As an official SXSW registrant, your first task after checking in your hotel is to go to the Convention Center and pick up your official badge. Task 1B is to go downstairs afterward and pick up your swag bag.
Over the years, I have learned you can tell a fair bit about both the music business and the world from these giveaways.
Take this year's for example. For starters, it feels perhaps a full half-pound lighter than last year's. And then there is this:
What is the deal with that strap on the bag on the right? (The one on the left is from several years ago.) Only the most waiflike among us can sling that over our shoulder. Are times so dire strap material is too dear to lavish upon attendees?
I'm not too fond of this year's design either. Maybe that's because I had a nightmare about giant monkeys the other night.
Anyway, on to the contents. First off, as with every year, there is a vast heap of crap nobody wants. This constitutes probably 45 percent of the bag's total weight.
Another 45 percent consists of magazines nobody reads, like so.
Eight percent of the bag's volume consists of official SXSW publications, some of which have some utility. That big directory you see there, the one they want $40 to replace if you lose? I've never used it even once.
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Which leaves us with the remaining 2 percent - the stuff you might want or need like gum, snack bars, condoms, $5 off your next purchase at Lids, a free drink coupon, a bottle opener, press-on tats, and "Entertainer's Secret" throat relief (trust us - even if you only sing in the shower, by Saturday at SXSW, your throat will be as dinged and parched as the Fallujah-Baghdad Highway.)
Overall, the Swag Bag Connoisseur can only in good faith give this bag a D+. The grade would be a full letter higher were it not for those stupid inadequate shoulder straps.