SXSW is known far and wide by techies, film aficionados and music fanatics. The annual two-week long conference is where Hanson, John Mayer and James Blunt were discovered and signed, where Twitter gained its user traction (though sadly, it was not launched here), where Foursquare was launched (SXSW can claim that one), where Bridesmaids first premiered and the only place where in 2013, Grumpy Cat was more important than Elon Musk and Al Gore.
It’s a weird time down in the Capital of Texas when some 60,000 people take over downtown Austin, vying for free drinks, chatting about good ideas and soaking up the city’s notoriously sunny weather.
So who are these 60,000 people anyway? You might follow a few editors and programmers on social media who keep tweeting about the upcoming madness — but what’s their story? Who is it that really braves the traffic and the heat? Who are these people obsessed with all things tech, music and film?
So glad you asked.
Umbel’s smart data platform has gathered the social identities of more than 8,000 people who have RSVPed to the SXSW kickoff party (#UmbelVoxKickoff), and using them as a sample, we’ve found that the crowd aggregating deep in the heart of Texas is fun, funny and pretty freakin’ interesting.
Beginning March 3 through March 12, covering the course of SXSW Interactive, we’ll be tweeting a data-point-a-day about the 10,000 people whose social identities we’ve captured (with their permission of course!). For us, these data points are just top down views on the SXSW audience, but for your company, it could very well be what you use to propel 2014 into your most profitable one yet.
Wednesday, March 12
— Umbel (@Umbel) March 12, 2014
Whether you’ve already come to Austin for SXSW and headed back home (SXSWi is ending today, after all), or if you’ve just landed and are gearing up for the music festival days ahead — the airline you took to get down to Texas probably weighs pretty heavily on your overall experience. The lines out at Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport get longer than those waiting for tickets to Fader Fort this time of year — resulting in grumpy passengers, tired employees and a whole lot of hassle.
Yet, despite the airport hustle and bustle, one airline tops them all when it comes to SXSW attendees — a full 11% of them are fans of Southwest Airlines. Virgin America comes in second with 5% of the audience, followed by American Airlines with 4% and then JetBlue with 3%. Southwest is the official airline of Texas — headquartered in Dallas — and is known for being the only airline to carry Dr Pepper, have the crew burst out in song and typically has the lowest number of complaints in the airline industry.
Touche, Southwest. Looks like that Texas charm really does get you places.
Tuesday, March 11
— Umbel (@Umbel) March 11, 2014
Drones, prime, a massive collection of online, and strangely accurate, reviews — Amazon rules when it comes to originality, e-commerce and tech. And though there has been lots of talk around the online behemoth and it’s powers of putting the local guys out of business, the lack of security breeches and the insanely timeliness of the company’s deliveries keeps customers coming back again and again and again.
It’s no wonder that the tech savvy folks at SXSW prefer Amazon over any other shopping option, both on and offline. With 14% of the audience on Amazon’s side, only Target even comes close to competing (with 9% of the audience) — and it’s probably because as tech savvy as those at SXSW are, they are also pretty fashion-forward. After all, they are the ones pushing for wearable tech that doesn’t look like your dog’s chew toy.
Monday, March 10
— Umbel (@Umbel) March 10, 2014
Austin may be the Live Music Capital of the World — which means small bands, espeically local ones, get pretty high priority for filling slots in bars when it isn’t SXSW — but that doesn’t mean the SXSW audience skirts the bigger names. With the excitement surrounding Lady Gaga opening the music half of the conference, and her having to play at Stubbs instead of her preferred choice of parking lot (safety first, people!), it’s clear that big names mean big business even in a city where local usually reigns.
But, despite Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga and the hoards of other big names making a SXSW prescene, the SXSW audience has a high affinity for Radiohead — and 16% of thsoe attending “like” the band on Facebook. The Beatles follow closely behind with 15% of the audience, The Black Keys 14% and both MGMT and Kings of Leon come in with 11%.
Sunday, March 9
— Umbel (@Umbel) March 9, 2014
If you think Texans are boastful outside of their state, imagine the rivalries that go on within it. Texans are bred with a pride that outshines even the U.S.A’s — and the state’s biggest, longstanding rivalry rests on the laurels of football between Texas’ two biggest universities — Texas A&M And University of Texas.
