Courtesy Brittany Ryan
As per a city policy passed in January, venues holding South By Southwest Music and Media Conference events this year are subject to more stringent sound ordinances than in the past.
Under the new policy, venues must submit sound permit applications 21 days prior to the event for 24-hour permits and 30 days prior for multiday permits. In previous years, the city required no deadline to obtain permits, though multiday permits required a 14-day notification period.
Last fall, the city’s Music Commission recommended the new deadlines to the City Council. The new permitting process was created in response to the disorganization around last year’s festival.
“It was kind of a mess last year,” Music Program Manager Don Pitts said. “A significant number of applications came in with days and, in some cases, hours before the last possible minute. There was absolutely no way that we could effectively evaluate these events.”
The deadline to submit a temporary event sound permit application for SXSW-related events was Feb. 27. Approved SXSW sound permits will be available March 7 through the Development Assistance Center, 505 Barton Springs Road. Payment for permits will be due at the time of pickup.
The City of Austin has approved 83 out of 95 temporary event sound permit applications, the Music Division announced March 2. Final numbers indicate a 36 percent increase in multiday permits since last year.
In addition to the new deadlines, the permitting process required participating venues to complete a Temporary Event Impact Plan. The plan combines reviews from the city’s Music Office and the Office of Special Events. To complete the plan, venues must have met requirements for sound mitigation, parking, loading, peace officers and exit signs, among other factors.
One of the goals for these changes is allowing the city to collaborate further with both venues and the city’s emergency departments, Pitts said.
“We said from the beginning that we wanted to have more collaboration with the venues and event planners, and we have,” Pitts said. “On the other side, it allowed us the time for collaboration with Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Department, [and] Emergency Medical Service, which is the way it should be, [since] it’s those departments who really need to know what’s going on.”
The city plans to be more proactive in monitoring parties by enacting a more thorough planning process to track and control events.
“We obviously want to keep the maverick feel of the city during SXSW, and our approach acknowledges that,” Pitts said. “The focus was planning, and then plan some more, and be prepared for anything to happen.”
The city’s interdepartmental one-step review team consists of personnel from Music, fire, police, Emergency Medical Services and Code Compliance departments, as well as the 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 dial 311, the city's service request line.