Forget what you've heard, the rumors aren't true. SXSW probably won't be moving away from Austin, TX; and it also won't to be banning unofficial showcases. If sensationalism didn’t exist, where would we be as a people? Less stressed and content, probably. But that’s none of our business …
1. the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement (especially in journalism).
If sensationalism didn’t exist, where would we be as a people? Less stressed and content, probably. But that’s none of our business …
Yesterday morning a few cherry-picked quotes from a nine-page report obtained by the Austin American-Statesman began circling around the Internet that contained observations about South by Southwest’s ability to enact on safety concerns and the overall effect the two-week long video/tech/music festival has on the city of Austin, TX. The report was written by the event consulting firm Populous, a large-scale observe and report entity that has been a substantial influence on other monstrous events in the past such as the Super Bowl, the World Cup and the Olympics.
The SXSW festival hired the firm after its past 2014 event, which was ungraciously profiled in the media for the tumult surrounding it, most notably the tragedy where an alleged asshole in a vehicle allegedly fled from police and allegedly killed four spectators and injured dozens more.
The report cited myriad problems with the event, including inadequate barriers, lack of police availability to quell crowds and also questioned whether the event could adequately handle the high attendance rate moving forward. Included was a proclamation that SXSW should consider staying with Austin, TX or move it to a more prepared area. That appears to be the most controversial statement that readers are turning into outrage, well before a definitive decision is made, or, even thinking about the validity of something like that ever happening.
The report reads:
If SXSW cannot sustain success and growth in the future, like any business they will eventually need to make decisions about whether or not they can continue to exist in their current format and location. It is very possible that SXSW will have no choice but to entertain notions of bidding their event to other cities to sustain their business model.
But – hyperbole aside – we think that probably won’t happen given last year’s festival raked the city in, according to organizers, more than $315 million, and SXSW co-founder / managing director Roland Swenson has already gone on record saying, “SXSW is so tied up in Austin and we reflect each other so much that I can’t really imagine (a move) happening.”
The real headache, he says, isn’t in the festival itself, but of the multitude of unofficial events popping up all over that draw massive amounts of crowds and unsafe conditions that are becoming unstoppable.
“Our fear,” Swenson continues, “is that we’re just not going to be able to do it anymore because of all of these different factors that are emerging and growing out of control.”
Among the recommendations for more event control, the report lists things such as “soft searching” for dangerous or prohibited items and enacting a “clean zone” that would effectively give further exclusivity to official events. It’s a concept used at the Super Bowl, where there can be no unsanctioned events happening within a certain area of the officially drawn lines. Something like that, the report says, would be used to “protect the brand equity of SXSW and its sponsors, but would be made to work with existing businesses and their interests so as to uphold sponsor values and private property rights.”
Oh, huh, that’s convenient. Slipping in monetary value when the idea of safety would seem to be the highest concern? We see. Well, we won’t say whether or not we think the company is using a stormy year as an excuse to systematically raise value in the event, but it seems like what the festival is trying to do is push away the unsanctioned events because they may be grabbing too much of the market share of the highly lauded money-orgy.
To the festival’s credit, it is within its right to want to protect the value of the event and to assure that it’s squeezing every penny out of it while prohibiting “competitors” to mark any spoken for territory. The unofficial events, however, tend to be one of the main draws that get revelers out there to begin with, so trying to strangle them out, we think, would be counter-productive.
We’re making our assumptions based solely on personal experiences of being in attendance of the festival for each of the past six years, of course, but we feel the real character of the event lies in the multitude of people enjoying the same experience and the unity felt between complete strangers. The music portion, at least, brings all types together with a singular binding intention: To enjoy oneself in the presence of art.
The festival’s organizers probably know this, and wouldn’t dare try to enact any kind of regime-like tactics of trying to oust any of the surrounding parties. We assume they’re at least aware of the value of the tens of thousands of coattailer events, and wanting to ban them altogether would be a bad business model.
It’s too early to speculate about next year’s SXSW, in fact, October is about as far away on the calendar one can get from this past event and next year’s event, so any exaggerated efforts on the part of other media outlets are basically invalid.
Think about it for a pinch – it would be stupid to move the festival from Austin (they tried, and NXNW in Portland was an absolute disaster) and pushing away large crowd draws would be even stupider. The most stupidest in fact.
SXSW is a brand that wants to make money in the biggest ways possible, but also doesn’t want the event marred by rampant tragedy (it’s actually extremely safe and comfortable down there), over-reaching legislations or a reputation of a shitty time. Don’t expect the festival to leave, and don’t expect unofficial showcases to be banned.
At most, the city will probably enact stricter guidelines in their permit approval process moving forward, possibly even allowing SXSW leaders to sit in on some of the permit access (which would ultimately suck, but what-can-ya-do-ya-know?) and tightening the overall area of the festival down to manageable levels. Cops will be out in force, barriers will be more adequate and more rules will be enacted. It’s just what happens to fun things …
Don’t take this report as the end all to excitement down in Austin, TX though, because like we said it’s still a fantastic time and the overall attitude of revelers down there is what makes the experience unlike any other. It’s like Mecca for music and film.
There’s real personal responsibility going on down there during the internationally recognized festival and it’s interesting seeing strangers take care of strangers in the strangest ways possible. It’s a weird town, because it takes care of itself in times of mass migration.
All we see this report as, is something Populous had to do to make a bunch of money and get a little stink going in the media to get feathers ruffled. It most likely won’t ruin a good time. Don’t believe the hype, some places do that, and it’s called sensationalism.