AUSTIN (KXAN) — South by Southwest kicked off its music festival Monday, which means you can catch live music across the city.
It’s been a week since SXSW EDU launched March 7, followed by the full SXSW kicking off March 11, when organizers told the press so far, attendance was about 20% lower than it was in 2019.
It’s something people who have been here before are noticing.
“So far, it’s been pretty slow. I think that we’re still trying to figure things out with, you know, the pandemic still going on,” said Jamal Johnson, a local dancer.
Johnson has been to about 10 South-bys.
Jay Styles has also been in Austin for several South-bys. He said business at his bar has picked compared to recent weeks but not like a normal South-by year.
“We’ve brought on extra staff, extra liquor — we’re ready,” said Styles, bar manager of The 512 on 6th dance and nightclub.
Phillip Brown, executive chef and owner of Vince Young Steakhouse, agreed.
“As of now, SXSW has been treating us very well. Wouldn’t say it’s on level with our busiest SXSW, but it’s definitely busier than normal,” he wrote to KXAN.
KXAN checked, and you can still find hotel rooms available in downtown Austin. Before the pandemic, most, if not all rooms would be sold out during the festival.
Room rates right now are much higher, though, because of the increased demand. The Fairmont starts at $450 Monday night, and Hotel Van Zandt starts at $1,400.
Styles and Johnson still have hope for increased traffic, because the music is just getting started.
“We’re just now getting out of the media week, so going into music week, there’s no telling yet. But just seeing the people coming into town, I think it’s going to be a pretty good one,” he said.
Others who are here for the first time said it’s not only meeting but exceeding expectations.
“I heard that South-by was the intellectual Coachella,” said Akanksha Goel, visiting from Dubai. “I think South-by has been more interesting than I expected, because of the serendipitous connections that I’ve made.”
Goel is in advertising but is interested in tech, like NFTs.
“I think having come out of COVID, which has been around for so long, it’s nice to, to take a step back and let that be at the back of your head for once and think about the future and where the world is going,” she said.
Emanuel Caceres attended SXSW virtually last year but said it’s different being a part of this “ecosystem” in person.
“Here we can do networking face to face, and that’s something that is amazing,” said Caceres, who is from Peru but getting his MBA in Miami. “It’s amazing how this innovation, content — art, film, music, it kind of like inspires you to keep creating, right?”