The Evolution of SXSW

By Mercedes Cordero – March 1, 2015

The South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival has been welcoming up and coming artists and innovators looking to showcase their work in Austin for 28 years now.

The first SXSW event was held in 1987, and while the Austin scene was as electric and eclectic then as it is today, the city was not part of the major music market at the time. Fast forward to today, and Central Austin holds claim to having the most music nightclubs in a concentrated area than any other city in the world. 

As home to the State Capitol and the University of Texas campus, we’re a city familiar with hosting both the serious minded attending late night Texas Legislature sessions and the not-so-serious minded attending late night West Campus celebrations. Appealing to all personality types—let’s not forget the Keep Austin Weird slogan—this city has quickly skyrocketed to become one of the top markets both nation and world-wide to promote music, film, and the arts. 

Soon after SXSW became internationally known, artists who had gotten their start at SXSW were being recognized as legit performers in Europe. In fact, the film and music conference festival now has offices in Germany, Australia, Japan, and Ireland to help potential visitors make their way to Austin. 

The national attention the festival now draws is a far cry from the 700 people in attendance when the music festival was first held in 1987. In 2014, SXSW recorded a staggering 27,991 conference participants in attendance, representing a total of 82 foreign countries. 

In 1994, the festival added a film and interactive component—SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive. Both events attract over 51,000 participants combined. 

In 2014, filmmakers from over 66 foreign countries attended the SXSW Film Conference and SXSW’s Interactive Festival continues to be the main hub for cutting edge technology. The latest video games and startup ideas are just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what the interactive festival has to offer. 

Much to the staff at Austin Fit’s chagrin, in 2014 a SXSW Sports component was added to the festival lineup. Now in its second year, the event takes place over the course of three days and features a diverse host of film screenings and panel sessions on sports and fitness-themed topics. 

We’ll stop talking now and let you check out our carefully curated list of this years most anticipated SXSW Sports sessions and panels you should look out for (and plan to attend). 


Friday, March 13th

Featured Session: How to Remain Relevant in Today’s Digital Age
As one of the biggest names in sports, studio analyst for TNT’s Inside the NBA, and CBS and Turner’s NCAA Division I Men’s Championship coverage, Charles Barkley will discuss how traditional news platforms—like television—can stay relevant in today’s cell phone-centric world. Hint: It involves a good amount of wit.  

Gameday 2025: What’s In Your Living Room? 
In ten years, what do sports fans have in their living room? Take a peek into what the future of streaming sports in your home will look like.  

The Changing Face of Action Sports Media 
The Internet is taking over film as the new, and more accessible, medium and outlet for showcasing extreme sports.  

Does Playing Sports Equal Brain Damage? 
Concussions are feared in sports and league rules are under fire to seek prevention and safety for the players. If you join a sport, are you prone for concussions?  

Can Sports Help End a Culture of Violence?
Sports have become extremely influential in today’s culture. Athletes and coaches are held to high standards as role models. With domestic violence making headlines over the past few years, can these role models help combat the violence? 


Saturday, March 14th

Featured Session: UFC: Women Breaking Ground Inside the Octagon
Ronda Rousey and Dana White discuss the change in fan demographics since Rousey was announced as UFC’s first female champion. Also up for discussion: how the relationship between women and pro sports has changed. 

Old Game, New Tricks: What’s the Future of Golf? 
Golf has been losing ratings across the board. The new up-and-coming starts share what they are doing to promote the sport. 

How the Data Era Will Build High Performing Humans
Technology innovations, like fitness tracking devices, have changed how we see the health world. Hear how data collected from these tracking devices is predicted to help improve fitness routines and athletic performance.  

Tech That’s Changing Sports and Building Empathy
Former football players Chris Kluwe and Derek Belch look into how technology can help players, coaches, and fans and how new innovations can help you experience sports as though you were on the field. 

Now Athletes are Funny: Power of Comedy in Sports
Athletes have been building their brands for as long as we can remember, but now they are looking into different outlets to show a different side of them. Partnering up with sponsors and using social media platforms, athletes are now releasing comedic ads.  

Science Over Tradition: The New Edge in Sports
What are some of the newest technology developments in the field of sports science and how has past technology helped athletes improve their performance?

Competitive Advantage: Mental Health in Athletics
Sports psychology can sometimes be thought of as maintaining the mental health of athletes. Learn about mental health and how it relates to physical performance at the collegiate, professional, and Olympic levels.

Out on the Field: LGBT Pro Athletes in 2015
NBA’s Jason Collins, WNBA’s Britney Griner, and the US Women’s Soccer Team’s Megan Rapinoe have been pioneers for LGBT athletes in 2014. Hear them discuss their personal experiences and what it means to love the sports they play. 


Sunday, March 15th

The New Cathedral: Sports Stadiums
Today, stadiums all around the world are built to impress. They are beautifully designed, have incorporated the newest technologies, and help the fans have a game-watching experience of a lifetime. 

Play Good, Look Good: Athletes and Fashion
A “non-boring” discussion about how athletes have started to express themselves through fashion, both on and off the court. 

Bike Attraction: Urban Bicycling Gets a Makeover
With the sport of biking becoming more and more popular over the years, the innovation of new bikes, clothing, and bike-friendly cities has created a new urban culture. 



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