South by Southwest, the interactive/film/music conference kicked off last Friday in Austin, Texas and will run until Sunday, March 18th. The festival is a Mecca for tech geeks, film nerds, and music lovers. Below, we’ve compiled some very helpful hints on how to have the most fun at SXSW without breaking the bank.
Trust us when we say this: don’t rent a hotel room. Most hotels know that their rooms will be in high demand for the duration of the festival and can therefore mark up their prices. This is still the case even if you book it way early. Your best alternative is to hit up Craigslist or Airbnb and take care of your lodging accomodations through those avenues. Or, if you’re lucky enough to know someone who lives in Austin, ask if you can crash with them. Make sure you do it early because even your friend’s futon is a highly sought-after commodity.
If you’re trying to do SXSW Interactive on the cheap and don’t want to buy a badge (this year’s walk-up rate is $950), you’re pretty much out of luck. If it’s Film and Music that you want to see, however, you don’t have to dish out all of your hard-earned cash to catch movies at the film festival or show cases at the Music portion of the conference. Instead of purchasing a film badge you can get a film pass ($70), which gives you access to any festival screening so long as their is still seating available. Similarly for Music, if you can’t afford the $750 badge, the $220 wristband is a cheaper alternative.
One of the major reasons why SXSW has gotten so huge in the last couple of years is the number of unofficial parties. These events, usually hosted by the likes of the IFC Channel and FourSquare, are a perfect way for companies to build buzz for their products and/or shows. It’s also a great opportunity for non-badgeholders to eat and drink for free. In fact, if you’re buying alcohol and food during the festival, you’re doing it wrong. Most of the Austin-based events websites make it easier for you by compiling all of the RSVP events. We suggest you hit up Do512 or Austin360.
Most bands that come to SXSW are signed up for one or two official showcases. What you might not know is that they also play at a handful of unofficial shows. That means that if you decide to not get a badge or a wristband, you can still catch several solid acts for the price of nothing. Showlist Austin does a pretty solid job at putting together all the free shows.