SXSW: A Time for Music, Parties, and Free Beer!

It’s about that time of year again. When Central Texas is just beginning to thaw from it’s relatively mild weather, the capital city welcomes musicians, promoters, label representatives, and fans to Spring Break – Austin style. Austin will soon be infested with L.A. hipsters and New York trendsetters that come to our fair city to enjoy the weather, music, and parties that SXSW has to offer. Many people don’t understand the horror and magic that comes along with SXSW week. Savvy publicists already understand the extraordinary opportunities that SXSW affords their clients, so students on the verge of landing their first PR job should be made aware of what exactly SXSW is and how to take advantage.

The third week of March is a strange time in Austin, TX. The Super Bowl of music festivals descends on the city, and analogous to the Super Bowl, marketing people take notice. For those of you who normally go to Cabo, Cozumel, or wherever to hopefully be on MTV’s Spring Break coverage, SXSW can be very confusing. It’s not like the festivals you go to (Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Coachella, etc.) usually. SXSW takes over the entire city and there are myriad opportunities for promotion and direct marketing.

If you look at the list of shows during the week, you’ll notice that most of the “official” showcases occur downtown. Most think that you need a wristband (which costs way too much), but you really just need a map. There are shows dotted around the city that are FREE! That’s right, free. You know why? Because companies like Red Bull pay top dollar to “present” shows for free to the public. It’s a giant interactive commercial where you can drink all the Red Bull you’re stamina can handle. Everything they spend is seen as a marketing expense and it does quite a job. You’re able to target a specific audience and bring them entertainment while branding your image. That’s why Rachel Ray, and Perez Hilton host shows. They are able to take advantage of this festival, and if you want your client to be hip and fun, while widening their audience.

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