SXSW's annual report on the economic impact of the festival on Austin estimated that over $315 million was generated by the festival and festival attendees. That's way up from 2013's estimated $218.2 million. Unfortunately neither the report nor industry analysts have come up with a full explanation of how they're increasing impact even as official participation is decreasing from 155k in 2013 to 134k in 2014. In addition, by excluding the impact of unofficial events, the report is incapable of discussing the full impact of SXSW.
SXSW's 2014 impact report on the City of Austin provides a brief overview of the findings of Greyhill Advisors. Much of the same text is available from the press release from which I'll quote below (with relevant stats from 2013 in parentheses):
"In 2014, SXSWeek (refers to the whole event which is longer than a week) was responsible for injecting more than $315.3 million into the Austin economy." (2013 - $218.2 million)
"SXSW Conference and Festival participation, including official registrants, artists and support crew, and single admission film and music attendees totaled 134,000 (defined as any individual who attended at least one SXSW activity)." (2013 - 155,000)
"SXSW’s popular free-to-the-public consumer events such as the 3-night Outdoor Stage concert series at Butler Park, the 2-day Digital Creative Job Market, 3-day SXSW Create, 4-day Flatstock poster art show and Music Gear Expo, 1-day Education Expo, the 3-day SXSW Gaming Expo and the 3-day Renegade Craft Fair attracted an additional 239,700 participants." (2013 - 150,000)
Note that there's a huge leap in money coming in but a drop in official participation. There is a partial explanation given for the increase in impact despite reduced official participation:
"2014 marks the first year the majority of SXSWeek Participant Expenditures have been measured for the economic impact."
However that doesn't really explain the overall difference from what I can tell though the increase in free event attendees suggests that those events are important drivers in impact growth.
In addition, they are cordoning off the impact of the unofficial events inspired by SXSW:
"Every March innumerable patrons with no official credentials travel to Austin to experience the Spring Festival Season that has evolved around SXSWeek. This report does not attempt to account for this significant demographic estimated to exceed 100,000 or more individuals."
It would certainly be interesting to see a more complete impact report that not only more fully explains the numbers shared but also accounts for unofficial activities that only occur because of the existence of SXSW. While that might not be as useful for SXSW and their business interests, it would be a more honest report that would be of benefit to those involved with festivals elsewhere from city officials to festival founders.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) recently launched DanceLand. Send news about music tech startups and services, DIY music biz and music marketing to: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.