For the longest time, Austin has been considered “weird,” made up of flower children, wannabe rock stars, college students, laidback artists, and even a handful of yuppies. But it hasn’t always been big. So, when the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival debuted in 1987, well before Austin’s population ballooned to 800,000 people, the goal was to introduce talented local musicians to the rest of the world.

By 1994, South by Southwest wasn’t just about music anymore. And it wasn’t just about Austin, either. It was an international gathering of professionals in the music, film, and tech industries (as well as their enthusiastic fans). Today, it’s still the ultimate mix of business and pleasure for folks who work in the entertainment world. The “Live Music Capital of the World” is now a haven for the entire entertainment business… well, at least during March. The small, cosmopolitan city that could went from unknown to world-renowned in a couple of years, thanks to SXSW.

About 150,000 folks attended last year’s festival, and with an eclectic lineup of music acts, films, parties, and panels planned for SXSW 2009, that number should only increase. (Hint: Make sure you’ve already booked your Austin vacation apartment.) With our comprehensive, 2009 SXSW Guide, you'll be schooled in everything from the music panels to the late-night parties.

What is South by Southwest?

The better question is: what isn't South by Southwest?

SXSW music

SXSW Music

During SXSW Music, downtown Austin is a cacophony of blues, folk, pop, rock, rap, and every other type of music imaginable – because at any moment, dozens upon dozens of musicians perform on different stages, at the same time, within walking distance of each other. With your SXSW wristband or music badge, you can single out just one band or solo artist, in humble little bars and state-of-the-art concert venues. While it’s hard to pick and choose between the various performers (after all, there are so many of them), Austin is alive with music day in and day out, so you’ll get your earful of music – don’t worry. Which budding musician will morph into a superstar overnight? It’s anyone’s guess, and that’s part of the fun. Don’t forget to catch up on festival buzz and educate yourself on the insides of the music industry at SXSW Music’s daytime panels. (You’ll need more than just a wristband to get this involved, though.)


Movie buffs are given a nine-day excuse to “geek out” at SXSW Film – during the lengthy festival, expect cutting-edge documentaries, offbeat dramas, star-studded Hollywood premiers, and everything in between. In addition to the movies, South by Southwesters are likely to see the actors, directors, and writers behind them. For badge holders, SXSW Film rounds up the movie biz’s best and brightest individuals for in-depth discussions and lectures (AKA panels).

SXSW Interactive

SXSW Interactive is all about "what's next." Gamers, computer junkies, entrepreneurs of the web, software geniuses, multimedia pros, and other various gurus and geeks, get together to share ideas and new, up-and-coming technologies. Hey, if a social media phenomenon like Twitter launched here, you know something special’s in store for 2009 Attendees.

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Where is South by Southwest?

SXSW austinSouth by Southwest is located deep in the heart of the Lonestar State (to out-of-towners, that’s Texas). As the state capital and the home of the University of Texas, Austin is a bohemian, increasingly metropolitan city – the perfect hub for a multi-faceted, dynamic festival like SXSW. When you’re not listening to a live band, watching an indie comedy, or taking notes at an insightful panel, make sure to chow down on some delicious Tex-Mex and later walk off the calories at Zilker Park. It’s worth it to squeeze in some non-SXSW sightseeing and exploring into your trip, if possible.

Nearly all the festival events and activities are located in downtown Austin, with the Austin Convention Center as the focus. You can usually walk from one show/movie/party/panel to the next, so make sure to pack comfy shoes.

Austin Convention Center
500 E Cesar Chavez St, 78701

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South by Southwest Specifics: the 2009 Lineup

(This SXSW 2009 schedule is subject to change.)

March 18-22, 2009

South by Southwest has already announced a whopping 1,162 acts, hailing from Dallas to Norway, for SXSW 2009. These acts represent the best up-and-comers from around the globe, and a handful of well-known artists, too. Highlights include Swedish rockers Peter Bjorn and John and the 60s punk band, the Sonics. More and more acts will be added to the lineup as the festival approaches.

The SXSW Music Conference “talks” are sure to be a hit in 2009, with Grammy-winning Quincy Jones leading the prestigious pack of panelists.

