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SXSW Interactive registration prices soar again, outpacing rest of the fest

Technology portion of the South by Southwest Festival shows no signs of slowing down.

Omar L. Gallaga

For the second year in a row, South by Southwest Interactive Festival registration prices have increased sharply in comparison with the rest of the fest.

For 2012, early-bird registration, which ends on Sept. 23, has risen from last year's $450 to $595, an increase of about 32 percent. Walk-up rates for SXSW Interactive — the price attendees will pay for a festival badge after Feb. 10 — rose $200, from $750 to $950, a nearly 27 percent increase over 2011 rates.

The rate increase reflects the Interactive Festival's increasing stature in the tech industry and its rapid growth. For the 2011 festival, which was held in Austin in March, paid attendance for interactive was officially 19,364, up from last year's 14,251. That number included gold and platinum badge holders who had access to SXSW Interactive.

SXSW Interactive 2012 runs March 9-13.

The festival has struggled with growing pains as the rise of the social media industry and the public's fetish for smartphones and gadgets have made it a hot destination.

Festival organizers implemented a system of spread-out campuses for panels and ran a shuttle for 2011, but some panels were still too full to accommodate those in line, and there was a shortage of hotel rooms for the entire festival.

For the first time, the SXSW interactive and music early-bird registrations cost the same. Interactive walk-up rates are higher than those for music by $200. Interactive rates also rose dramatically last year, when the walk-up rate jumped from $550 in 2010 to $750, in part to try to curb a surge of late registration that led to overcrowding the year before, festival officials said at the time.

Music registration prices for 2012 stayed flat: $595 for early-bird registration and $750 for walk-up. Film registration rates rose slightly, from $375 to $395 for early-bird registration and $550 to $595 over 2011.

The interactive rate increase also affects gold (access to film and interactive) and platinum (access to all three festivals) badge registration. Gold early-bird goes from $650 to $795, and walk-up increases from $950 to $1,150. Platinum increases from $900 to $995 for early-bird and from $1,250 to $1,395 for walk-up, a nearly 12 percent increase.

For the 2011 festival, there was some talk of capping attendance for interactive, but that idea was eventually shelved. Fest organizers have not said whether that will happen for the 2012 fest.

The SXSW Interactive website goes live on Monday. The site is in "soft launch" until then. Pages for the SXSW Accelerator, a startup competition, have launched, and the festival is accepting Interactive Awards nominations.

Thursday, SXSW announced its interactive opening keynote speaker, Baratunde Thurston, best known for his comedy work with The Onion.

SXSW Interactive registration prices

For the lowest-priced interactive badge:

2009:$375 early-bird, $495 walk-up

2010:$395 early-bird, $550 walk-up

2011: $450 early-bird, $750 walk-up

2012:$595 early-bird, $950 walk-up

UPDATE: As originally published, this story incorrectly stated that Hugh Forrest, director of the Interactive Festival, declined to comment on the rate increases. His comments can be read here.