Music is at the heart of both SXSW and the city that hosts it. Literally thousands of bands will play shows in Austin between March 13-18 (the official dates of SXSW Music). We’ve got some killer keys to stay organized and afloat in this sea of sound.
Your first attempt to prepare might be: “Hmm, I’ll just browse the official showcasing artist list on sxsw.com.” Next thought: “Good God there really are thousands of artists here.” Next you might find yourself on our event list and see the massive catalogue of official shows and unofficial shows. Finally you’re like: “WTF does official and unofficial mean, I’m done with this.”
Remember the following words y’all…
Start with Spotify playlists
First step of music prep is to find a couple good Spotify (or whatever streaming service you use) playlists dedicated to SXSW music. Listen, discover, then create a personal playlist to keep track of the artists you vibe with. Over the years, these have been the absolute best playlists out there:
Definitive SXSW 2019 Playlist by @SXSWMF (comprehensive list of ALL official SXSW Music artists)
SXSW2019 by @atxconcert (SXSW picks by local Austin concert gurus)
SXSW 2019 – The Short List by @sxsaviors (our short list of artists to see this year)
Start building your schedule
Once you’ve got a nice healthy playlist of your favorite artists, head on over to our award-winning event list and start building your schedule. We have all the unofficial parties, and our picks for the best official ones (for the full list of official shows, you may also want to build a schedule on sxsw.com/schedule). Not sure the difference between official and unofficial shows? Read this.
Don’t rely 100% on your schedule
Remember how we just told you to build a schedule? Here’s the thing: it’s going to be chaotic, and even the most carefully laid SXSW schedules o’ mice and men go awry. Events will be at capacity, lines will be long, and OMG your favorite artist just announced a surprise show! Use that beautiful schedule as a guide, but always be prepared to switch direction. And sometimes you’ll find great shows just walking around, and popping into things that looks cool.
Take time to smell the roses
We know it sounds weird, but sometimes staying put is the best move at SXSW. A lot of these events have amazing lineups from opening act to last call. We’ve discovered amazing artists just hanging out at one party all day. Not saying to use this strategy every day, but pick 1 or 2 parties and just stay through the whole lineup. Plus, the more you hop around the more lines you have to endure: no one should spend this beautiful week waiting in lines all day.
It’s all about the up-and-coming
This is 100% certified our most important piece of advice. SXSW has and should always be centered around music DISCOVERY. Seeing and supporting an artist before their big break is what it’s all about y’all. In 5 years what’s the better story: seeing an artist in a big crowd you’ve already seen four times, or seeing an artist in a 100-person crowd whose now at the top of the charts.
Start listening to those playlists, build your schedule, and then go explore this beautiful festival. This is the word of the Festival Saviors. Amen.