SXSW volunteers rewarded with festival badges


South by Southwest (SXSW) is the popular Austin festival that best represents the city. The interactive, music, film and comedy showcases are all completely unique and require mass amounts of man-hours to put each into motion.

This year over 3,000 volunteers made up the SXSW volunteer staff team. These people are compensated for their hours by receiving the perk of their choice. Each perk varies in relation to the hours you volunteer. The highest honor volunteers can receive is a Volunteer Platinum Badge if they work 80 or more hours and are a returning volunteer. The Platinum Badge granted full access to all the events sponsored by SXSW and was worth $1,695 this year.

Volunteers are able to choose their area of work. Production volunteers are only able to work with one crew and must complete a certain number of shifts. Conference volunteers may choose three different crews to work with.

While volunteering for SXSW can be an enjoyable way to spend your spring break, I can say from personal experience it is definitely hard work. The crew you choose shapes your experience. While my work with the Promotional Materials Crew did not sound like the most exciting choice, the crew chiefs proved to be some of the nicest and most encouraging people to work under. My shifts were seven hours each, but the time passed quickly. 

However, while The Comedy Crew seems like it would consist of laid back people who enjoy a good laugh, I found it was managed by a crew chief that does not treat volunteers well under pressure. The Comedy Crew chief would often talk to senior volunteers like children, and take away worked hours for seemingly personal dislike.

“I thought the crew chiefs would at least be funny,” Vivian Le, a senior, said regarding the Comedy Crew.

There are also many crews involving the awards shows celebrating the artists of SXSW. For the Austin Music Awards, volunteers are often asked to dress formally to escort the award winners to the ceremony. If you enjoy dressing up and meeting celebrities this is definitely the crew to choose.

Volunteering is not only open to people that live in Austin, but to out-of-towners as well. These volunteers are immediately at a disadvantage by not being able to attend the pre-SXSW training two weeks before, which volunteers receive credit hours for attending.

Kayla Sklar, an out of town volunteer from Minnesota, worked to receive a film badge.

“It is just not worth it for out of town volunteers. The time I’ve spent working has limited the amount of films I was able to see. I also spent more money on hotels and food then if I only came to Austin for the days of the films I wanted to see and bought a badge myself,” Sklar said. 

Although volunteering does get you a free badge, there is a price to pay. Those willing to work hard and who find the right crew for their personality usually end up becoming returning volunteers with life long memories.