SXSW Day 1 – What’s new?

13 Mar

Well, it’s that time of year again. SXSW! I’m in sunny (thank God) Austin, Texas and ready to rock. Well… sort of. To be honest, I’m sort of over this whole thing. I look back and shake my old lady “get off my lawn” fists while remembering my first few years in 2007-2009 when it was fresh, new, full of friends, and just smaller. Yes, there’s been numerous articles more well-written than this about the same topic, but still, here it is. The whole over-corporatized over-saturated thing is just the tip of why this festival – yes, festival – just isn’t what it should be. Didn’t this used to be a conference? That weird dreaded “I’m going for work” word used by my boss when we’re off to things that I’m generally sort of ambivalent to. Not that there’s not information to be gleaned from said conferences, but festival is just an entirely different connotation.

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Leavin’ on a jet plane…

I had a good conversation on my way to the hotel from the airport with the cabbie. He lamented how SXSW has grown and brought up some good points about the change in attendee, the age gap, and the way it’s no longer about finding and supporting smaller bands and increasingly about pimping bands that already have a following. Why go see some unknown band when you can see Prince?

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My fav! Best Wurst with lots of curry ketchup!

This isn’t to say SXSW has “gone bad” or fails in some way, it’s just that it’s changed and it’s shifted, even in the short seven years I’ve attended things are different. Noticeably different. For some, that’s a great thing. They like having all these crazy big bands around town. They like the free Lone Star and the scramble to get a few free tacos. I’ve been there and that’s completely awesome. BUT. There’s part of me that wants to wander around and find new music by hearing something flowing from a doorway. I know I can still do that, but it’s increasingly harder and harder to get there.

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Yipes! Look who I found wandering around SXSW

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POPE

Now, there are fun things to do here. There are awesome strangers on 6th Street in costume and great posters and some ridiculous music. There are bands I can’t wait to see, the trade show, a few decent-sounding panels, and friends to hang out with. I’m looking forward to all of that. So I can’t say that SXSW has me bummed out, or that I totally don’t want to be here, but it’s just different. Different is ok, but when it begins to sway what used to be an industry conference more toward an all out party-down festival it starts to lose focus. That’s where I start to drift.

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Well, at least I sort of saw Grumpy Cat at SXSW

This year, I’m down here for work. It’s a great job and I’m super excited for the students down here. We’ve got a killer lineup, a great venue, wonderful weather, fun sponsors and I’m really honestly looking forward to our show. Plus, it’s going to be awesome seeing these guys get their confidence going and really put in work to make this show happen. So that’s where the original spirit of SXSW lives on. It’s this new crop of people learning how to run the music industry in its current state. Realizing that things are constantly changing and moving and being able to roll with it. I’m hopeful they learn what they need to do to make their way in this world of music. I think SXSW is still a good step to making that happen. If only to get themselves embedded in the real world and outside the classroom.

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Divine Fits at the Moody ACL Theater

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Cirque du Soleil at the Moody ACL Theater

Today I’m all in. I’m heading over the Convention Center for a panel with Amanda Palmer. We’ve been talking a lot about her Kickstarter and Ted talk in my Promotions & Publicity class, and I hope that her talk will add to my knowledge of her as a case study. Then it’s off to the trade show, Flatstock, and some shows. I’m really hoping to catch Iggy & the Stooges, but there’s a 3-4 hour wait in line potential there, and I’m not into that any more. I’ve seen Mr. Pop and so it goes. See, there I go feeding right into the “larger band” machine. But so it goes. More tomorrow…

…and this is what makes this whole trip worth it for me:

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