In case you haven’t noticed yet, be warned that South by Southwest festivities are now in full swing. Once a small festival with a few hundred participants, SXSW has now grown into one of the largest, most influential tech and entertainment conferences in the world, attracting tens of thousands of participants. While the festival sometimes gets a reputation of just being about crazy parties and music, SXSW is clearly very important to Austin in terms of economic impact, employment opportunities, and exposure for the City. Its also part of what makes Austin, well, Austin.
At some point, everybody living in Austin has likely complained about the traffic, crowding, and general chaos that SXSW brings with it each year. However, on balance, these inconveniences are relatively minor when you consider how much SXSW benefits Austin and the local business community. According to an economic impact analysis of SXSW 2013 by Greyhill Advisors, last year’s festival had an economic impact of $218.2 million, provided full-time employment for 120 workers the entire year (there are many more seasonal workers), and achieved over 458 million broadcast, print, and online impressions. From an economic perspective, SXSW means more to Austin than any other event, however, it means much more to the City than sales and employment figures can reflect. Its part of what defines Austin, and part of what has created a culture and environment that so many techies and tech companies have been increasingly drawn to. For tech companies and startups SXSW is a place to showcase new technologies, attract investors, and bring top minds in the tech community together.
So while you sit in traffic or are otherwise inconvenienced by SXSW, remember how much SXSW brings to Austin, and think about its role in making Austin what it is today. More importantly, go out and enjoy all that SXSW has to offer!