The key to a successful South by Southwest experience is planning in advance.
As a broke college kid, it’s important to note that badges typically go on sale in September for an average of $200 less than what the “walk-up” price is. It is also equally important to know exactly what kind of SXSW experience is desired.
The Platinum Badge is for just about everything: music, film and interactive, but buying one now would cost $1,745. Film badges are $695, Music badges are $895 and Interactive badges cost $1295.
Andrew Turner, history junior, is from Austin and has attended SXSW for seven years now.
“A lot of places have free shows. You just have to go online and RSVP for them ahead of time and they’ll let you in for free,” said Turner. “I’ve never bought a badge for SXSW.”
If this is something that sounds interesting, then planning ahead is paramount to success. RSVPs mean free, but it does come at a cost: standing in line with unguaranteed admission. The best way to ensure a good chance of seeing something is to RSVP as far in advance as possible and arriving early to make sure both the RSVP list and the venue don’t fill up.
RSVPs are generally in conjuncture with music events, but Everett Webre, international studies senior, has found a way to get into more Interactive events for free.
“I got the free guest pass, then just looked on the calendar to find whatever events were free that day and planned a schedule accordingly,” Webre said. “I like the guest pass because I also like doing music and the interactive events, and the guest pass gets you into more Interactive. They’ll get you into more free stuff with the guest pass than RSVP-ing alone.”
The SXSW guest pass website is the place to easily sign up. It asks for your name, email and address. This can be linked to the “SXSW Go” app. This is an app that will make anyone’s SXSW week better. It provides a comprehensive list of every event, syncs with maps, allows social interaction with others using the app and can be integrated with the phone calendar to give reminders. I also like it because it tells the user what credentials they need to get into an event. This means no waiting in line for an hour to find out that the venue is “at capacity” or is no longer taking RSVPs, which does happen.
Another great option is volunteering, which must also be planned out in advance. Cameron Gaines, computer information systems senior, found a way to get into two types of SXSW events for free.
“If you’re going to volunteer, I recommend Film because all you have to do is just take tickets, watch movies before they come out and get to sometime escort famous people. Then, you request the music badge and get a two-for-one,” Gaines said.
Gaines, who also grew up in Austin and has attended SXSW multiple times for free, has a few tips for potential RSVPers.
“I like to just RSVP for anything that interests me, even if I don’t think I’ll make it,” Gaines said.
This way, it allows for time flexibility whether he wants to check out the show or not. He also uses Do512, a subscription based website that will email a list of shows daily providing links to RSVP.
There are two big setbacks to RSVPing over purchasing badges at SXSW, the first being waiting in line. This is a big factor for people who don’t have a place to stay in Austin or nearby. The second factor to consider when deciding between a badge and RSVPing is free events usually don’t have big headliners, which isn’t always so bad.
Webre said he once didn’t get into a headliner due to being on an RSVP list that filled up.
“I’ve had plenty of fun with a group of 200 people standing on top of a parking garage to see Metallica because they wouldn’t let more people in,” Webre said.
If big headliners and saving time makes a great SXSW experience, then buying a badge is the way to go. But if saving money, having loose adjustable plans and seeing possibly the next big thing makes SXSW what it is, then try RSVPing this year!