SXSW Without A Badge

Don’t want to spend $800 or more on a SXSW badge? Luckily for you, there are thousands of people every year who do South by Southwest without a badge. Here are a few ideas for those of you are who are courageous enough to brave the streets of Austin, TX, during SXSW without a badge or a wristband. 

  • Firstly, it’s important to note that in order to attend many SXSW (especially music and film events), technically you don’t have to have a badge. Many times, if you’re willing to camp out early and get a good spot in line, you can get in immediately following folks who have badges or wristbands. So if there’s an event you really want to go to, go for it! Just know that even though you wait in line, there’s still a pretty decent possibility you won’t get in. At most SXSW events, admission is granted in the following order.  
1. Badges
2. Wristbands
3. Everyone else in line (you’ll likely pay a cover so bring cash)
  • Attend smaller shows. If you are looking to discover new music, then doing SXSW without a badge may actually be in your best interest. While the well-known bands will have mile-long lines and require ID, wrist band and blood sample to get in, many of the best new artists in the country world head to Austin every year for SXSW, and they’re not always in the official venues. If there’s a stage at SXSW (or a corner, or a bridge, or a bar, etc.) you can bet a band will be playing there 24/7. Most of these smaller shows are shorter (30-45 minutes) and either free or low cost (think $5).
  • RSVP to everything. We really can’t stress this enough. If you plan ahead, you can get on some selective lists without a badge or wristband. In addition to following social media accounts to hear about new events and get on the lists, we recommend scouring the internet for SXSW RSVP options. It’s a good organizational idea to create a separate email address for RSVPs and monitor it closely. 

The moral of the story is that SXSW is a unique experience for each person. If you don’t buy a badge but are willing to wait in line, plan ahead and be flexible, you will still have a fantastic time. It’s good practice to pick one to two things you definitely want to do each day but don’t be afraid to let the wind take you from there. Some of your best SXSW experiences will likely be unplanned surprises! 

Hungry for more SXSW details? Check out our other articles here.