Ultimate SXSW Survival Guide

Jon Ostrow on Mar 9, 2012


Ok, here's the deal... SXSW starts today (though to be fair, the music portion doesn't begin until Tuesday)! Like a cultural Mecca, songwriters, musicians and bands, bloggers, fans and literally every aspect of the music industry will be in attendance.

With the total registration of SXSW 2011 peaking at 49,126 attendees, bands both on and off the official bill need to take every opportunity in front of them if they want to make SXSW a truly epic experience. Not just through showcasing their talents, but by being personable and outgoing, the people you can meet at SXSW could change lives - people with insight, connections, and influence.

The opportunity to learn, make new connections can lead to new career opportunities and to gain some new fans!

So… we've built: The Ultimate SXSW Survival Guide! 

The following checklist will help you to prepare yourself to make this year's SXSW a truly epic experience. Print this off and check the boxes as you go!


[_] Location apps (Foursquare, Facebook Places)

A unique aspect of SXSW is that everyone is there for multiple days in one city! Taking advantage of these location based apps - Foursquare is particularly awesome - is a great way for you to not only keep your new fans around, but lets you find others you want to be around (i.e. similar acts, important people).

[_] Evernote

Evernote is an incredible note taking app that syncs directly to your computer as well. Great for panels!

[_] Calendar app

An obvious, but a must! There is just simply too much to do at SXSW to take everything in. Get organized and have a plan. Using a calendar app, and setting up alarm notifications for each important event will help you to make the most of all of the panels, meetings, and showcases that you don't want to miss.

[_] SoundCloud

The Soundcloud app allows you to record audio from your phone and sync it directly to your Soundcloud account online. Good for potential interviews, advice panels, or even jam sessions you may run into!

[_] Mailing list app (Fanbridge, Reverbnation's Control Room)

This speaks for itself. There are too many opportunities for you to expand your fan base for you. Not having your mailing list at your beck and call is a major wasted opportunity. Consider Fanbridge or ReverbNation's Control Room.

[_] Yelp

Find good food, find cheap food, find good hotels, find cheap hotels with Yelp. Note: You can also use Foursquare for this purpose.

[_] Wi-Fi

The world doesn't simply stop while you are at SXSW, you will continue to get emails and messages through your social media accounts. Don't get stuck being unable to respond to them properly because 3G phone service sucks. Find wi-fi, get set up and knock those emails out!

[_] Square

If you have any albums or merch that you are bringing to Austin, make sure you're signed up for Square, which will allow you to process credit card payments directly through your phone! Don't miss out on this just because you think most people will have cash.

[_] BMI Live (For BMI Members)

BMI, one of the three US Performance Rights Organizations, recently released an iPhone app that allows BMI members to enter performance details into BMI's new 'BMI Live' program, which makes it easier for songwriters and artists to get paid the proper royalties for their performances. This app can and should be put to great use during all of the shows and showcases at this year's SXSW.

Note: if you don't belong to BMI, there are still great options for ASCAP and SESAC members to register and collect royalties for live performances.

[_] Twitter

Twitter will be, by far, one of the easiest ways to keep up with all that is going on around Austin over the next week. On top of that, since most people will be out and about, reaching out to him on Twitter will likely be the easiest way to communicate and even meet up with people. Here are some important Twitter handles to:

[_] #SXSW

Okay, you got me… this isn't an app, but it is the official Twitter Hashtag that you should be using, and furthermore should be following in order to stay up on all of the important announcements and updates.

Physical Goods:

[_] Business cards, download cards or Both!

Yes, your business card will be just another in a stack of cards the everyone collects throughout the day. But having your business cards keeps you open to receive others' cards, and of course, will give you the chance to follow up with those people! After all, the follow up is the most important part.

[_] Pens & notebook

I know this seems ridiculous, but you never know when you will need it. Better safe then sorry.

[_] Chargers & cables

It is likely that you won't spend a whole lot of time in your hotel room (or the floor of the hotel room that you are sharing with 20 other people), so making sure that your phone, computer and any other tech device you bring with you is fully charged is key to have a great experience at SXSW.

Staying Healthy:

[_] Good pair of shoes

SXSW is citywide, which means more walking than you are probably used to. Having a bad pair of shoes means a bad back and knees after a few days.

[_] Water bottle

Staying hydrated is the first step to staying proactive and on top of your hustle!

[_] Protein bars

Grab a few protein bars and put them in your bag or your pocket. The panels and showcases run all day without a lunch break and the last thing you want to do is go all day without eating.

[_] Sleep

With so much to do at SXSW, you may find it difficult to get your 8 hours in, but keep your need for sleep in the back of your mind and make sure that you fit it in somewhere.

Required Reading:

[_] 2011 SXSW Demographics

A textual and visual breakdown of the registered attendee's of 2010's SXSW festival.

[_] Top 5: Music Publishing Panels at SXSW 2012

A curated list of 5 panels focusing on important music publishing at this year's SXSW!

[_] Top 5: SXSW 2012 Events for Songwriters

A curated list of 5 events (other than panels) that any SXSW-bound songwriter should check out.

[_] SXSW on Mashable

Mashable, one of the largest social media / tech news sites on the internet has an aggregation page that allows you to follow and read every article on Mashable related to SXSW.

How are you planning to make SXSW an epic experience?

If you have any suggestions for songwriters, bloggers, entrepreneurs and/ or fans so that they can make the most of SXSW and enjoy their stay in Austin, please contribute in the form of a comment below!

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