Don’t forget to check out the Music Trade Show, where you can network with record labels, radio stations, music managers, and other revered experts in the industry. The trade show will sprawl the first three days of SXSW Music and go from noon to six pm each day.

What else can you expect at the SXSW music festival?

  • SXSW Music Block Party – March 19th, 4 to 6 pm
  • Austin Record Convention and Guitar Show – March 21st and 22nd (new in 2009)
  • Flatstock Poster Show – Mach 19th to March 22nd, 11 am to 6 pm

A host of parties are also planned for the festival; what could be more fun than a bunch of music lovers getting together for drinks, dancing, and deal making? Musts include the Music Fest Welcome Dinner and the SXSW Musical Stimulus Party. Plenty of unofficial bashes can be expected as well.

SXSW film festival

March 13 – 21, 2009

You probably won’t be able to cram all 108 SXSW film screenings (which include 54 world premiers) into just nine days, but it can’t hurt to try. Spike Lee’s Passing Strange, and I Love You, Man, starring Paul Rudd, Andy Samberg, Rashida Jones, and Jon Favreau, are just a few of the most anticipated premiers.

The SXSW Film Conference panels aren’t 100% confirmed yet, but so far, they'll enlighten you on Stanley Kubrick, the future of DVDs, and much more.

Just like the music portion of the festival, SXSW Film also features a trade show and block party, where you can grab some schwag or just a free drink.

  • Film Trade Show – March 14th to March 16th, noon to 6 pm
  • SXSW Music Block Party – March 15th, 4 to 6 pm

What about the parties? Well, there’s a plethora of them! Whether it’s a chill reception or a blowout you’re looking for, your options include (but are not limited to) the SXSW Film Opening Party, the Film Florida Fish Fry, and the Austin Chronicle Film Bash.

March 13-17, 2009

SXSW Interactive consists of a whole lot of dialogue, listening, and well, playing around. Keynotes, panels, and book readings will get your creative juices flowing, while "Screenburn at SXSW" will get you excited about all the latest video game news and technology. You can also check out the the SXSW Accelerator, set to showcase converging media – particularly within the social networking framework. Finally, make sure to mingle at the SXSW Interactive lounges and parties!

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SXSW Badges

Okay, so you’ve decided you’re going to South by Southwest. Good for you! However, it’s not all that simple. When you register for the festival, you’ll have five badges to choose from. Here’s a run-down of what each badge gets you. Note – these prices are not walkup rates and will expire on February 13th.

  • Platinum Badge – This is the mother of all badges. And as you might have guessed, it’s the most expensive, at $1,050 a pop. You’ll get total access to the film, music, and interactive aspects of SXSW. Not only that, but you’ll be invited to exclusive events and parties. 
  • Gold Badge – At about half the price of the Platinum ($650), the Gold Badge is a more economical choice for the film and tech lover who wants everything but the music.
  • Music Badge – If you’re a hardcore music aficionado, the $650 Music Badge has your name on it. You’ll get access to all the shows, panels, and official parties hosted by the SXSW Music Festival and Conference.
  • Film Badge –Are you coming to SXSW to see the movies? Then see that you sign up for a Film Badge, the cheapest of the lot ($400), which not only grants you access to the film screenings, panels, and parties, but the Screenburn Arcade, too.
  • Interactive Badge – Only slightly more expensive than the Film Badge, the $450 Interactive Badge is a technology junkie's dream come true; you’ll participate in the full Interactive Festival agenda, from the panels to the parties.

Affordable wristbands and film passes will go on sale soon. If you're more interested in visiting Austin than attending SXSW 2009, forgo the badges and simply keep an eye and ear out for the free shows, movies, and events that SXSW puts together every year. 

Where to Stay

Lots of Austin condo rentals and apartments conveniently located in and around downtown Austin are ready to house you for SXSW 2009. Not only do the area hotels sell out fast for the festival, but they jack up rates – because they can. Instead of wasting your money on a small, bland hotel room, stay in a roomy Austin vacation rental. But inquire today! Austin vacation condos and apartments for SXSW 2009 won’t last much longer.


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