How To Listen To a Ton of Free Music from South By Southwest (SXSW)

Between festival downloads and concert streams, you'll be set for hours and hours of listening

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Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

Sharon Van Etten performs at the 2012 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival Day 6 on Mar. 14, 2012, in Austin.

Is TIME’s complete coverage of SXSW 2013 not enough for you? Yeah, we know, it would be nice to be there in person, but—at least when it comes to the music portion of the festival, which runs through Mar. 17—there are plenty of ways to tune in at home to the nearly 1,300 bands who are playing over the course of this week.

(MOREHey, Musicians: 10 Ways Not to Screw Up at South By Southwest (SXSW))

For the Listener Looking for a Guaranteed Good, Potential-Next-Big-Thing Experience:

NPR’s All Songs Considered is pretty much the top tastemaker at SXSW at this point, and the showcases they put together are a good mix of already-hip names and those you’ll hear about soon. Last year, their live shows included Alabama Shakes, Dan Deacon and Sharon Van Etten. This year, the big showcase—which takes place tonight, Mar. 13, at 8:00 Eastern—features Nick Cave, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cafe Tacvba, Alt-J, Youth Lagoon, Waxahatchee and Le1f. You can get the whole thing streamed online, or, you know, on National Public Radio. They’ll also stream Dave Grohl’s Mar. 14 keynote speech. But perhaps the biggest NPR perk is the playlist they call The Austin 100: a legal download  of 100 carefully curated eclectic tracks from SXSW bands.

(MORE9 New Bands to See at South By Southwest)

For the Listener Who Doesn’t Need a Curator: 

There’s lots of material streaming via “SXSWfm” that you can comb through or search for specific artists. You can also check out their list of live streams if there is a specific show you want to watch from afar. There’s also a pretty comprehensive list at Forbes of the independent groups and companies offering streaming content.

For the Listener Interested In Peeking Under the Hood:

The official SXSW page also offers live streams of non-concert music events such as a music-tech demonstration.

(MOREThe 8 Biggest and Buzziest Shows at South By Southwest)

For the Hardcore Download-Happy Listener:

Feel like listening to more than seven gigs of music from SXSW artists, and don’t care about seeing the concerts streamed? As Wired reported in 2010, the festival’s organizers used to make a huge file of music available for attendees to check out before deciding which shows to report, and these days (since 2008) they still provide lots of free samples on the sxsw.com/music, but it requires a lot of effort since each song is listed separately and the bands are sorted by venue and schedule, which is kind of useless to fans who aren’t in Austin.

But someone else has already done that work for you: the folks at the Unofficial SXSW Torrents site have put together those huge files for every year going back to 2005, up to and including 7.39 GB from 2013. But is it legal? Well, the music is available on the legit site, but not in this format. The site’s organizer told Wired that he thinks the festival must be fine with it because he has not been asked to stop, even though the festival’s spokesperson said such a torrent was not part of the agreement with the artists. Online consensus seems to be that the torrent falls into a category that, well, doesn’t actually exist: almost legal.

3 comments
ellak365
ellak365

This is cool! I've never heard of this. Torch Browser has a media grabber button that you can use to download music off youtube so I think I'm going to use that as I've already got it installed.

DavidBurrows
DavidBurrows

Saturday the 16th you can also hear over 12 bands from the official SXSW Party - #R2RLIVE.  Performances begin at 1:00PM CST and continue non-stop until 8:00PM.  Bands include: Kitten, Neo Geo, Larry G, Warren G, Skylar Grey, Trevin Hunte, The Tontons, Bodega Brovas, Zoe Ann and more.  www.R2RLIVE.com