Austin is gearing up for several large events in its near future—namely, the U.S. Grand Prix and the ACL music festival—but one annual conference continues to be the heaviest hitter in the city.
On Thursday, it was revealed that 2012 was the biggest year in South by Southwest’s history. The annual music, film and tech conference gobbled up even more of the city and raked in $190 million for Austin, more than ever before.
"Registrants grew by 15 percent (between 2011 and 2012). That took total attendees for SXSW in 2012 to over 300,000," Ben Loftsgaarden with Greyhill Advisers said. "We saw 20 percent growth in interactive attendance from 2011 to 2012."
The $190 million total tops this year’s Super Bowl in Indianapolis by $40 million.
"We've kind of got our own little Super Bowl of culture and creativity going on here every year," SXSW Executive Director Mike Shea said.
And in its 26 years, South by Southwest has also grown a reputation.
"Increasingly, individuals, managers, executives from companies in the music, film and interactive industries are making SXSW a must-attend priority," Loftsgaarden said.
"That's what's important to me, is that we put on this event and people feel and experience Austin the way we want them to," Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez said. "When you're on the world stage like we are during South-By and now with Formula One and with ACL Fest, it attracts even more attention to Austin."
The South by Southwest conference is also a significant local employer year-round. The conference and festival has about 120 full-time employees with about 50 more temporary workers during the event.