The city of Austin, Texas, starts to receive a real crowd this week for the SXSW (South by Southwest) festival. Among the visitors and speakers, many will be Brazilian. The country should beat its participation record this year. To give you an idea of the event’s influence on our country’s creative sector, there is now even a Brazilian sponsor, with a name on the front page and everything.
SXSW was born in 1986. At that time, Ronald Reagan was President of the USA, and the Berlin Wall was up. A group of friends looked at the city of Austin and decided that the cultural scene there was second to none in any other global city. So they decided to create the festival, at the time focused on music. The technology, film and design component would be added later. The madness paid off, and 700 cats showed up in town to check out shows like the one by the psychobilly band Reverend Horton Heat.
Since then, the festival has exploded, happening every year. In 2018, there were 161,000 people in the city. The growth has led to conflicts with local communities, but overall the festival is well received. After all, it brings in revenues of around US$ 350 million for Austin at each edition. Just by way of comparison, the Superbowl, when it was held in Houston, generated $347 million.
SXSW has become the meeting place for the global creative community. Big technology launches take place there, as well as concerts or film and series releases. The event ends up guiding several conversations that will unfold throughout the year.
Many Brazilians will speak at the event this year. For example, Andre Stein is going to present the Brazilian flying car project, developed by a company created by Embraer. Anielle Franco and Edu Lyra will talk about political and social issues. Nathalia Arcuri and Carla Tieppo talk about finance and neuroscience, respectively. This columnist will talk about freedom of expression on the internet.
The city’s motto is, “Keep Austin Weird.” SXSW is one of the forces doing this. It is worth noting that the director of partnerships at the festival is Tracy Mann, who is a Brazilianist. Tracy is from New York, but lived in Bahia in the 1970s, speaks fluent Portuguese and has a tropicalist soul. It was no coincidence that Brazil became the festival’s largest international delegation. It is directly because of her gaze and attentive work.
Another symbol of Austin’s good weirdness is Nick Gray. Nick is releasing his first book, called “How to Make Friends”. He is occasionally cited here in the column as an inspiration. Nick became a millionaire by starting a museum technology company and has since moved to Austin. During SXSW he will personally pick up people and influencers at the airport in his Tesla electric car and drive them downtown. In exchange, the person takes a selfie with his book (which, by the way, deserved to be released soon in Brazil).
Anyone who wants to try to catch a ride in his car can message him on Twitter. This is the embodiment of the spirit of Austin (and SXSW).
It’s over Thinking that festivals, to be big, need to be just about music
AlreadyMusic and technology festivals such as SXSW
It’s comingHope Brazil creates a local version of an SXSW, preferably in Minas Gerais
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