A photo of Sixth Street in Austin Texas.
Event Management
January 16, 2024  •  by Rachel White

A Guide To Hosting Unofficial SXSW Events

The annual South by Southwest festival (SXSW) attracts thousands of attendees from around the world, generating revenue, supporting job creation, and providing opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs to showcase their products or services. Coinciding with the festival are countless other unofficial SXSW events, put on by local businesses hoping to leverage the buzz.

Below, we outline how organizations can tap into this wide and engaged audience in our guide to hosting an unofficial SXSW event.

What is an unofficial SXSW event?

Unofficial SXSW events and showcases are those that run concurrently with the festival dates and are hosted in or around downtown Austin. These events are not associated with or promoted under the SXSW banner but can attract a broader audience outside of SXSW attendees.

Much like SXSW events, unofficial SXSW events serve as a catalyst for inspiration, innovation, and collaboration. These events take advantage of an active audience of creatives, innovators, industry leaders, and enthusiasts, but also open their doors to other members of the public looking to immerse themselves in the excitement without buying a SXSW badge. 

How to plan an unofficial SXSW event

Hundreds of communities, businesses, and individuals participate in SXSW in an unofficial capacity. But planning an unofficial SXSW showcase has to start early in order to secure spaces and vendors before they’re booked by other SXSW-related commitments. Here are some quick tips to get started:

  • Determine the purpose, audience and goals of your event.
  • Do a quick search of other SXSW and unofficial SXSW shows or events to understand what you are competing against. 
  • Come up with a hook – excite people with free swag, food, drinks or unique experiences.
  • Set a budget.
  • Secure an event space – think, businesses, parks, bars or restaurants. Start your search within the zip codes 78701, 78792 or 78704 to remain close to the action.
  • Book vendors early for better availability and price. 
  • Send save-the-date information to active audiences before their calendars book up.

Set up registration or ticketing for your event

Unofficial SXSW events can be free or charge a fee. Evaluating your event experience against similar events will help you determine the best way to go about registration. But, no matter what you decide, you’ll need an event ticketing platform that will help keep your event and attendee list organized. Ticketbud provides such a resource. Within minutes, event organizers can create a Ticketbud account, customize an event webpage, and open registration for their events. Visit ticketbud.com to get started.

Every Ticketbud user has access to a full suite of ticketing tools, including the ability to create multiple ticket types (think: timed-access ticketing, VIP experiences, member vs. non member pricing, etc), create discounts and promotions, showcase sponsors, customize ticketing pages and layouts, invite and communicate with attendees, report on sales and promotions, and more.

And, the best part? Free events are always free with Ticketbud. A small fee is assigned to tickets at checkout for paid events. And nonprofits hosting unofficial SXSW events can qualify for non-profit pricing for their paid events. Ticketbud also offers daily, weekly, and monthly payout options for event organizers looking to access revenue funds ahead of their event. 

Promote your event on community calendars

The main challenge of promoting an unofficial SXSW event is fighting through the noise. Unofficial SXSW events are competing against the most iconic festival in Austin in addition to hundreds of other happenings around town. 

Because of this, marketing an unofficial SXSW showcase must be intentional and robust. Event organizers should engage their current, active audiences through email, web, and social media marketing. Social media, especially, can be a powerful tool for target-marketing new audiences whose interests align. To be successful, choose the appropriate channels and consider paid promotions.

Additionally, community calendars and SXSW RSVP lists are go-to resources for non-badge holders looking to be a part of the action. To ensure an event appears in their search, event organizers should consider submitting their unofficial SXSW events to the following sources:

Sites like RSVPATX allow event-goers to search and sign up for hundreds of unofficial SXSW events at once. Getting listed in the directory is easy. Visit the site and click on “submit an unofficial SXSW showcase.”

Final considerations to hosting an unofficial SXSW event

Hosting an unofficial event during SXSW can offer significant advantages to a business or organization. Firstly, it provides a unique opportunity to tap into a large, diverse audience of SXSW attendees, as well as a more general public. 

These events can also serve as powerful marketing tools, allowing businesses to showcase their products, services, or brand in front of a highly engaged and relevant audience. It’s a chance to create meaningful connections, increase brand visibility, and foster relationships with potential customers, partners, or influencers within an environment known for innovation and creativity. 

Moreover, hosting an unofficial event allows for creative freedom, enabling businesses to tailor the event to their specific objectives, whether it’s to launch a product, conduct market research, or build a community around their brand.