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SXSW 2017: What to Expect at Austin’s Biggest Festival of the Year

In a scaled-back year, here are the brands aiming to make an impression on attendees and those participating virtually.

By Nadia Chaudhury March 6, 2017, 7:15 AM EST

Amazon Prime Video’s Resistance Radio Network activation, promoting its show The Man in the High Castle, will take place on the rooftop of Market & Tap in downtown Austin.

Rendering: Courtesy of NVE

South by Southwest is taking over Austin next week for the 31st edition of the sprawling conference and festival, which runs from March 10 to 19.

This year marks a major change in the way guests enter the festival. Badge holders for specific tracts—interactive, film, or music—will be able to take advantage of other programming sections through secondary access. Platinum badges still offer all-inclusive access to all programming, and every person will be able to attend the gaming portion. The music portion is also extended by an extra day.

Brands are scaling back their efforts, as well. Spotify isn't producing its Spotify House event this year, opting for a more low-key presence. It will curate a special SXSW hub within the music app, which will also be accessible through the festival’s official app. Likewise, Hype Hotel, a collaboration from music app Hype Machine that in the past has featured Taco Bell’s container restaurant, is not returning.

Similarly, though not officially affiliated with SXSW, the Fader Fort is downsizing its typically sprawling festival. Its former venue, Pine Street Station, is being redeveloped, and the music publication opted to host a intimate event at a smaller venue, Volcom Garden. Only hand-picked guests received invitations, while others can experience it through a stream on its website.

Other brands are going big with engaging activations. Amazon Prime Video is erecting what it calls the Resistance Radio Headquarters, promoting the streaming service’s hit series The Man in the High Castle. Along with the radio setup, there will be a pop-up store, bar, and musical performances at the downtown venue Market & Tap. Amazon will promote other shows in the space as well.

Television network TNT is fashioning a pop-up beach for its series Animal Kingdom. The centerpiece of the Southern California-inspired event will be a surf wave pool, where participants can test out their board skills.

Since Uber and Lyft do not operate in the city because of local regulations, Mazda, the festival’s official car sponsor, is offering free rides to people who pre-register online. CNN, Fast Company, Visa, Collide, General Electrics, and many others are hosting events and activations, as well.

Last year, more than 140,000 people came to SXSW, with organizers estimating an economic impact of $325.3 million on the city.

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