South By Southwest aids Austin economy

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In a time when many cities across the U.S. are struggling financially, South By Southwest brings economic relief to Austin.

SXSW’s total operations injected more than $167 million into Austin’s economy in 2011 and a comparable amount is projected this year, according to a SXSW economic analysis conducted by the SXSW office. During the festival, $123 million was made and the additional $44 million was from the year-round operations of the SXSW offices, the analysis showed.

“SXSW brings in an incredible amount of business,” said Ross Bennet, marketer for the venues Emo’s, Antone’s and Beauty Ballroom.

The analysis said 286,000 attendees, musicians and media took part in the festival in 2011, all of which brought money and publicity to Austin.

Bennet said Emo’s opens at 11:30 a.m. during the festival instead of the usual time of 7 p.m. to accommodate the large number of people and bands wanting to perform.

He said most weeks there are about five shows between Emo’s and Beauty Ballroom, but during SXSW there are 18 shows and over 150 bands performing.

“I expect we will have over 1,000 people inside Emo’s at any given time and 500 at Beauty Ballroom,” he said. “We will hit capacity in both rooms during headliners.”

Doug Guller, owner of the live music venue The Parish, said the venue will host about 250 artists and expects 15,000 customers throughout the week.

“SXSW is the biggest month of the year for us,” Guller said. “It makes a big impact on our yearly bottom line.”

Although they said tickets usually sell out for the shows, both Guller and Bennet said drink purchases are where most of the revenue comes into their business.

“During the interactive parts of SXSW a lot of the revenue comes from our room rentals,” Guller said. “During the music parts, though, most of the money is from drinks.”

Computer science sophomore Blake Ellingham said he plans to attend concerts everyday during SXSW. He said even when he goes to free shows he spends a substantial amount of money.

“I budget for about $50 a day for just food and random stuff,” he said. “I hope to catch free shows, but I’ll pay an extra $10 for small shows and might splurge and pay $40 for some bigger shows.”

Printed on Friday, March 9, 2012 as: SXSW shows deliver large profits, Austin businesses to benefit