March 22, 2010
As I far as I was concerned, SXSW (South by Southwest, for those of you not familiar with the acronym) was a music event, a chance for A&Rs, managers and sundry other music industry types to blow their expenses budget, get together for a good gossip and, if there was time, discover some new bands. The advantages for talent spotters are obvious – see as many bands as you can in four days, in a small-ish space so you can get around easy. It’s like In The City (Manchester) or CMJ (New York) but with better weather and more barbecues.
The landscape of the festival has shifted gradually over the last couple of years though, and not just because I personally have shifted from a musical space to a digital one. Last year’s conference saw a massive increase in attendees visiting the interactive sessions at the festival, and the ubiquitousness of the iPhone put a serious strain on mobile networks. This year this process has accelerated even further – services like Foursquare and Gowalla have allowed people to see at a glance exactly where the hottest parties and most happening events are taking place. You can imagine the conversations can’t you? “Wow, [cool venue] has sixty people we sort of know there. It MUST be good”. In fact, the two geolocation services even threw parties on the same night, fuelling the social media focus even further.
We shouldn’t be surprised really, as passion points like music have always been the drivers for the adoption of new technologies and services, but it’s still a little bizarre that the platforms themselves have become the focus of the attention, so much so that the Foursquare/Gowalla parties were THE hottest events. One of the other big talking points from the festival was the Spotify keynote speech where they announced, well not a lot to be honest. But still, it would be nice to have some, like content, coming out of this festival. Seemingly gone are the days of a band like The White Stripes coming out of nowhere to blow everyone away. A quick browse of NME.com and the highlights appear to be Muse and Hole. Not exactly the cutting edge in terms of new music. However, with so many bands springing to people’s attention online via blogs and social networks, and bands themselves generally eschewing traditional models to go it alone, it’s probably a natural evolution. The geeks inheriting the earth. With the ‘talent spotters’ chasing after them, desperate to not be left behind.
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