A History of South By Southwest
Devin Kelly | @subbydonut Next week marks the 26th year of South by South West (SXSW), a set of festivals and conferences in Austin, TX that converge music, films, and technology. SXSW began in 1987, and it has been growing ever since, providing a place for culture to amass. Each year of SXSW has a different story to share. Take a look below at some of the most recent SXSW Festivals.
Bruce Springsteen was the keynote speaker opening the music portion of the 2012 festival, and the festival included rappers such as Talib Kweli and Lil' Wayne, along with surprise appearances by Big Sean and Kanye West. SXSW Film also saw the premiere of two major Hollywood films: The Cabin in the Woods and 21 Jump Street. The standout technology of the 2012 SXSW Interactive was generally stated to be "social discovery" mobile apps, which let users locate other nearby users. Social discovery apps that had a presence at SXSW included Highlight, Glancee, Sonar and Kismet.
The keynote presenter for SXSW Interactive was Seth Priebatsch, founder and CEO of the mobile-gaming platform SCVNGR. The 2011 Interactive festival was by far the largest it had ever been, with an estimated 20,000 attendees. At least two films screened at the SXSW Film festival gained distribution deals there: the documentary Undefeated and the thriller The Divide. The March 15 screening of the Foo Fighters documentary Back and Forth was followed by a surprise live performance by the band itself, with a setlist that included the entirety of the then-upcoming album Wasting Light.
The 2010 music festival was dedicated to Alex Chilton, who died shortly before he was to perform with Big Star. A tribute concert was performed in his honor on March 20, 2010. Nearly 2,000 bands were officially scheduled to perform at the festival, and festival reps estimated that over 13,000 industry representatives attended. The keynote presentation was an interview of then-Twitter CEO Evan Williams by Umair Haque.
The Interactive section of SXSW in particular drew larger attendance levels. This influx of tech-savvy attendees seriously strained the networks of providers such as AT&T (primarily due to heavy iPhone usage). The 2009 SXSW Interactive also saw the launch of the Foursquare application, which was called "the breakout mobile app" of the event by the Mashable blog. The 2009 SXSW Film screened 250 films, including 54 world premieres. The event was notable for having the United States premiere of the film The Hurt Locker, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2010.
The 2008 SXSW Interactive got media attention due to a keynote interview of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by technology journalist Sarah Lacy that was considered by some observers to be a "train wreck" due to an audience perception that Lacy was asking uninteresting questions, as well as mocking or terse answers in response from Zuckerberg.
That's just a small glimpse on the history of South by Southwest and it is still growing. People will continue to take part in this festival to celebrate music, film, and interactivity.