How does a non-industry professional make the most of an industry heavy festival like SXSW? Add in that it is exhaustingly crowded, lines are long, and the fire marshals in Austin take their jobs very, very seriously. (As they should.)
Even those who did manage to snag a badge can still find themselves at the mercy of event logistics. The only badges available now are at the "walk-up" price. Even with a platinum badge, which will cost you $1745 you are not guaranteed access, nor do you receive priority access over other badges. SO. Don't have 2k to spend?
START A GROUP CHAT
If you have friends that are going to be in Austin for the festival, start a group chat and share info. From what events have long lines to something your BFF stumbled into while walking down the street. The festival is highly concentrated and there is power in group chat numbers.
GO TO EVENTS THAT DON'T REQUIRE A BADGE
Tumblr is throwing a party during SXSW Interactive with a great lineup. The party has been dubbed U Up? and includes music from indie rock band Grouplove, R&B singer/songwriter Kelela, a DJ set by Baio from Vampire Weekend and more. Get ready for a full night of music. RSVP here.
Or check out the Awesomest Journalism Party Ever, March 13 at #SXSW. Presented by Wordpress, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Fusion. Grab your business cards and get ready to meet other awesome journalists. RSVP here.
FOLLOW SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLES THAT ARE DISHING THE GOODS
There’s also the Facebook Group SXSW FREE, join that if you can for more info on free stuff and events.
Gary's Guide also has a good, running list of events you can attend.
DON'T WORRY ABOUT MISSING OUT, LET SOMEONE ELSE PLAN FOR YOU
If you need help planning all your party-hopping and talk attending but have serious FOMO at the thought of trying to create a schedule, you can use a service like RSVPster. It gets you on the list, without clicking through to a hundred different sites. And has sourced all of the unofficial interactive film and music parties.
DON'T HANG AROUND ON THE PROMISE OF A GUEST APPEARANCE
It's a PR game. Sometimes brands release the rumors in the mill themselves, sometimes these things simply take on a life of their own. But if you are hanging around the Spotify House on the promise that Kendrick Lamar is going to show up is not the best use of your time.
FAKE IT, TILL YOU MAKE IT IN THE DOOR
OK. This doesn't always work, but it does work. Sometimes, occasionally, if you're lucky or lighting strikes or the guy checking the wristbands is having an existential crisis, like WHAT DOES ALL THIS SXSW EVEN MEAN? You can get into a wristband or badge-only events. It requires confidence, a DGAF attitude mixed with a smile, and you just might get in the door. You never know.