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How to Do SXSW Like a Local Pro

I’ve been fortunate enough to have grown up in Austin, Texas where I’ve basically spent most of my life thus far. I attended SXSW for the first time in 2014, and had the time of my life (and for VERY cheap).

It’s my favorite time of the year to come back to Austin, and you’ll quickly see why. If you want to own SXSW like a local, just follow these simple steps.

1. You don’t have to buy a pass to enjoy SXSW.

SXSW is unlike any other festival I’ve ever been to. Why? Because the ENTIRE CITY is basically throwing on some sort of event or party, and most of them don’t require a SXSW badge (which cost several hundreds to over $1000).

Austin is considered the live music capital of the world, and SXSW is the city’s time to shine. Virtually every bar downtown will have some sort of live music playing, virtually all of the time.

But the real fun to be had is when you realize that hundreds if not thousands of brands from all over the world come to Austin to promote themselves, and what that means for you is FREEBIES, EVERYWHERE.

Free drinks, food. merch, AND fun.

Now I’m not saying literally everywhere, but if you know where to look, you can certainly find these parties and partake in what is likely an excellent networking opportunity, as well as just a damn good time on someone else’s dime.

But to do that, you should do the following thing…

2. Sign-up for RSVPster and get automatically RSVP’d to (and notified of) all the unofficial SXSW parties.

RSVPster essentially does all the work for you in finding where all these free parties are going to be at, and signs you up automatically. You WANT to be RSVP’d because these parties fill up fast, and if you’re not on the list, you’re SOL (shit outta luck!).

Obviously, you won’t be able to go to ALL of them, as there are so many events going on at once, it’s just not humanly possible. But having too many fun events to go to is not really a bad problem to have. 😉

It costs $40 for both the Interactive & Music portions, or $30 if you just wanted to do one or the other.

BUT you can get $5 off with code ADVENTUREBITCH.

I was reluctant to spend the money the first year, then kept running into the problem of wanting to join my friends (new and old) at an event they were going to, only to find out the RSVP list was already full.

Since then, I’ve done RSVPster every year I’ve gone, and it’s absolutely worth it. So, you know, YOU’RE WELCOME. ?

So sign-up here.

Once you start getting the invitations to said parties, it’s time to make a plan….

3. Prioritize what events you’re most excited about, and make a schedule.

Most of these events WILL have some sort of wait/line to get in, so you likely won’t be able to just flow in and out as quickly as you’d like to. If you do buy a pass, some of the official parties will have priority access for badge holders. But again, it’s not totally necessary to buy one unless an event or artist you REALLY want to see is badge only.

You can view the entire schedule of the official SXSW on the SXSW GO app.

Make a plan of getting to the event early or as soon as it starts (RSVP usually doesn’t guarantee entry if they are already at capacity!). You’ll have to wait in a line at some point (that’s just how these things go), but most will move fairly quickly.

If it doesn’t seem like the line is moving or it is just INSANELY long, you might want to try heading to a different event that was on your list. But be warned, you run the risk of starting over in another long line, so this is where you need to really decide how badly you want to go to a certain event.

But, luckily, this is where social media is your best friend.

4. Follow the live happenings and updates on Twitter.

The social media gods have bestowed a gift upon us when it comes to mastering SXSW, because there are several accounts you can follow (and more, if you just look for them) that will help you stay updated on WHO/WHAT/WHEN/WHERE of the festivities, and where to find those all so beautiful freebies. Below are some of the ones I follow:

@OpenBarATX is the resource for all things free drinks/open bar. Obviously, a priority for me lol.

@TheFreeNoms is for the free FOOD (and drinks), which is also very, very important.

@FestiSocialClub, a great resource for navigating the festival solo, or just to make more friends (and live updates!)

@SXSWparty, in case you didn’t have enough parties on your agenda already. (But also, again, live updates!).

@RSVPForYourLife which is another guide to the unofficial happenings at SXSW.

@LiveFromSXSW is obviously, reports on what is happening live at SXSW in terms of events, parties, and shows.

@SXUnofficialGuide, for more on the unofficial happenings.

And of course, the official @SXSW.

You can also follow the tags #sxdrinks, #swnoms, and #sxlines for other festival attendees alerts.

But lastly…

5. Just have a good fucking time.

Don’t have your panties in a bunch if the party is full, or you miss a show, or there’s no food or drinks left. The world doesn’t revolve around you, and there are plenty of other things to do and opportunities to seize. Consult your handy dandy social media pages or your friends, and find the next thing on the list.

SXSW is bound to capture your heart and mind like it has mine, and you can make it into one of the best weeks of your life.

If you DON’T have a good time, it’s probably because you’re bitching that other people had the same idea you did. Again, the world doesn’t revolve around you.

Go with the flow and be nice to people, and you’ll have a fabulous fucking time.

6. Oh, and take lots of photos!

Below is actual photographic evidence of my enlightenment around SXSW in 2014.

The first day was free beer, pizza, music, and REAL FLOWER CROWNS. Fuck yes.

Followed by more free beer, and fun….

Also got to meet Jamestown Revival unexpectedly.