Should I get a badge, wristband or neither?
SXSW was conceived as a gathering for the music industry, complete with a trade show, seminars on everything from how to book tours to how to keep a band's books, and ... oh yeah, some bands to listen to that the execs might want to sign. Also a big part of the conference is the press contingent, who come to see buzz bands and discover newcomers for themselves.
BADGES: The badge was created for this type of attendee. As recently as 2000, it was only $225, but for 2008, a badge bought in the first period after they went on sale cost $425. After about a month it went up to $500, then up to a max of $600 at the door. The badge gets you first access to all clubs ahead of wristbands or those paying covers. Badge holders can walk up to a club that has an opening for just one person, and even if there are 500 wristband holders in line who have all been there waiting 3 hours, the badge holder goes in. The badge also provides access to the convention center, which gives you access to the trade show, keynote and other speakers, seminars, networking groups, etc. They go on sale in September.
WRISTBANDS: Because SXSW was taking over all the clubs in town for a week, the conference decided to add the wristband as an option for Austin residents. It started out really cheap, but is now up to about $150 (changes every year, and like badges, go up in steps over time). They don't go on sale until February, the exact date kept secret these days as the demand for them has gone up so dramatically. Also badge holders can buy one wristband for the mid-range price.
NEITHER: Each club that hosts SXSW showcases also admits those who just want to pay a cover. These covers range from $15 or so to as high as $50 (for Elvis Costello a couple years back). But that cover is good for the whole night. Usually six bands, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Even clubs that have high-demand acts playing at 11 or 12, will be easy to get into at 8, which is what you might have to do to get in to see a hot act without a badge or wristband. You have to stay in that one club all night, but it's an option. With all the free day parties, if you were to pay $15-20 covers for four nights of six-hour showcases, you'd be getting a great deal.