like its invite-only this year, stay tuned for more details
13.) Hype Hotel
Free alcohol but more importantly, free Taco Bell. Don't get too carried away though. They usually do a day & night party during the music portion of SXSW. If you're badgeless, getting into the day stuff is possible. Expect to wait for an eternity at night. The venue for Hype Hotel is usually indoors so you aren't dealing with the massive crowds at Fader Fort. This means you can get up close and personal with the artists.
14.) Spotify House
This one has grown up a lot since Spotify initially came to Austin. The lineups are always solid and drinks keep flowing. It's a series of day parties so show up early to beat the crowds. Also, going back to tip #10, download the Spotify app for entry.
They do a great job marketing this one. Check out their site as they unveil the lineup throughout the next couple weeks. The Boiler Room always has an eclectic mix of musical acts with a couple that only play this show during SXSW. Don't expect designer sunglasses being handed out and they never had an open bar from what I remember.
16.) House of Vans
Vans takes over The Mohawk on Red River for a week of day and night parties. The venue isn't insanely big so be weary of the party start times. Day parties are general admission and night parties give badge/wristband holders priority access. Looking at the URL structure for past announcements, this year's list of events should live on http://sites.vans.com/eventsites/sxsw-2015/
17.) SPIN's Annual Day Party
Never been able to make this one but always hear amazing things about it. Usually takes place at Stubbs which is a great outdoor venue to catch shows. Expect a killer lineup, open bar, and free food. You'll want to keep tabs on the #SPINStubbs hashtag for announcements. Tickets go quick and expect to pick them up at the box office.
Culture Collide is going HAM on Rainey Street this year. They are co-hosting a number of showcases throughout the week. One thing to note is that the bars on Rainey aren't as big as your typical music venue. The showcases can get pretty crowded if the lineup is solid so plan accordingly.
Austin Party Weekend is mandatory for the electronic & hip-hop crowd. Labels such as Fool's Gold & Mad Decent usually do their showcases here.
20.) Auditorium Shores
If you're looking for a change-up to the typical showcase experience, check out the shows on Auditorium Shores. They're free to public and attract big names to perform.
21.) The Illmore
The Illmore always has awesome hip-hop shows (Lil’ Wayne, Kendrick, Skrillex etc.). Sign up here: http://illmore.zone/
22.) Quantum Collective
Located on the Wholefoods Rooftop, this event is free to the public and usually has a variety of artists performing.
23.) Waterloo Records
From @bangerton of justaho.com: "Free, no RSVP, no badge, no wristband, nothing. Usually no line to get in as well. Previous years: Tegan & Sara, The Zombies, Alt-J, Gary Numan, etc." They just released their 2015 lineup which you can find here.
In part 3, we wanted to share some rapid fire tips from us and the SXSW experts. These range from preparation & specific party recs. Expert tips are highlighted in blue.
24.) If you're lazy about RSVPing, get RSVPster.
25.) Stay far away from Dirty 6th street on music weekend
It's way too crowded with a mess of people. Some bars on 6th even close to avoid the trouble.
26.) Want a free badge?
Volunteer! You can schedule hours anytime throughout the 10 days and you'll get perks in return. Learn more here.
Words of wisdom from Ian Carrico of @sxswfreedrinks
27.) Don't leave someplace just because there is a rumor of an event across town.
If you are someplace that you are having a good time, stay there— no need to wait in more lines when you are already enjoying yourself as it is.
28.) The drinks might be free, but your bartenders are still working hard all week.
29.) If you identify as a wino, follow @garyvaynerchuk during Interactive.
30.) Be aware of the logistics for going to stuff outside of downtown.
Emo’s usually has some great showcases that don’t always require a wristband/badge. The catch is that the venue is a bit south so you’ll likely be stuck there for a while. The advantage is that if your'e sold on a party off the beaten trail, chances are good that lines won't be too crazy.
31.) If you see this at SXSW, run in the complete opposite direction.
I have no idea WTF that is but it scares me.
5 Very Actionable Tips from Cameron Clark (@CameronAtSX)
32.) Look for a second bar before getting in line for free drinks.
Bars closest to the entrance always have really long lines, and a lot of times there's a second bar inside/upstairs/wherever that has no line at all. (Sidenote: I'm actually surprised more people don't do this. At the Kanye/Jay Z show last year, the downstairs bar had a 30+ minute line and the upstairs bar was completely empty).
