Guide to SXSW 2015 Events

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Held annually in Austin, Texas since 1987, South by Southwest or “SXSW” is one of the biggest and most well-known music festivals in the United States.  Just how huge is the event?  To put it into perspective, in 2013 alone SXSW boasted nearly 2,300 festival showcase acts, over 100 different stages, and an audience of 57,000 attendees over the course of three days.

But the true appeal and staying power of SXSW comes from the fact that it’s more than just a music festival.  In addition to putting on great music across dozens of stages, SXSW features interactive conferences, education conferences, film screenings, media festivals, trade shows, comedy performances, and even gaming expos.  Whether you’re completely uninitiated or you’ve experienced the SXSW phenomenon a dozen times before, there are always new acts to check out, new people to network with, and new professionals to learn from — not to mention the incredible exposure for musicians who make it onto one of the many festival stages.

Since SXW is so massive and sprawling, the mega-festival can be pretty intimidating to navigate if you’re just learning about it for the first time.  To help give you a head start on where to go, what to do, and what to see, we’ve compiled this handy guide to some of the more notable events in the lineup for SXSW 2015.

Crowd at a music concert, audience raising hands up

Important Information

  • Location:

The Austin Convention Center
500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 404-4000

  • Dates:

Music Festival: March 17-22
Film Festival: March 13-21
Interactive Festival: March 13-17

The Doritos Stage, Radio Day Stage, and the International Day Stage

The Doritos Stage (technically the Doritos Bold Stage) is something you need to see to believe: a “larger-than-life vending machine” that’s “amped up to dispense one-of-a-kind interactive gigs.” However, as the official SXSW site points out, “Access to the Doritos Bold Stage is limited and open to SXSW badges and wristbands only.”  That means if you want to check it out, you need to get the right clearance first.  The basic Music Badge is $895 if you buy on the spot, but the price is knocked down to $795 if you order before Februrary 13, 2015.

At the Radio Day Stage, you can buy drinks, browse free wi-fi, attend workshops, or watch musical acts perform.  True to its name, the International Day Stage located on the fourth floor of the Austin Convention Center in Ballroom G, is dedicated to showcasing acts from around the globe.

Band performs on stage, rock music concert

Welcome Events, Closing Events, and Unofficial Events

You can’t start SXSW on an empty stomach.  Welcome events feature plenty of food and drinks, plus a chance to get oriented and mingle with fellow attendees.  If you have the right badge clearance, you can check in at events like the Music Taco Mixup on March 20 or the Music Mixer on March 18.  Closing events include barbeque and a softball tournament.

In addition to the numerous official events which require badges and registration, there are also plenty of free unofficial events hosted by industry companies looking to showcase their artists, media outlets, and brands.

Events for Musicians at SXSW 2015

Food and drinks are always fun, but if you’re a musician, chances are you’re mainly interested in performance- and career-development geared events.  You’re in luck: the 2015 SXSW Music Conference will feature talks by Michael Rosenthal (OK Go) and Tim Quirk (Rhapsody and Google) with topics of focus including:

  • How to crowd-fund effectively.
  • How to develop your fan base.
  • The impact of new technology on musicians and industry professionals.

Of course, the Music Conference isn’t your only chance to hear from musicians.  SXSW also features an annual keynote speaker, with previous appearances from acts like Lady Gaga, Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Geldof.

Need more?  Be sure to take advantage of the SXSW Music Mentor Sessions, which are exactly what they sound like: “personalized input” from “one-on-one meetings with the mentor of your choice.”  The 2015 SXSW Music Mentor Program is scheduled to take place from March 18 through March 21.  You’ll need to register to participate, so be sure to sign up for the tickets and badges you need in advance.

Still not enough?  Browse through our article on how to network at SXSW for more info about pitching your music, demo tapes, music meet-ups, the music gear expo, and more.

Could You Be a Grulke Prize Winner?

After former SXSW Creative Director Brent Grulke passed away in 2012, the folks at SXSW decided to honor his memory by creating the Grulke Prize.  The Grulke Prize is actually divided into three prizes:

  • The Developing US Act Prize
  • The Developing Non-US Act Prize
  • The Career Act Prize

Both versions of the Developing Act Prize are “for artists who are breaking new ground with their creativity and show the most promise in achieving their career goals,” while the Career Act Prize is “for an established artist who appeared at SXSW to reinvent themselves or launch an important new project.”

This overview guide only scratches the surface, so be sure to check out the official SXSW website for updates and more information about the events for 2015!