What Is SXSW: A Guide For What Creators Who Have Never Been

SXSW South by Southwest Annual music, film, and interactive conference and festival. SXSW sign at Austin Convention Center
What Is South by Southwest GSPhotography/Shutterstock SXSW

Every year, Austin, TX, is flooded with hundreds of thousands of people for SXSW. Spanning every creative industry, SXSW is where the creator economy goes to talk about the future. But what is South by Southwest, aka SXSW? Here’s everything you need to know as a creator for the biggest conference in making stuff. 

What is South by Southwest? 

SXSW is a massive week-long conference that brings together the brightest creative media voices to discuss the future. Part music festival, film festival, tech conference, and creative summit, SXSW encompasses the entire creator economy. 

Founded in 1987 in Austin, TX, the conference has grown exponentially to include voices beyond entertainment. For most people, the first time they hear about SXSW is when a beloved band announces they’ll be playing. But the true scope of the event goes beyond the literal hundreds of shows in Austin that week.

What is SXSW - Andy Wenstrand holding a light saber and speaking at the Creating Happiness The Ar and Science of Disney Parks Storytelling

Keynote speakers and professional development opportunities abound at SXSW, spanning technology, media, and beyond. During the day, SXSW attendees have the freedom to explore their way. 

Fill your days up with classes and keynote speakers—network with people in your industry at thousands of parties. See the next big band play in the backyard of a BBQ joint and then hop over to a movie premiere.

SXSW provides an endless series of opportunities to explore the creative landscape of the moment. But it’s also one of the largest parties in media. What you choose to get out of SXSW reflects your priorities. It can be an incredible business opportunity or a chance to party with peers. Like your creative track, SXSW reflects what you put into it. 

What is the theme for SXSW 2024?

The theme of SXSW is always “What’s Next.” Every year, the conference brings together voices at the forefront of creative industries to discuss the future. There are 24 conference tracks to follow, with over 450 sessions and classes announced. 

This year’s tracks include Advertising & Brand Experience, AI, Creator Economy, Culture, Fashion, Film, Food, Game Industry, and more. We’ll pinpoint the ones we think are most important for creators to check out below. 

Is SXSW Free To attend?

The future doesn’t come cheap. SXSW is not free to attend. There are hundreds of free shows happening around the conference that are not officially affiliated. However, you’ll need a pass if you want to get into an official SXSW event. 

There are different tier levels for SXSW passes. All SXSW passes include access to the Comedy Festival, Exhibitions (including the Creative Industries Expo and Flatstock Art Expo), and a limited set of conference tracks. 

what is south by southwest - a chart showing what different levels of passes provide access to for sxsw pass holders

The following conference tracks are available for all SXSW pass holders: 

  • Culture
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Food
  • Government & Civic Engagement
  • Psychedelics
  • Sports
  • Game Industry
  • XR
  • Creator Economy

Passes for 2024 start at $995 for the Music pass, which includes the conference tracks above and access to SXSW music events. If you’re a creator trying to make a last-minute trip to SXSW, get the Music pass. This is the most affordable option to get you into the Creator Economy classes. 

If you’d like access to the Film & TV events, that pass is $1595 and includes the above class sessions. 

The next level of SXSW access is the Interactive pass for $1695. The SXSW Interactive pass gives you access to the conference’s events. There’s a final $2095 Platinum pass that includes a few special events and faster access to the event. 

If you want to save money on SXSW, get your passes early. You can save up to 40% by purchasing your passes far in advance. 

What Is Transportation Like During SXSW?

You’ve plotted, you’ve planned, and you’re ready for SXSW. Now, how the hell are you going to get around? You can park at the Austin Convention Center if you have a car. However, parking is limited. More importantly, parking around Austin can be very expensive, particularly during a big event. You can find a map of paid-on-street parking in Austin right here.

However, we highly suggest using rideshare like Uber and Lyft, or local public transportation options. If you’re going to rely on rideshare and you know your schedule, we suggest scheduling your rides in advance. You can save a ton of money on surge pricing by locking in your rate early. 

Also, remember SXSW is as much about networking as it is about learning. Get in a car with a stranger and make friends. Your next great business contact might be a random person you met in an Uber. Austin is also famous for its downtown Pedicabs. You might find the most whimsical option is the fastest. 

Austin’s public transportation is another vital resource when navigating SXSW. During SXSW the Monday – Thursday trains start at 5:41 AM, with the last train running at 12:30 AM. Friday trains run from 5:41 AM to 2:30 AM. Saturday, the trains run from 9:52 AM until 2:22 AM. Train service on Sunday, March 10, runs from 9:52 AM. However, there is no train service on Sunday March 16. 

Where can I stay at SXSW?

