This post was originally published on April 17th, 2018. We updated it on June 18th, 2018 to reflect more up-to-date information from SXSW.
SXSW Music takes place March 11-17th, 2019, but the artist application process for Showcase status kicks off this summer. Many official events lock in logistics and bookings months in advance. Performing artists—especially first-timers—must corral their team efforts to do the same and make the most of an Austin trip.
To maximize the value-add of a SXSW run, artists should try to prioritize official showcases yet also look beyond them. The most successful teams cultivate a strategic timeline in which SXSW is one piece. Don’t stop working if an acceptance enters your inbox. Instead, use it as ammo to keep going.
To help get the ball rolling, Stem gathered everything you need to know about the SXSW application process (plus some additional advice, free of charge). Best of luck if you choose to submit.
When to Apply
This year, SXSW starts accepting showcase applications June 25th. The early deadline to submit is September 13th, after which the app cost bumps from $35 to $55. The final application deadline is October 25th.
The Music Festival team, which decides what artists make it through the gates to official showcases, vets applications in the order they’re received. Two years ago, they reviewed more than 7,000 acts and 2,000 went on to perform.
How to Apply
Come June 25th, artists can submit their SXSW application through the company’s website. The form you’ll find, barring a process redesign, asks for information that helps the Music team make their acceptance decisions. Two key questions taken from a prior application that you can expect to see in some form again:
- What do you hope to accomplish with your SXSW performance?
- Please describe any key developments that may impact our evaluation?
The first aims to gauge your professionalism and career stage. Perhaps you hope to meet a music journalist or find a manager to work with. By better understanding what you’re looking for, the SXSW team can try to book you for more relevant opportunities.
The second question more or less asks you to define your own buzz. Whether it’s a cosign, publishing deal, finished project or tour dates, any signs of legitimacy go toward answering this one.
Additionally, SXSW will ask you for links to your music (make sure they work before submitting), press coverage and contact info for you, a label rep and an agent if you have one.
Here’s how SXSW defines its act selection process.
“The SXSW Music Festival programming staff and additional team members listen to and grade the acts according to originality, technical ability, songwriting skills, career establishment, and overall artistry.
Every application is graded and reviewed by multiple parties, then invitations are extended to those selected to perform.
As SXSW receives a large number of applications each year, it is unfortunately not possible to invite and accommodate every great act who applies.”
Get more information on how to submit your SXSW application here.
When You’ll Hear Back
If your friend hears from SXSW and you still haven’t, don’t fret. 2,000 acceptable emails do not send at once, and some will receive Showcase confirmation before others (probably if you submit earlier).
This past year, all artists were promised a stamp of approval (or lack thereof) by January 19. To review, you can’t submit until June or early July; you can submit for $35 until mid-September; you can submit for $55 until mid-October; and you will hear back by mid-January.
In the event you do get that green light, look at SXSW Housing & Travel for rooming accommodations. The division offers first-come, first-serve rates to accepted performers that often best alternatives in price.
What to Do Now
Prepare an attack plan for June 25th, keep those 35 bucks saved and get organized. Austin awaits.