SXSW — another year, another great conference. I honestly did not see a lot of music this year, because for me it was more important to connect and re-connect with friends and clients, to share a moment with the people in my life that matter to me the most.
And this year, I think the fever broke for Interactive, but Music felt bigger than ever. A lot of the brands scaled back their efforts (Hewlett-Packard’s RV space was a no-show, Google Village was instead on one space right next to the convention center, Pepsi did not host their block party, Nike wasn’t launching their Fuel Band this year), and the massive growth in private tech parties disbursed the crowds into smaller groups. But music was one massive line after another for the more popular shows.
Amidst all the noise, I found it easier to deliberately catch up with handfuls of friends, rather than go whitewater rafting up & down Red Rover & Sixth Street in hopes of seeing [band x]. If my sole goal had been to see this band at this place at this time, I would have been soooo pissed. As in any festival situation, set times became askew, and the sound mix wasn’t always to the bands’ favor. Also, it’s hard to be VIP on a party list 10,000 deep.
But as a means of being amongst peers, sharing a good time and remembering what we’re all in this business for, SXSW delivered in spades. Speaking of, watch Dave Grohl’s keynote when you get an hour to spare.
Band-wise, buzz ran the gamut from Marnie Stern and Alt-J to Jim James and Haim, Dawes, Von Grey, Rhye, Royal Teeth, Jake Bugg, Boy, Toy, Gold Fields, Lonely Wild, Joy Formidable, Virginmarys, Phosphorescent, Reignwolf, and whomever your friend is raving about this morning. And Fitz & the Tantrums, the only established act I saw, get even better every time I see them.
Sponsorships are OUT, experiences are IN — paying some outrageous sum just to have your logo on an email + a table in the back of the room ain’t gonna cut it anymore, you have to use that event to make an impact on the attendees.
Keggers with music so loud / in a room so dark that you can’t find or speak with anyone are OUT. Private gatherings with decent food & drink for a handful of uniquely affiliated strangers and clients are IN. Or maybe I’m just growing up.
Next time you put down some serious dollars behind any event any where, you better make sure every penny counts. And if you are a band trying to be noticed amongst the hundreds of others playing next door to you, be sure to bring your A-Game and roll with the chaos, because as imperfect a setup as it may be, SXSW may be your best chance in getting noticed by that music supervisor who happened to catch your show while waiting for their First Choice to play next.