33.) Take screenshots of all the important info you might need throughout the day (schedules, venue addresses, maps, etc)
Cell service is terrible during SXSW.
34.) When you party-hop without a badge or wristband, you will spend a ton of time in lines and miss a lot of artists you want to see.
If you don't have a wristband, and on some days even if you have a wristband, it is better to pick one or two parties and hang out there all day rather than jump from party to party.
35.) A lot of official showcases that are "badges only" will sell a limited number of tickets at the door to those without badges, usually $5-$10.
Just call the venue ahead of time to confirm.
36.) Didn't make it in for a show you wanted to be at? Use that time to wander into less crowded venues and discover new music.
The small, independant artists are what SXSW is all about.
37.) Hang out at the Four Seasons while your’e taking a break.
A lot of movers and shakers come through there. My girlfriend made a connection and got to see Prince play at the now defunct La Zona Rosa 2 years ago. I’m not kidding.
38.) Read AustinBloggyLimits epic post
Can't dress yourself or don't understand the relationship between alcohol and hydration? This epic post has every tip you need on what you actually NEED to pack.
39.) If you're in full-on rage mode the entire week, find some of the week-long day events.
They’re usually marketed as ‘lounges’ or ‘recharge stations’. Pretty chill and they’ll start serving super early.
40.) Front-Gate’s morning after party is a best kept secret.
It’s on South Congress away from downtown so there’s no lines to get in if you RSVP. They usually have an open bar and great catering from local restaurants.
41.) If you're an Austinite, get the damn music wristband.
You've decided to indulge for the entirety of the music festival. There's no reason not to get a wristband if this is the case. Skip the lines, get into the stuff you want to see, and have just a way better time.
Smart Suggestions from Lucid Routes (@LucidRoutes)
42.) The key is to keep those hands as empty as possible so that you can consume as much of the complimentary food and libations SXSW has to offer.
43.) We suggest a regimen of Vitamin C, caffeine and lots of water.
We find the Ecogrowler to be the best way to stay hydrated, while minimizing your carbon footprint. Best of all, when it’s empty, you can slip it in your pocket so you don’t have to deal with that pesky empty mug or bottle cramping your hands-free style.
44.) Snag those pajama/workout shirts from all the swag happy startups.
You can easily obtain an entire wardrobe if you’re at interactive.
45.) Don't sleep on the small unofficial stuff.
You never know when you might see Justin Bieber play an acoustic set.
Miguel Angel's cheats (See the rest of his legendary cheats here)
46.) Use a badge from a previous year. Not every party scans for badges.
47.) Change a friend's name in your phone to the name of a person producing the event, then text yourself this.
48.) Pedicabs move faster than cabs during SXSW
49.) Go to Party City and buy different color assorted tickets. Get free drinks all week.
50.) Setup a new Gmail address just for the purpose of SXSW events.
From @Chuparkoff: "This ensures that 2 months of RSVPs aren't mixed together with all the other mail in your inbox. You'll need to find your confirmation email quickly in order to show it at the door." FYI, check out his definitive guides to SXSW here.
51.) Get into unofficial interactive parties by saying your’e a customer or prospect of the sponsor
This can only work if the sponsors are working the door.
52.) Fuggedabout official music showcases with big name artists.
Unless you have a wristband or badge.
53.) Prep for the late afternoon lull.
There's always a gap in parties between like 6 & 8. Try to sneak a nap in to reenergize.
54.) Read this post if you're looking to rent a home for SXSW
Extremely informative and you'll gain a lot of insight into renting through Airbnb.
55.) Try catching the later showings during the film festival
I've heard that there's sometimes open seating during the 2nd or 3rd showings of a film. Might have to pay a little but could be a great way to relax during the festival.
56.) Check out Operation Every Band if you want the lowdown on all the bands
The work these guys put in is incredible. They'll individually review every band and throw them all in a spreadsheet for your viewing pleasure.
57.) If you have a list of must-see artists, try catching their day shows first.
You'll have a better chance of getting in to a day party then an official showcase. This is especially true if you don't have a wristband/badge.
OK, that wraps it up. My fingers are tired. I'm sure we missed some stuff so please leave a comment below with any additional tricks, cheats, or tips. Add us on Snapchat (Username: Ticketbud) as we'll be documenting our SXSW adventures. Thanks to everyone that helped with the tips!