I was contacted by a reporter from The Daily Texan regarding SXSW. The Texan included some of my replies in the article: Are SXSW discounted student badges still too expensive?.
Scott Cobb, a 2014 alumnus of the radio-television-film program at UT, said he could never afford a SXSW badge as a student, instead buying $15 entry tickets to see some of the films.
“My most memorable experience with SXSW when I was in college was walking through the crowded convention center wishing I could afford to get into a panel,” Cobb said. “They have so many great panelists each year on film-related topics, and I would have learned a lot, but I never got to attend, so all I learned was how exclusionary for-profit cultural festivals are.”
Students who want to purchase the discounted tickets have to apply through the SXSW website with proof of current school enrollment. This year, student ticket prices are $425 lower than the $800 price of the past.
According to the SXSW 2018 demographics, 6 percent of SXSW attendees came from households that make less than $25,000 a year, while 37 percent came from households making more than $150,000. One percent of attendees were younger than 21, and 6 percent were between the ages of 21 and 24.
A cultural festival such as SXSW that charges $1,650 for a platinum badge, $1,325 for a regular badge and currently almost $400 for a student badge has failed as an organization. The exorbitant SXSW prices are signs of a civilization in decline. They are emblems of a city where culture is reserved for the privileged, where low-income people are unwanted and purposefully excluded by prices only the affluent can afford.
SXSW is known as an “Austin Event”, yet students and low income non-students are not able to afford to attend. That says a lot about Austin and it makes me alternatively sad and angry. Only 6 percent of SXSW attendees come from households making less than $25,000, while 37 percent come from households making more than $150,000. The solution to increase diversity is to lower the badge price for anyone earning less than $25,000 to somewhere between free and $50. As a former film student, I can also add that SXSW should also waive all submission fees for short films and all application fees for bands. Get the corporations who are so visible at SXSW advertising this and that new product to cover the lost income from waiving the submission fees. The Cannes Film Festival does not charge filmmakers to submit short films. Austin needs to make affordable access to culture something that Austin is famous for.