🎸 We get it, you hate SXSW. But don't.
- 5 min read

🎸 We get it, you hate SXSW. But don't.

Plus, why SXSW isn't the Austin airport's busiest time of the year.


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☁️ Hey there, Austin.

Gird your loins — Southby is about to descend on the city. Cue the traffic and the crowds.

Yes, some of us hate it. But today, we tell you why you shouldn't.

Then, see how the airport fares during the festival and peep what an Austin megadeveloper is buying next.

Why SXSW animosity is just... old

Look, we get it. Our home’s changing.

Maybe you’re one to resist the agents of that change. You avoid the new trendy bars or the restaurants that have become staples to this fresh wave of residents. You sport your disdain for this New Austin like an emotional bumper sticker, clinging to what once was. 

And we’re not knocking that — hell, in a decade, the younger among us might be in the same boat, cursing the new-ness that will have transformed our present-day Austin.

Often completing the puzzle of that disdain is a piece called SXSW — or Southby to the initiated. 

Resistance to Austin’s growth has, for some, become synonymous with resistance to the festival.

So to those, we pose the question: Does it have to be?

“We can't blame the growth and change in Austin on SXSW any more than we can blame the growth of the tech sector on SXSW,” said Catlin Whitington, an Austin native and SXSW planner from 2007 to 2019.

“SXSW, and the economic and cultural shifts in Austin, are both organic and evolving in parallel and with many variables,” he said.

Why the Southby criticism?

Johnny Cash performs at SXSW in March 1994 in Austin, TX. (Catherine McGann/Getty Images)

Southby started in 1987 by a group of music journalists looking to draw attention to their city’s music scene. Ticket’s cost $10. Nearly 40 years later, some argue it’s drawn a bit too much attention. Music badges this year will set you back nearly $1,000.

In the 90s, SXSW branched out, no longer focusing solely on the music, especially local music. 

Now, tech often steals the show, corporate marketing runs amok, giant 62-foot Doritos vending machines are a thing. Speakers include the Silicon Valley elite.

Simply put, Southby stopped being about Austin. So, we understand the angst from longtime locals when mid-March rolls around.

But aspects of Southby can still bring us closer to what makes Austin, Austin.

Elon Musk at SXSW in 2013. Sean Mathis/Getty Images for SXSW

Keep calm and Southby on. Or don’t. That’s OK, too. 

Whitington witnessed the conference evolve, so the crux of this conversation hits close to home for him.

“As a native Austinite who was deeply involved with SXSW for a long time, I know and have heard both sides,” he said.

To the locals who flee town — or hunker down inside — during the 10-day stretch, Whitington said, “SXSW might not be for you. That’s OK.”

To the Austinites who enjoy it: “Good. You should,” he said. “And you should support the music venues and establishments that aren’t downtown and that aren’t part of SXSW as well.”

Often, the unofficial events are the best thing about Southby (i.e. smaller shows, held at your favorite joints in every corner of the city.) 

So maybe the best antidote to your Southby contempt is to … merely do what you would normally do anyway?

Go to your fave haunt. Tip your bartender. See your buds. Hit up your go-to music venue (any time of the year). Ignore the main Southby events — or don’t!

Maybe the key to loving today’s Austin is to take it upon yourself to find the city’s soul during an event that has come to represent change. 

Luckily, music can help with that. And it’ll be everywhere next week.

— Katie Canales, Editor

Temperature: 81 degrees | Sun: Gradually coming out | What to Expect: Breezy north winds

Acting as Mother Nature’s alarm clock, a few lingering morning storms will head east of I-35. Clouds will clear by the afternoon with a quick warm-up before cooler air moves in tonight.

Mary’s Tip: Grab a light jacket if you’re heading out to some of the free SXSW events.

Austin megadeveloper just bought more property

A property near Lady Bird Lake in west downtown is now in the portfolio of heavyweight local real estate firm Endeavor, known for leading the development of the Domain as well as for other ambitious projects such as the Quincy high-rise just off Rainey Street.

It’s unclear what Endeavor has planned for the 0.9-acre property at 410 Pressler St. — the southwest corner of Pressler and West 5th Street, across from the Shoppes at Pressler. The property is now home to a warehouse-style building with businesses such as Rogue Running. The firm didn’t respond to our request for comment.

Endeavor has developed other projects in that area, including The Bowie, a 36-story high-rise farther east on West 5th.

The group is also working on the redevelopment of the 18.9-acre former Austin American-Statesman building, where it has said it wants to build 3.5 million square feet of mixed-use space.

— Richard Webner, Contributing Reporter

How SXSW impacts Austin's airport. Or not?

You'd think the festival would push March into busiest-month territory, but per data from ABIA over the past five years, July (hello, summer travel) and October (ACL + F1) take the cake.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

An ABIA rep said that although they "don't expect to reach F1-level numbers," the airport is prepped for a "significant surge" in passengers, coming and going, from Thursday (i.e. yesterday) through Tuesday, March 19.

✈️ In 2023, the Friday before SXSW was one of the airport's busiest days on record — TSA screened 36,740 people.

✈️ The single busiest day ever? Oct. 23, 2023, in which more than 43,000 people passed through.

✈️ And the busiest month ever? July 2023, when the airport saw 2,040,981 passengers.

Why? Maybe everyone was desperate to escape last year's record heat...

Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Mary Wasson and Richard Webner.