SXSW Is Too Big for Austin
Fresh off another trip to the mecca of social and interactive business, South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) in Austin, Texas, one thing has become blatantly clear: the festival is too big for the town where it all started.
For longtime SXSW hipsters, that sort of suggestion is crazy talk. How could the festival that started with music and film in one of America’s most eclectic cities possibly abandon it?
It’s simple: SXSWi has become a hotspot for social and interactive business deals and wining and dining. For a full-time social businessperson like myself, it’s a “must-do” to create new relationships with folks in the industry. It’s also allows us, as a big brand, to mingle and mix with smaller companies and startups to see where business is headed. The time spent is incredibly valuable and worth the money spent to send my entire team.
Because it’s become such a major force in business development for brands both large and small, it has to find a more suitable home. Austin is an amazing city filled with character, culture and the surreal. From breakfast tacos to the music scene on 6th Street, it’s a gem and I love anytime I get to travel there.
Despite this great vibe and culture, it lacks serious infrastructure to host a growing conference and event like SXSWi. It’s sparse hotel availability close to the main venues hosting SXSWi, coupled with its disjointed transportation system (although its light rail and bus system are excellent), means its increasingly difficult to get around. With the amount of parties, events and other happenings, it’s impossible to get a cab or even grab a bite of dinner in the downtown area. It’s challenging and for those of us spending a ton of cash to attend, it doesn’t leave you exactly elated.
The festival itself, and its organizers, aren’t exactly well organized either. It’s very clear it’s gotten to the point it’s too big for the location. I’ve been to everything from E3, CES, to NAB – never have I had to wait the over 2 hours I did for my badge at SXSWi in 2012. The system to check-in was terrible and the small convention center couldn’t handle the amount of people checking in during peak times. It’s just another reason why something must be done.
Perhaps the biggest issue is with the hotels. Austin, on a normal day, has plenty. But bring in a ton of interactive folks who all want to stay downtown, and it’s a mess.Continued on the next page