Though the two schools no longer play one another each year (that’s a story for another day– but bet your bottom dollar it is based on pride and stubbornness on the part of both the schools), Aggie jokes still abound in Austin. Perhaps that’s why so few Aggies come around…
Saturday, March 8
— Umbel (@Umbel) March 8, 2014
Mobile content and advertising may be all the rage for websites, publishers and ad companies, but most SXSW attendees are using their desktops (most likely at work) to RSVP for their parties. Of course, a few years ago, the 33% using a device other than a desktop was non-existent, save for BlackBerry users. It might not be the biggest percentage, but we’re going to place bets now that this time next year, desktop v. mobile will be waging a war, coming out about 50/50 on who uses what to RSVP.
As far as this year in concerned though, there is already a clear winner when it comes to browsers and sorry Apple — it isn’t yours. Google’s Chrome is the preferred browser service, claiming 41% of the audience. Safari comes in second, but as a dismal 10%.
Friday, March 7
— Umbel (@Umbel) March 7, 2014
President Obama is the most tech-savvy president in recent history (hey, he didn’t build the Obamacare site!) — and he has a particular penchant for viral selfies with people like Prime Minister David Cameron and all-around-cool-guy Bill Nye.
So, an astrophysicist, an engineer, and the President of the United States walk into The Blue Room…. http://t.co/qoB5exZCbH
— Bill Nye (@TheScienceGuy) February 28, 2014
Techies live and breathe the web, so any public figure that might Tweet out the latest photo craze is sure to be on the “followed” list of those attending SXSW (at least 18% of them, the most of any other politician) — whether they agree with his politics or not.
It does seem, though, that the SXSW crowd leans left, given that the second most liked politician within the 10,000 person sample is Wendy Davis (at 13%). Of course, maybe it just has to do with Wendy’s non-major-media covered filibuster, that you could only watch via the Texas Tribune’s YouTube stream. And you had to do some digging to even find that.
Of course, surfing the Internet for the next big thing is kind of the SXSW-goer’s superhero talent. So, it’s cool major media outlets. These savvy folks can find the news, even if you don’t report it.
Thursday, March 6
— Umbel (@Umbel) March 6, 2014
SXSW or not, Austin is a drinking town. The city boasts 10 different breweries, 8 local distilleries and 4 nationwide distributors that have chosen the capital of Texas as their headquarters. The Lone Star State already has an affinity for its state-based beer, most notably Shiner and Lone Star — but in Austin, even state beer is too big an operation for local tastebuds.
With so many Austin options as far as your drink of preference, it’s hard to get everyone to agree on a local winner. But, the SXSW data we’ve collected has spotted one…
Congrats, Deep Eddy Vodka! 16% of SXSW-goers like this Austin-based vodka brand on Facebook. Their closest competitor? Dos Equis at 6% of the audience.
Wednesday, March 5
— Umbel (@Umbel) March 5, 2014
SXSW is notorious for free drinks, free food and free concerts — but be prepared to show ID at each event. While only 8% of those going to SXSW are below 21 (averaging 20-years-old overall), the event consistently lands during the same time as The University of Texas’ spring break. For many college-aged kids, spring break means trips to Mexico or Florida, but in Austin, students stick around to welcome the out-of-towners and get a leg up in the tech industry. Attending SXSW at a young age definitely isn’t a bad thing, but bouncers have to up their ID-checking ante to make sure no one under the age gets served any free drinks.
In other words, keep your ID handy as you approach the door — and put your “Im so flattered” face on for if, and when, you get carded.
Tuesday, March 4
— Umbel (@Umbel) March 4, 2014
In 2005, Liz Lawley, professor of Interactive Game & Media at Rochester Institute of Technology, wrote a blog post that, at the time, shook the technology industry. It detailed her decision to attend SXSW over eTech — and based her reasoning almost entirely on the large female presence found at the former event.
“At SXSW, in contrast, strong and wonderful women were everywhere. I don’t recall seeing a single all-male panel. When I hung out in the hotel bar, my companions were mostly women. When I went to the evening parties, everywhere I looked there were other women.”
Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive took notice, and in 2006, he made a crucial, conference-changing move: he invited the almost entirely female digital blogging platform BlogHer to produce a track of programming aimed at bringing in more female speakers.
As of 2014, the audience is fully 50% female and 50% male — the most diverse, or perhaps we should say equal, gender division in the tech industry.
Monday, March 3
— Umbel (@Umbel) March 3, 2014
Find yourself single at SXSW? Don’t worry — you’re in the majority! Of those who are single and will be attending SXSW, 61% are women and 39% are men. A few other interesting details: the group averages an age of 31 with a household income of $82,000. Not terrible odds, if you ask us.