What the heck is SXSW (aka South by Southwest)?

Mar 2, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. ET

Staying in the know is tricky these days, especially when it comes to entertainment. It’s everywhere — cable TV, the internet, and events. How can anyone possible stay hip when it comes to knowing what all the cool kids know? You can’t. That’s why we’re here. Here’s what you need to know about SXSW…


What the heck is it?

Good question. South by Southwest is a ginormous multi-media event held in one of the nation’s music capitals: Austin, Texas. Here is a breakdown of how the coolest festival in the country works:


If you’re the kind of person who loves to listen to live music at breweries or in your city’s park, SXSW will make you think you’ve died and gone to that big stage in the sky. SXSW features all the incredibly talented bands that typically only super-cool people know about. Obscure and legendary acts meet in one place for a melting pot of the best music you’ll ever hear live. Stevie Nicks and Green Day will appear in the same venue as talented acts you’ve never heard of. Here’s a roster of who will perform at SXSW.

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For those who thought SXSW was only about music, you thought grievously wrong. If you ever wished you could go to Cannes or Sundance, the SXSW film festival is something you don’t want to miss. Here documentary and independent filmmakers come together to showcase their talents in one place. The film aspect of SXSW isn’t just a showcase — it’s a full-on competition and the lineup is extensive, and impressive. There are documentaries and narratives, and also “Visions” featuring “audacious” and “risk-taking” documentaries, “Midnighters” for the sexy, scary and provocative features and SXGlobal showcasing international works. Those are just a few of the many categories. Are you starting to get a feel for why this event is so cool?

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If your funny bone hasn’t been itched in a while, SXSW can cure that too. Before you get overwhelmed with all that SXSW has to offer, remember the festival runs from March 8–17, giving you lots of time to enjoy everything that's important to you. Like all the other categories, SXSW is bringing the country’s best comedic talent to the stage and is featuring a parody of The Bachelor-type dating shows. That’s some good clean fun right there.


The rest of the event hosts categories like gaming, a trade show and “PhotoCamp.” SXSW is much more than a display of the country’s most talented performers. It’s part conference, part networking and part trade show combined with music, film and comedy acts. It’s unbelievable that the producers of SXSW are able to pull all this together in one place, but they have, and it’s all yours for the taking. Even if you can’t attend, at least you now know what it is when all the cool kids at work are taking about it, and you can Google it during that week in March to keep up on all the SXSW news.

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