Organizing events as large and complex as the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences & Festivals requires a huge army of volunteers. In fact, the 2013 SXSW Fest involved the hard work of more than 3,900 volunteers.
For people who want to work in the field of event production, volunteering at SXSW is a great way in, say SXSW veterans Dempsey Jones and Gene Butler.
Jones is a SXSW Volunteer Coordinator and SXSWfm Music Coordinator, and Butler is an Event Production Coordinator for SXSW. Butler, a longtime events production and management professional, also works with the Austin Hot Sauce Festival, Texas Tribune Festival and Bonnaroo.
Jones and Butler spoke about volunteering at SXSW in a panel discussion with Full Sail Music Business grad Chris Martingnago and Event Management Course Director Jamie Elasick, both of whom volunteered with SXSW in the past.
Volunteer sign-up for 2014 begins in November at the volunteer.sxsw.com website, and volunteer prospects must choose between joining the production crew or the conference crew. Volunteers earn perks, depending on their crew and hours worked.
During the panel, Jones and Butler, both of whom work with the conference crews, discussed the pros and cons of each track.
“I’ll admit I’m biased toward the conference side, because that’s what I’ve always done. It gives you the most flexibility,” says Butler. “But for those of you who are interested in the music industry, I highly suggest going to work on some of the stage crews because you will actually work a functioning stage, dealing with the bands.”
Martingnago, who worked on the conference crew, points out that both experiences have value for recent grads: “The people who are in the industry and doing things are there,” says Martingnago. “Just that whole networking factor was a huge, huge thing for me.