3 Main Festivals and a Variety of new Smaller Festivals Make up the Austin Music Festival Scene

Widely recognized as the music capital of not only the state of Texas, but perhaps the country, Austin’s music festivals are not to be missed. Its ongoing focus on promoting music, not only through festivals, but year round, enables city’s music scene to remain vibrant and continue its growth, with new festivals being added each year.

Three core festivals-South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin City Limits, and Old Settler’s Days-make up the essence of Austin’s festival season. These festivals, as well as an ever-expanding retinue of new festivals, continue the tradition of placing Austin front and center as a true music destination.

South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (March)
Featuring more than 1,800 music performances of all types from around the world , the SXSW Music and Media Conference is a legendary Austin event. The music takes place on more than 80 stages and other music venues throughout downtown Austin, with the greatest concentration focused on Red River and Sixth Streets.

South by Southwest (or SXSW), started out as a music and media event in the late 1980s, and now includes both a film festival and a new media conference in its growing program. While a fair amount of wheeling and dealing in the music business occurs during the day, the amazing range of concerts gives SXSW a definite festival feel.

During the day, the Convention Center in Austin is center stage for those in the music business. Conference attendees flood the trade show, which features a full agenda of informative (sometimes provocative) panel discussions that include hundreds of speakers from the music industry, making it a premier event for industry folks as well as average music lovers. It’s no surprise then that the SXSW is a highlight on the international music calendar.

Austin City Limits Music Festival (October)
The annual three-day festival, Austin City Limits Music Festival is held in Zilker Park, where more than 130 musical presentations are spread out among 8 stages and offer a range of music, from reggae to hip hop, blue grass to hard rock. A spin-off from the famed PBS series, Austin City Limits, what once was a festival featuring local performers has become as legendary as Bonaroo.

With its downtown location in Zilker Park, festival goers find that the entertainment often carries on long past festival hours, as bands jam into nearby music venues in the city in after-shows that bring the music down to a more intimate level. This festival also has the advantage of timing, as it comes (typically) after the summer Texas heat has subsided.

Old Settler’s Music Festival (April)
Old Settler’s Music Festival differs from other Austin music festivals largely in its orientation, which is largely designated as roots or Americana music. Held at the Salt Lick Pavilion and at Camp Ben McCulloch, the nationally recognized music festival is laid back and family friendly.

It offers the unique distinction of being held during the peak of the bluebonnet and wildflower season, making its Texas Hill Country location even better.

Most festival goers to the Old Settler’s Music Festival enjoy outdoor camping at Camp Ben McCulloch, and events revolve around campers. Festival goers enjoy more than 20 musical acts performing on 4 stages, as well as interactive events like performance workshops, arts and crafts, and a talent competition for the young (among other kids activities).

New Festivals Expand the Austin Music Scene
Minor festivals continue to develop and grow as Austin lends itself to a continuing (and expanding audience) for all types of music. In addition, many of the festivals benefit charities in the Austin area.

Austin Reggae Festival (April)
Held in Auditorium Shores, this weekend festival is also a great fundraiser for Austin’s Capital Area Food Bank.

Austin Urban Festival (April)
Begun in 2006, the one-day Austin Urban Festival has captured a distinctively different vibe from other Austin music festivals. Strengthening each year as it develops, it has a strong list of performances by African American artists and benefits the Soul Tree Collective.

Red Gorilla Music Fest (March)
Seeking to showcase new and emerging talent, this two day show features 500 artists playing on 10 stages. The festival’s stated mission is to promote up-and-coming music in all genres by helping independent artists gain exposure to and awareness of industry, performance, product, and marketing.