With any festival as large as SXSW, lodging will be expensive. Your best bet is to make your reservations before prices jump. However, if you’re making a last-minute journey to SXSW, there are a few options.

Hotels are bonkers during SXSW. However, Airbnb remains a reliable place. We recommend renting a larger space and splitting with friends if you want to save money. Rates start at $81 and quickly escalate. However, make sure to budget for fees. The listed price on an AirBnB is rarely the final price.  
The app Kommu has also created a service to connect SXSW attendees looking to share lodging. You can apply to join their SXSW lodging group here.

How to survive SXSW?

SXSW is a wild party and educational conference bound together in the spirit of creation and chaos. However, it’s also a city-spanning event with pop-up shows, parties, and classes outside of the festival. You are going to be walking around a lot, so plan accordingly. 


First off, check the weather forecast. You can check Austin’s weather right here. For the 2024 event, Austin will be in the 60s and 70s, overcast, with a good chance of rain. Dress in light layers that will keep you warm, bring good shoes, and pack good socks. 

Gold Bond

However, even if the weather is beautiful, you must prepare for the realities of a human body walking around. Bring fresh underwear for each day. Get Gold Bond medicated powder when you inevitably start chaffing after two days of walking around. 


Most importantly, drink water. Lots of water. SXSW is a party, and booze flows. It’s also work and an opportunity to network. Don’t allow yourself to get so dehydrated that you end up having to go back to your hotel or Airbnb.

Similarly, don’t party so hard that you’ll embarrass yourself if you run into a hero at an afterparty. Drink water. It is a life-giving elixir that makes your body work and your mind sharper. Drink water. 

Finally, be mindful about what kind of bag you bring. The smaller and clearer, the better. Every venue has different rules about what bags they allow. You don’t want to miss something important because you have a large messenger bag.

OpenAI Co-founder on ChatGPT, DALL·E, and the Impact of Generative AI speaking at SXSW
OpenAI Co-founder on ChatGPT, DALL·E, and the Impact of Generative AI – SXSW 2023 – Photo by Errich Petersen/Getty Images for SXSW

What Are The Best SXSW Events For Creators?

The Creator Economy track at SXSW this year is packed with incredible classes for creators. Here are our picks for this year’s best classes to check out. 

Creator Economy – Digital Fame to Mainstream Success

Date: Mar 9, 2024

Digital creators have grown in the eyes of corporate money from niche content in the days of Vine to superstars today. Join Remi Bader (over 3 million followers) along with representatives of Meta, Candle Media, and Untitled Entertainment for a talk about taking digital fame into the real world.

This panel covers challenges young creators will face along the way, from mental health to protecting your brand. 

Insider Insights From 8 Years Working at Instagram & YouTube

Date: Mar 11, 2024

The algorithm is a mystery to most creators, which is why you should learn from people inside platforms. Jon Youshaei spent eight years working at both Instagram and YouTube. He used his knowledge of their algorithm to get 300+ million views during his first year as a creator. Now he brings that knowledge to SXSW, covering how to increase your engagement, use creator-friendly AI, and more. 

Thumb-Stopping Content: How to Stop the Skip

Date: Mar 11, 2024

According to Microsoft’s researchers in 2015, our attention span for video was 8 seconds. According to a report from Facebook, that number is now down to 1.7 seconds. So how the hell are you supposed to get someone’s attention that fast? Join Jennifer Quigley-Jones and Michelle Amoré of Digital Voices for an hour-long class about how to get the most out of that 1.7 seconds. 

De-influencing: The Future of the Creator Economy

Date: Mar 14, 2024

We live in an era where TikTok and sponsored content make the dream of earning a living as a creator more real than ever. So why are trends like de-influencing and leaving social media to create your own space, so popular? More interestingly, where does that leave brands and creators? 

Join influencers Jeff Guenther, Lee Tilghman, Jupiter F Stone, and Do the WeRQ’s Graham Nolan for a panel discussing the future of de-influencing. Whether you’re a creator or work with a brand, this is a talk you shouldn’t miss about the changing landscape of influencers. 

Daylight Savings Time And SXSW

Daylight savings time is a curse for everyone on a tight schedule in Austin during SXSW. Each year our clocks Spring forward an extra hour on the second Sunday in March, which coincides with SXSW. 

Don’t miss your important Sunday morning session because you were out partying until 3 AM, thinking it was just 2 AM. For this reason, we highly recommend using your smartphone as an alarm clock. It will automatically update to the correct time. Just make sure you have your alarm already set. 

Passionfruit’s Newsletter Subscriber Party 2024

Have you ever wanted to party with Passionfruit? Passionfruit will be holding our own private SXSW event this year. Meet fellow creators, grab a drink, and take a break from the chaos of public parties.

Signing up for our newsletter is the only way to find out when and where it is happening. Thankfully, you can do that right here.

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