With the music industry partially opening back up, it’s not too early to think about the coming year of 2022. Early on in the calendar one of the biggest events in the industry, really all of the entertainment industries, comes together in March. It is the South by South West Film Festival, Music Festival, Innovation Awards, SXSW Pitch, and Gaming Awards.
If your act or band is thinking about driving down to Texas and trying your best with the nation’s best up and coming bands, here is a guide to gauge if you’re ready yet or not, and if so, how to apply without missing deadlines.
WHAT IS SXSW
South By South West (lovingly scribed as SXSW) is a music, comedy, film, and tech conference and festival, held every March in Austin, TX. It centers around 6th St., but pours out all around the downtown area, on both sides of the river, and in most of the hotels and venues around.
It is a hub, where every aspect of multiple entertainment industries come together to discuss the last year, the coming year, and showcase upcoming companies, movies, artists, and bands. It is a place where a band can find their break, or get chosen to have their work used in a movie, or in commercials for a new tech product. The possibilitiess are endless and because of this, thousands and thousands of bands all pack into their vans and buses and spend a sweaty, hot week in Texas competing for attention.
The music portion runs showcases and conferences every day in venues and hotels, as well as concerts every night in dozens and dozens of bars and outdoor areas. Nationally-touring acts play the large venues and make special appearances around town all week.
For the up and coming band, coming from somewhere far away, there are two kinds of concerts “Official” and unofficial SXSW gigs. In order to get an “Official SXSW” set, you will need to apply to the festival directly at their official website, and gather information, press, your best recorded music and videos, and put your best foot forward.
The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out if it is worth going to SXSW, or whether you should spend a year working on the band and then applying at the right time.
IS IT THE RIGHT TIME TO GO TO SXSW?
SXSW is really fun, and there are all levels of shows going on, from backyard cookouts, to “Official Showcases” in The Four Seasons Hotel, and everything in between. That said, if your band doesn’t have a few things already figured out, it may be in everyone’s best interest to spend a year working hard and then applying.
Does your band have:
- At least one very high quality recording, available everywhere online?
- At least one very well shot and edited music video? (live or lip-sync)
- Reliable road equipment? (back-up guitars, tools to fix things, etc)
- At least 2 varied, hour-long sets of original songs, ready to be played?
- A reliable road vehicle? (van, bus, rental is fine)
- A lot of shows under your belt? (they ask, 50-100 is a good starting point)
- At least one or two regional festivals you can name?
- At least one or two national bands you’ve opened for or toured with?
- Enough money saved to pay for hotels or Air B&B’s without being paid to play?
SXSW wants to see that you’re a working, striving, serious band. They’ll look for your social media presence and see how many followers you have, they’ll listen to your album and see if it is up to snuff for the genre you present yourself as, they’ll want to see that, if you existed before COVID, that you had momentum and weren’t just playing one basement twice a year (even though that’s cool if it’s where you’re at right now! Everyone starts somewhere!) A good PR company will usually make sure the bands on their roster are ready before applying to such a festival.
Also, SXSW may give you a slot, but they compensate you by giving the band wristbands that get you into some talks, some concerts, and some special events. You can refuse the wristbands, but it will only get the band a one time payment of $100. In al honesty, the wristbands are worth way more money, in the thousands if you have 4 or 5. This doesn’t mean you can hawk them, they’re super strict about wristbands that look or are compromised.
So you’ll need to budget your band’s money far in advance to buy your own accommodations, gas, and food.
If your group is lacking one or two of these items, it is probably a better idea to work really hard in 2022, make new videos, record a new album, play as many shows as you safely can, goose up a really well branded website, and apply for 2023.
But if you are confident, tight, and ready to roll, by all means get on this before it’s too late!
HOW TO APPLY FOR SXSW
- Go to
- Click “Participate”
- Click “Showcasing Artist”
- Click “Apply Now”
You may be brought to the form, if not click the next “Apply Now” button
It is important to note the early deadline passed August 27th, but the final deadline for submission isn’t until October 7, 2021.
“Music Showcase applications are open to:
- All genres
- Solo acts and/or full bands
- Artists from any part of the world
- One official SXSW showcase performance is guaranteed per invited act.
- Showcase slots run an average of 40 minutes (some exceptions may apply).
- Showcases will take place between March 14-20, 2022.
- SXSW does not provide artist backline or cover travel and accommodation expenses.
Make sure you have the following ready to go:
- Genre: the main genre you’d describe yourself as
- SubGenre: a way to add nuance to the style
- Biography: Make sure you have a solid bio written, hire a pro if you can’t come up with anything. It needs to encapsulate your aesthetic without sounding like you’re patting yourself on the back. Still, it needs to help you stand out amongst tens of thousands of bands.
- How long you’ve been playing: it allows you to choose between 3 ranges
- Total number of shows played since Jan. 2019: count using Facebook events, or your own calendar
- Shows played outside of your hometown since Jan. 2019
- List of streamed concerts since 2020
- Other festivals/showcases in which you’ve performed
- Artists performed with/toured with
- Business and Career goals at SXSW: be honest, these are industry types, not fans who want to make sure you’re cool. Tell them what you need: management, touring, PR.
- Current developments that may help evaluations: new album coming out, big festivals on the horizon, anything to make you stick out.
WAYS AROUND THE OFFICIAL SHOWCASES
Still some folks say screw the official showcases, their expectations, and drive down to SXSW and book unofficial shows that are held in local area bars and unaffiliated venues. This is not a bad idea, as there are still tens of thousands of people in town coming to hear music wherever it may be, and they don’t always score tickets to the big events.
With the right local connections, or another band heading down you know who can help you, a trip to Austin during SXSW can be just as successful with unofficial shows as another bands official weekend.
The big key is, if you have an official show – don’t book an unofficial show on the same day, they may ban you from the whole festival. They get super strict with that. So if you wanna do both, play an unofficial show a day (or two if you can) after your showcase and NOT before it, so it doesn’t hurt your turnout.
A FINAL WORD ON SXSW
For better or worse, SXSW is one of the most important weeks of the year in the music and entertainment industries, and if you have the right preparation and content, one week of playing and meeting people could very well break your band or get you the team you want so badly.
If you have any questions about festival promotion for your band, or going to SXSW, or coordinating your touring schedule, give us a ring at 323-952-5050 and someone at Planetary Group will be happy to work with you.