SXSW is still worth it for up-and-coming bands, but not for the reasons you'd think

Categories: Music Festivals

Courtesy of Wheelchair Sports Camp
Your author, demonstrating the importance of down time (and creativity) at SXSW.
Editor's note: As she has in years past, Kalyn Heffernan from Wheelchair Sports Camp will be sending us dispatches from the band's trip to Austin for SXSW.

An Austin blog asked me to, "describe SXSW in 15 seconds." I did it with only two words: shit show. But that's not the big question, the one that kicks on my door every year. "Is SXSW worth it for up-and-coming bands?"

The biggest blow of going to SXSW is that no one makes money doing it. Well, probably the city of Austin and a small handful of bonafide hustlers. For us, the goal is just to break even. Which is much easier said than done.

See also: Wheelchair Sports Camp left some puke in Amarillo but has (so far) avoided arrest

The plan was to come down here primarily to busk, sell merch, and come home with loot. But we only made that happen for a brief time before our showcase Friday. I linked up with world-class beat-box badass Ashley "Saywut" Moyer, who laid down a beat, and we rocked a couple covers and originals on the corner of 6th & Trinity. Thanks to all the b-boys and onlookers who stopped and gave us dough.

This is my third SXSW and I'm beginning to feel like a seasoned veteran. So many of us come down to SXSW with so much to do and majority of the time don't get a chance to do half of it. We're all exhausted, and we didn't even "turn up" as hard as we could have. To make it through SXSW you have to take time to do nothing, and I noticed a lot more people doing that this year.

The trick to SXSW is coming in with zero expectations, because not much ever goes as planned. Some people make the best of their week without doing anything official, just hitting all the day and house parties.

Still, the Colorado Music Party we played was a super blast, and our official showcase with the Strange Famous Family popped off as anticipated. There are a few advantages to playing the official showcases: getting on the SXSW website, being able to say you're an official artist, having access to all the official shows and getting the opportunity to release a video through SXSW. Most of the networking happens at other people's shows, which makes having a wristband worth the while. Being official also helps with the press train.

But the unofficial stuff can be just as fun and packed if not more than the official stuff. All of Austin is SXSW, and there are no shortage of dope shows going on everywhere.

I realized this trip how funny it is that so many of us make the huge trek down here to play super short sets that is usually cut even shorter because of set up time (shouts to my five piece band holding me down this trip. Rubedo, Mike Brown on bass and Everai). It usually takes about three times the amount of time to find parking and lugging gear than playing an actual set. Typical sets are about 30 minutes and there's no room to start or end late. Those who come down with huge bands and loads of gear that isn't on wheels end up killing themselves.

We were enjoying my wheelchair magic at St. Vincent on the VIP balcony at Stubb's, when it occurred to me that the terrible crash that killed two and injured many more happened just a block or two away. I'm still surprised nothing has happened like this in the past. There are so many wasted people down here every year. Just crossing the street is scary biz.

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Caleb Kronen
Caleb Kronen

No... But If you want to be just like every other conformist band that thinks they are famous though they aren't, then yes.

Eric Luvender
Eric Luvender

maybe not worth the money for bands but for regular festival goers its worth the money. I haven't spent a dime when I've gone. Free food, free drinks and free entertainment.

Stan Salazar
Stan Salazar

People like this also need not attend SXSW. They are the reason tickets & bands are sky high. Stay home posers or be real and say, "who the Fck are you talking about" rather than assuming that you're the all knowing hipster on top of all the bands... Including the fake ones.

Stan Salazar
Stan Salazar

SXSW has been shit since 97'. Coming from a Texas Resident, it's just like every other music festival has become and needs to self implode to reinvent itself. Overpriced tickets by promoters more than willing to rape the willing. Nationwide, music festivals are going to shit. Take Ultra Music Festival in Miami. Sold out two 3 day weekends in a row last year. This year, the city only gave them a permit for one 3 day weekend and they can't sell it out. Same with other events for Miami Music Week. Global here has turned to shit. EDC tailors towards pill popping children. I'm all about doing some heavy partying but stepping on trust fund babies that are rolled off their asses while their "friends" ignore them is not a good time. I even get the feeling that Coachella is heading south as well which is a shame because I always wanted to go but was holding out for a Smiths reunion or at least Morrissey & Marr.

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