It’s been called the biggest industry party in the world — nearly
150,000 attendees, 80-plus venues, and more than 1,800 acts, including
Ben Harper this year. But SXSW veterans know the annual
music-and-more festival’s most talked-about events often belong to no
industry at all. Unofficial film screenings and seat-of-the-pants jam sessions
draw clusters of festivalgoers to clothing stores and parking lots
across the city. Last year, while brands like Xbox 360 and Rock Band
pushed their wares at official parties, others including Red Bull and
Scion were hanging around (and hosting) unofficial gatherings. All this
big-brand marketing, at an event once dominated by boutique record
labels and niche music mags, may leave a bad taste in some purists’
mouths. But take it from us: It’s nothing a free Red Bull can’t wash
away. — Clay Dillow
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