Volunteering at SXSW

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By Claire Hansen
Blog Content Contributor

No matter who you are or where you’re from, South by Southwest (more commonly seen as SXSW) is probably an event you know of in one way or another. Even I had a general idea of what it was before ever moving to Texas. For the most part, it’s one of those things we always see from the outside looking in, mainly because of its expensive and exclusive qualities. However, it’s much easier to experience these 10 days of madness than many of us realize. It is hard to understand just how many crazy things SXSW has to offer without actually going to it, but what many are unaware of is that we, ordinary people, actually can experience all the wonderful components of SXSW — for free!

I’m not just talking about the free shows and action on the streets. To many, that is all SXSW is. But what hides behind the mainstream buzz is a fascinating, futuristic, cutting edge world of entertainment and creation.

It’s all in the power of the badge.

I am writing this because I wish someone would have told me about this opportunity years ago. I originally planned to volunteer because I had hopes of landing an internship the following year, but after being there and experiencing it, I was already so satisfied with just that adventure in itself that I almost completely forgot about the internships altogether. The best part about this opportunity is that it hardly even feels like work! A music badge costs $1,325 in its highest tier. Divide that by the 24 hours of “work” you’d do to earn one, and you’re technically making over $50 an hour. Pretty good gig, if you ask me.

Volunteer perks are not limited to music badges, however. You can earn any badge — film, interactive, music and even Platinum during your second year! Once you choose your conference, you sign up for a crew, which determines what type of tasks you’ll be doing for your volunteer position. It could be anything from communicating pertinent information to the artists playing at your favorite venue, to transporting films for the film festival to their appropriate theaters. You go through a short orientation and training session before the festival, and then you’re off to the races — with the rest of the week besides those 24 hours open to spend however you’d like! I ran around all week trying to do as much as I could and still felt like there were so many things I missed out on, even after the 10 days were over. The activities are endless.

Volunteering at SXSW is also a great way to meet new friends! Photo by Claire Hansen.

I can faithfully say that volunteering at SXSW is hands-down the coolest thing I have ever done and I can’t wait to be back next year as an intern. It’s an event that caters to all interests, brings all the excitement, and quite simply, is just the place to be during spring break. We are so fortunate to reside just a few miles away from an event that people travel across the world for, so I would highly recommend to anyone looking to make the most of their to spring break to consider volunteering at SXSW next year. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience you won’t find anywhere else. And who knows, it could lead to an internship down the road!

Volunteer applications have just opened and will be open until January. To learn more, go to

Featured image by Claire Hansen.

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