SXSW is a month away, are you ready? You’ve got your bands booked at the right venues and the right parties, but do you have a plan in place to exploit those appearances outside the 512? Do you have space on the guest list to invite non-industry fans via Twitter and Facebook promotions? Do you have your team in place to stream content live via Ustream and archive a couple extra pieces on YouTube? Do you have a scavenger hunt set up via Foursquare check-ins? Will you have an event-specific signed poster to hand out to anyone who checks in via Gowalla?
SXSW has always been the launchpad for the Next Big Thing in music, but ever since Twitter emerged in 2007, SXSW has become the launchpad for the Next Big Thing in technology. Mark it — this year, I put my money on INSTAGRAM being the Belle of the Ball for 2011.
Sure, Tumblr and Quora and Reddit and Groupon have seen *explosive* growth in the past year, but Instagram has everything that will make it 2011′s Next Big Thing — it’s social, mobile, location-enabled, short-form (140 characters? try 0 characters — it’s all pix!), and fun as hell to use. Plus, going into Austin with tons of goodwill and nearly 2 million users since launching less than 6 months ago, they got it. Seriously, this is the third time I’ve mentioned Instagram in the past 60 days — get on it, play with it, start encouraging followers to build hashtags around your bands, and use those groupings to build followings and create promotions.
And if you ever want to know how to ruin a brand, go to the Comic-Con Facebook fan page and read the *tons* of posts related to this weekend’s on-sale (click on the wall text that says “Comic-Con + others” to see all the wall posts). While the entire concert and ticketing industry was out here for the Pollstar conference, Comic-Con had 35 years of goodwill flushed down the toilet by a horrendous ticketing experience.
Comic-Con has long been THE mecca for comic book and sci-fi lovers. I always heard about Comic-Con while reading comics as a kid in Alabama, and finally started going annually after moving out here 10 years ago. In recent years the attendance has *exploded* to 125,000, and has been selling out quicker and quicker. For some people that make the annual pilgrimage, this is their only vacation — fly to San Diego, stay in a cheap hotel near Sea World, buy a bunch of limited edition plastic dolls that never leave the packaging, wait in line for two hours to see Joss Wheadon talk about the next generation of “Buffy,” and brag about it to their friends for the next 362 days of the year.
This year, Comic-Con chose ticketing company TicketLeap to handle online fulfillment. Let me repeat that — they chose an Amazon-cloud based company to handle fulfillment for a *half million* 4-day and single-day passes. After two failed attempts late last year and a recent limited test run, Comic-Con went full-on with the onsale at 9am PST this past Saturday morning.
Talk about a complete cluster — “over capacity” messages showed up by 9:01, “down for maintenance” messages by 9:05. And if by chance you got to an order screen (it helped to open multiple windows), you’d get hit with an “over capacity” screen when you clicked “proceed with order.” Then someone figured out that instead of closing the window, you just keep hitting refresh until you got a check-out screen. Type in credit card info, hit enter — another “over capacity” screen! Hit refresh until you finally get a confirmation page, with no idea how many times your credit card just got pinged. WOW.
Click on this link to see the whole path above visualized — unbelievable.
Twitter and Facebook went alight with people SCREAMING at Comic-Con for messing this up so badly. I was lucky enough to get tickets within an hour (note to self, hit up movie studio pals next year), but most fans were shut out. How Comic-Con deals with this moving forward will be interesting, especially as word gets out to the mainstream press.
Lesson learned? You pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Choose your partners wisely — say what you will about Ticketmaster’s insane fees (trust me, we all do every day), at least their system works.