Students earn free entry to SXSW by volunteering over spring break

Gracie Awalt

Instead of spending spring break drinking on a Florida beach or traveling to visit family, some UT students decided to stay in Austin and volunteer at the South By Southwest Conference and Festivals 2018.

Founded in 1987, SXSW is an annual celebration of the film, music and interactive industries, and provides attendees an opportunity to hear and interact with global professionals. Access to the festival requires the purchase of a badge, which can run up to $1,650. While this price is discounted for enrolled college students, some students gained free access to the festival through volunteer work.

“Maybe if I had money and I was successful, I would pay for a full-price ticket,” said Brooklyn Wilson, a radio-television-film freshman. “However, I don’t know why you wouldn’t volunteer. It’s so worth it for what you’re getting.”

All SXSW volunteers gain access to the festivals for free in exchange for volunteer hours, along with a free meal card that could be used at approved venues during their shifts.

To earn a film badge, Wilson had to volunteer for 48 hours throughout the course of the film festival. Wilson said time passed quickly because she got to meet people.

“It seems like volunteering would not be fun, but I met people from literally all over the world, like the  Netherlands, Norway, Brazil, Germany and France,” Wilson said. “You make friends with the volunteers, who are from all different walks of life.”

Orlando Beckum, a government and psychology freshman who volunteered at a music venue for 24 hours to receive a music festival pass, said volunteering could be boring.

“Often, we stood around and wouldn’t do anything,” Beckum said. “The job of a volunteer is something that a security officer could do. Sometimes we would just sit there and have to find ways to entertain ourselves.”

Theatre studies freshman Madelyn Consoldane volunteered for the film crew for the Paramount Theater, where she scanned badges for people entering the theater and managed lines outside.

“It never crossed my mind that I was ‘sacrificing’ my spring break,” Consoldane said in an email. “I’m the type of person who likes to be busy, so breaks are super hard for me normally. I think my spring break was way better than if I had just gone home.”