I'll be honest with you guys. I'm writing this because I forgot about SXSW but I figure at least a few thousand of us did or we didn't want to put the effort in without getting results, so we decided to brush it off and say mehhh…
Not only is SXSW an essential part of my career that landed me in a video game (NBA 2k11) and put me on tour with Snoop Dogg in Europe, but it's that time of year when I get to rejoice with all my music friends, make new ones and feed my sticker and poster addiction with hundreds and thousands of posters on telephone poles until they fall down.
I was once hit by a car at SXSW. I once had sex at SXSW. I once almost got a good booking agent at SXSW. I would not miss out on it for the world!
1 - Buy a flight to San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, or Houston.
Either way you will probably have to buy a flight, check out these airports to help you save money. Try San Antonio for cheapest option. But you'll probably meet someone more important on the plane to Austin.
2 - Get down there for interactive and film week.
You might not realize it, but everyone wants to be there for music week, so try hustling up some gigs during interactive/film week where people have money, a need for promo of their brands, and you get a head start on all other musicians.
3 - Order fliers and posters and stickers now.
You might not know it, but places like Bands On A Budget or Jakprints have great deals on merch packages for your needs. Bala Tees is also musician-run by some I Fight Dragons members, and they make amazing deals. Fact is, don't wait till two weeks out. You will be screwed. You can click on these things and have orders in already!
4 - Hotwire a place to stay or Craigslist an apartment.
Look today and save. Look tomorrow and spend. I usually wait to the last minute but I have friends down there who let me stay at their place and I just give them $$ for the week. They appreciate any donation and having piece of mind is really great. Oh yeah. Transportation is easy to access here as well. Get a rental car or bike or hire a peddy cab person for the week!
5 - Facebook event with people who are going.
I think if you made an event in regards to room share about the SXSW experience for you, that'd be the ultimate way to save some bucks in carpooling or at least a place to stay! This is just pre-networking month.
6 - Pay a publicist to get you gigs/press, or just throw your own showcase.
Not might be your cup of tea, but having publicist at SXSW can really help you get some press and some extra gigs. Nothing wrong with it. If you rate going down there and want some help, it's a smart thing to do. If you choose to be more renegade, raise up some capital and get your own venue for 6 hrs, and put your own showcase together and barter it off like that!
7 - Phone charger and comfortable shoes.
Dirt roads and frequent deaths to your phone should cue you in to have a bad pair of shoes to walk around the dusty roads in…a phone charger will be necessary not so much to help yourself, but to even help other people. Helping another person with a phone charger will be the best thing you may be able to do.
8 - Exercise at 24 hr fitness or run the town.
Most nights at SXSW will be very late. Don't be afraid to miss anything by just going for a 20 minute run to work out. Every other day. Good way to clear your head and get prepared for tour? Two work outs plus a little bit of meditation every morning before your insanity begins every day.
9 - Memorabilia cards (not business cards).
I will probably start a business card trading club after SXSW, and I don't ever think my business cards have gotten me some awesome hook up. Be like @verbsisthehomie and make a card to remember that may be the size of a comic book and give people something to remember you by, besides being an awesome musician. Sometimes your best connects will come at a taco stand.
10 - Water and gum and Axe spray and sunblock.
I think water is something that is very necessary so you don't get completely whacked out of mind by being dehydrated, and you should def have gum so you don't shoot yourself in the foot when speaking in close quarters. Smelling and feeling nice while sweating profusely and aching is a talent that I have developed over years of SXSW, and you shouldn't have to suffer throughout the same pain.
Well there you have it. Comfy shoes, exercise, water, gum, memorabilia cards, a team, hotwire, a rental car or bike, and most importantly, extra time. I bet you will need extra time, hence getting to town early.