Six Surprising Things You Probably Didn’t Know About SXSW

October 6, 2016 Ally Fleming

1987 SXSW Music Festival Schedule

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The SXSW Music Festival is a week of musical breakthroughs in the heart of Austin, TX. SXSW has been grown in quality, scope, and reputation every year since its launch in 1987 – with no sign of losing momentum anytime soon. With over 2,220 musical acts ranging from up-and-coming to legendary musicians, SXSW has hosted household names including Iggy Pop, Lady Gaga, and Dave Grohl.

Test your knowledge with these six surprising facts that you may not know about SXSW.

1. The first SXSW included 177 Showcasing Artists and was spread over 15 venues and stages

SXSW 1987 Logo

The first SXSW event was organized by Austin Chronicle’s Roland Swenson, Louis Black, and Nick Barbaro, along with artist manager Louis Jay Meyers, with the intention of bringing the music industry to Texas. While they only expected 150 registrants to attend, the event grew to over 700 registrants the first day. According to Louis Black “[SXSW] was a national event almost immediately.”

2. SXSW’s name was inspired by an Alfred Hitchcock movie


Louis Black came up with the name South by Southwest (how appropriate, Texas!) as a twist on the name of the Alfred Hitchcock film North by Northwest.

3. The term “mumblecore” was coined and popularized at SXSW Film in 2005


At the SXSW Film Festival during the mid-2000s, there were a large number of notable, low-budget-looking films showcased that consisted of “naturalistic portraits of the life and loves of artistic twentysomethings.” The prevalence of these films at SXSW popularized this particular style of movie-making, which was dubbed “mumblecore” by Andrew Bujalski, a writer-director who regularly displayed his work at SXSW, during an interview in 2005.

4. Twitter and Foursquare gained traction at SXSW Interactive

Twitter at SXSW 2007

Twitter started off in 2007 as a tiny tech company and only started gaining momentum after being featured at SXSW‘s Interactive conference. They reportedly broke 60,000 messages the day after the conference, causing great excitement. (Imagine how happy they would’ve been if they could see the numbers on Twitter now!) Foursquare followed by making their debut at SXSW Interactive in 2009.

5. In 2016, SXSW went Presidential

President Barack Obama - 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival

2016 was a year to remember as SXSW hosted both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as Keynote Speakers. The President was joined by Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune, Evan Smith, for a conversation on civic engagement in the 21st century. Michelle Obama shared the stage with Missy Elliott, Diane Warren, Sophia Bush, and Queen Latifah to discuss her initiative called Let Girls Learn.

President Obama hosted the first ever South by South Lawn at the White House on October 3rd to honor the innovative spirit of SXSW.

6. This is the tenth year in a row that SXSW has used Sonicbids as its exclusive application platform

Sonicbids and SXSW go way back! As the official, exclusive application platform for SXSW for the tenth year in a row, we’ve brought thousands of artists to the festival. If you want to be one of those artists next year, apply by October 21, 2016!

Photos courtesy (top-bottom): SXSW archive,,,, and President Barack Obama at SXSW 2016 – Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

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