We know. Lines are annoying. No one likes to wait in lines, but during SXSW, it’s inevitable. There are numerous factors that impact how long you will have to wait, so it’s good to identify these factors first before jumping in line. These include your credential type, whether you’re going to a day or night event, unofficial or official event, and the popularity/exclusivity of the event. Let’s go through these one by one.
Are you a SXSW Badge holder? A SXSW wristband holder? Or just an attendee that RSVP’d to everything on our spreadsheet? Well, whatever you have (or don’t have), you need to understand the tiered priority system. Platinum badge holders get priority access to events. Next are the badge holders that have specific primary access to the event based on whether it’s a SXSW Interactive, Film, or Music event. This means that you’ll need that specific badge for primary access into the event. If you do not have that specific badge, then you are secondary to Platinum badges and primary access badges (depending on the event). Next up are the SXSW wristband holders. Finally, GA gets in last, and that’s only for unofficial SXSW events.
As a rule of thumb, if you’re a Platinum badge holder, or have a badge that gives you primary access, I would get to the event 30 minutes early or by the time that the event opens. If you have secondary access as badge holder, I would get to the event 30 minutes - 1 hour early. If you have a SXSW Wristband, I would get to the event 1 hour - 1.5 hours early. Finally, if you’re GA trying to get into an unofficial showcase, getting in line 2 hours early is normal.
DAY VS NIGHT
Day showcases typically run from the start of the day until 5 PM. Night showcases begin around 7 PM and run until 2 AM or later. With that being said, night showcases are notoriously much harder to get into as these showcases tend to be much more popular. Thus, for day showcases, getting in line 1.5 hours early is average for a popular showcase. For night showcases, waiting in line can range from 1.5 - 4 hours. However, this waiting time can be cut down depending on what type of credentials you have.
OFFICIAL VS UNOFFICIAL
Is there a difference in waiting in line for official vs. unofficial events? Most of the time, the answer is no. And that’s because in recent years many unofficial events have followed the tiered priority system set by SXSW. Also, many unofficial events have been increasingly scrutinized by SX, encouraging these events to collaborate with SXSW as official showcases. However, there are still numerous unofficial events that don’t care whether you have a badge or not, but rather if you’re invited. These are typically the best events at SXSW. Think Fader Fort, Vevo House, and Apple Music. These showcases are always star-studded, so get in line as early as you can. Don’t second guess yourself if you think you’re too early - chances are you’re probably not.
Just to tease you a bit, here are artists that have played at Fader Fort & Apple Music within the last few years:
Fader Fort - Drake (and all of OVO), 2 Chainz, Rae Sremmurd, 21 Savage
Apple Music - Lana Del Rey, Vince Staples, Billie Eilish, The Chainsmokers
Finally, understanding the popularity and exclusivity of the event or showcase will give you an idea on when you should head over to stand in line. Popular showcases like Rachel Ray’s Feedback will have people lining up as early as 6 AM (the event usually starts at 10 AM), while other showcases that aren’t as exclusive or popular may not even warrant a line. Check the Hype Level of our spreadsheet for an idea of how popular an event will be.
The majority of showcases at night will have great lineups, so we suggest that you choose one showcase and stick to it since it’ll be pretty difficult to get into a second showcase later that same night (unless you’re a primary access badge holder). Additionally, we also suggest that y’all be ON TOP of Twitter. Twitter is a great news source for anything SXSW. If you’re following the right people - see here - you’ll be able to sift through twitter feeds to hear about rumors, secret shows, and (you guessed it), lines! Just use the #sxlines hashtag, and you’ll see posts about lines related to SXSW shows. Make sure to contribute to the community as well!