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SXSW Multi-day Sound Permits Leap By a Third

Despite new restrictions, multi-day sound permits are more popular this year than in 2011.
Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News
Despite new restrictions, multi-day sound permits are more popular this year than in 2011.

After a rowdier than normal South by Southwest last year, the city sought ways to “prune it back a little bit” in 2012, says city Music Office director Don Pitts.

A trifecta of high-profile incidents marred SXSW in 2011: a crane-camera fall at Stubb’s BBQ; crowds rushing gates at Auditorium Shores at a free concert by The Strokes; and an agitated crowd's  attempt to tear down a fence at the Beauty Bar during Death From Above 1979’s set. The bedlam inspired an April Fool's Day prank from the Austin Chronicle suggesting events be moved to a self-contained dome, and Pitts pitched a proposal to “dial it back” next year.

As a result, this year the rules have changed. Promoters had to apply for sound permits up to a month in advance.

Pitts says the new application deadlines made it easier for them to ensure show promoters were code compliant. He says even something as small as having enough porta-potties can change the psychology of a crowd. “So if you have an event that doesn’t have adequate bathrooms, adequate trash cans and adequate infrastructure, they’re going to behave a certain way.”

Pitts says the city also tried to move events that didn’t work at certain locations, or they told promoters to scale it down by changing event times or not serving alcohol. He says the changes “prune it back a little bit but not cut it back too much.”

But Pitts doesn’t need to worry about cutting too deep: The number of multi-day sound permits issued this year are up by 36 percent. More than two-thirds are for non-official SXSW events. The number of single-day permits dipped slightly.

You can read more below from the city on SXSW permitting.

For immediate release March 2, 2012 City sees steady increase in SXSW multi-day events In preparation for SXSW, the City of Austin approved 83 out of 95 temporary event sound permit applications; final numbers indicate a 36% increase in multi-day permits since last year. A growing trend indicates venues are opting to host multi-day (2-4 days) live outdoor music during SXSW. This year 61 venues will host multi-day showcases, versus last year’s 45. Earlier this year, the city announced a new application process for temporary event sound permit applications. New requirements include a 21-day application deadline for one-day events and 30 days for multi-day events. The Music Office is required to create a temporary event impact plan for each event which undergoes a one-step review process by a city team to ensure promoters address areas of fire, safety, sound, traffic, security, crowd control and recycling. The deadline to submit a temporary event sound permit application for SXSW-related events was Mon, Feb 27. Approved SXSW sound permits will be available on Tues, March 7 through the Development Assistance Center, 505 Barton Springs Road. Payment for permits will be due at the time of pickup. The City’s interdepartmental one-step review team consists of personnel from Music, Fire, Police, Emergency Medical Services, Code Compliance, Office of Special Events, Planning and Development Review, and Austin Resource Recovery. To register any loud music complaints during or after SXSW, residents are encouraged to contact 3-1-1. 

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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