Why you should go to South by Southwest

By: Virgin Atlantic

February 22, 2016

You may have heard of South by Southwest, or perhaps seen “˜SXSW’ written somewhere – but do you know what this event is really about? Is it Interactive, Music or Film? Is it a festival or is it a conference? Work or play?

The truth is that over the last 30 years it’s become all of these things and so much more. SXSW has now established itself as the global festival for great minds, new perspectives and revolutionary ideas. It really is like no other event.

How it works

Over nine days in March each year, more than a quarter of a million people descend on Austin, Texas to take part in a truly epic festival. But before we go into all the amazing people and performances you can expect, it’s helpful to understand the way it’s set up.

Firstly, at its heart, there are the Interactive, Music and Film conferences. This is where industry experts and up-and-coming pioneers from around the world and across industries take part in keynote speeches, talks, workshops and meetups. In support of this are the festivals, where musicians, artists, actors, innovators and whoever else wants to get involved, perform for the crowds. The result is a beautiful and chaotic experience.

Interactive: Where tomorrow pops up to say helloӬ

Since first including the Interactive platform in 1994, the SXSW festival has become a stage for launching some of the world’s latest tech and innovations. A perfect example of this is Twitter, which was catapulted into the public arena thanks to SXSW 2007. Successful launches like this have made it a global stage for thought leadership.

And it’s not just about the tech; it now draws the biggest industry names and guest speakers, like Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook who spoke in 2008. The 2016 line-up has the likes of actress Kerry Washington, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, and CNN host Anthony Bourdain.”¨”¨

Music: A mammoth jamboree

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In 1994, a small unsigned trio – Isaac, Taylor and Zac – performed at SXSW and would later sign a contract thanks to this small gig. This band would eventually land the number one single across what felt like the entire universe at the time. The song was MMMBop and the band was Hanson; this is what can and does happen at South by Southwest.

Skip to today and you have a line-up that rivals any other festival on the planet, even Glastonbury. And it’s not just sheer size, although there were nearly 2,300 acts in 2015. In recent years, SXSW has seen performances, talks, meetups, demos and workshops from both emerging artists and the biggest acts on the planet, like Jay Z, Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg and Miley Cyrus.

And by all accounts, 2016 will be in the same stratosphere, with confirmed acts including Iggy Pop and the Baby Shakes, while the opening keynote speech will be by rock royalty, Tony Visconti; famed producer of songs for David Bowie and U2, to name but two. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Visit online to discover the full line up.

Film: It’s all about the fans

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From global blockbusters to budget art house films, the SXSW Film festival has something for every cinephile. Expect to see actors, writers, directors, producers and anyone else involved in making films a reality. Together they take part in keynote speeches, talks and workshops, and it’s a great opportunity for up and coming filmmakers and fans to get closer to their idols and hear what they have to say.”¨”¨

So far, 2016 has confirmed “˜A conversation with Jake Gyllenhaal’, screenings of Seth Rogen’s Preacher and the world premiere of Tony Robbins: I am not your guru. Visit the SXSW website to find out more of this year’s film announcements.

Convergence and exhibitions

As SXSW grew and changed with the times, the people running things recognised there were things they wanted to talk about which didn’t fit neatly into the current categories of Interactive, Film and Music. So SXSW created convergence tracks and exhibitions where cross-over topics could be explored. Out of this have come some of the festival’s most anticipated exhibitions and events, like the Trade Show Pitch Stage, SXsports, Gaming Expo, SXgood, SXStyle, SX Create, Music Gear Expo and the SouthBites Trailer Park. Curious? Go to the exhibitions page and find out all the details.”¨”¨

Ready to head to Austin? Book a flight today and prepare for your next epic festival experience.


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