SXSW Over the Years: From Music to Tech

What started out as a small avenue for 700 participants to share their common interest in music has since grown to more than twenty times its original size. The growth spreads across more platforms beyond music, including film and web tech. Today, South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) is a much anticipated international gathering of fun-loving and business-minded people.

SXSW has gained a reputation as a party-centric event, but there’s other things you can do there, as Forbes is so good to remind us:

“If you leave Austin with only tales of taco trucks and karaoke escapades to tell, you’ve missed the point. Yes, the scene is great, particularly a stop at Stubbs or Driskill late-night. But beyond loading up, plan to heavy-up on ideas and great new contacts. There’s nothing in business quite like Austin this time of year.”

Tracing back the humble roots of this annual affair in Austin, an infographic from Rocksauce Studios shows us how it went from catering to plain music lovers to all sorts of artists and geeks of the contemporary world.

SXSW Timeline

SXSW was conceived at the heart of the almost cosmopolitan city of Austin in Texas in 1987. While this was not the first choice, the location seemed to have given them good luck. Since launch year, the event’s magnetic force has never slowed, attracting more and more attendees each time. Everything centered around music until in 1994, when the organization added film and interactive elements and themed the event: SXSW Film and Multimedia Conference. A year later the two were split into two different categories with “SXSW Film” and “SXSW Multimedia”. The awards segment, which was named “SXSW Interactive Awards,” was injected in the program in 1997 to recognize exceptional movers in the field of mobility, social media, technical achievement and breakout digital trends.

It was in 2006 when SXSW caught the big fish, being able to invite Craiglist’s Craig Newmark and Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales to their annual celebration. Perhaps the crowning glory of the conference came in 2009 where they introduced several innovations. The NotAtSXSW group was founded in this year, still connecting people around the globe who can’t make their way to Austin. SXSW became the birthplace of the breakout location-based mobile app, Foursquare, too. The influence of technology boomed in 2010 as interactive attendees (14,251) surpassed that of music, which collected 13,022. It is a testament of how it has evolved from the eclectic music-centered to a still-fun-but-more-geeky happening. Interactive festival has set the bar high in 2011 with over 19,000 participants.

SXSW Demographics

You would think that this energetic event will be filled with young blood, no brainer. Surprisingly, those aged 31 to 40 years old are the major partakers of SXSW, making up 40% of attendees. With almost 10% separating the two factions, 21 to 30 years of age make up 31%, while 41 to 50 shares 19%. The remaining one percent belongs to teenagers.

The top 10 industries represented at SXSW are the following: marketing, social media, non-profit, software development, media electronics, web development, consultancy, e-commerce, education and finance and venture capital. When we talk about the region these folks represent, the Southwest and Northeast make up almost 50% of SXSW attendees.  The West is close with 23%, while SXSW fans from the Midwest and Southeast share 10% and 9% respectively. International fans also gather here, making up the other 10%.

Successful Product Launches

For at least 5 of the big names in the web sphere, SXSW has served as a monumental launch pad. In 2007, the trending microblogging site Twitter was made popular. Two years later Game Salad and Foursquare took the helm. Before the past decade came to a close, SXSW became a witness to the commencement of triumph of PhoneBooth Free and Foodspotting. The event has been the choice of many companies as a launch pad of their innovations and inventions because of the diversity of its audience, which are generally referred to as “thinkers” and early adopters.

Kicking off on March 9th, SXSW 2012 promises to be a humongous space for the creative minds, film enthusiasts, great bands and larger than life product launches. Will Apple still be the big winner this year? We’ll find out in a couple of days.