SXSW is my favorite unofficial holiday every year. There’s nothing better than waiting for the SX schedule to drop like a child waiting for Santa to come down the chimney with mad gifts during Christmas. While there was talk of a SX scale-down, it was hard to notice when my calendar was blotched with calendar invites to official and unofficial shows and sessions for every half-hour block for ten days straight. My Christmas finally arrived. Here are my SXSW journal passages and records of some of the “gifts” that I got this year at SXSW 2017.
Day One: 03/10 – Friday
Things are slowly creeping in. Installations are being wood-and-hammered in, parking spaces are more difficult to find, and pedestrians begin jaywalking the streets, daring cars to come to screeching halts and cry their horns in mad fury. After Gary Vaynerchuk’s Q&A session at the Convention Center, I felt a little more confident in my ability to survive the week. “The people who care less about what other people think about them tend to have a better life. It’s just liberating,” he said during his talk–take that as permission to run the streets with a free Torchy’s breakfast taco in hand in your Berkinstocks and Ray Bans in Austin’s perfect 60 degree weather–a perfect start to the weekend and what’s to come for the rest of SX.
Day Two: 03/11 – Saturday
Rain and cold outside, free coffee and warmth inside the Austin Chamber of Commerce. In a room filled with startup hopefuls, I managed to snag an early seat at a session titled “Looking for Funds in All the Right Places,” moderated by none other than my college professor of digital media and entrepreneurship, David Altounian. It was like being a junior in college all over again, except I learned much more than I ever did in any of my classes. With different perspectives flooding the room with knowledge and experience in fundraising, I include this session in my review because it is was the utmost helpful fundraising session I had been to all through SXSW 2017.
The music begins during Interactive too. We stop by the Pandora stage where they are showcasing a kickass two days of local music starting with Jane Ellen Bryant who even during the band’s soundcheck sounded like they were born playing music. Later that night, one of my local favorites S U R V I V E plays one of their many shows, starting at Smart House. With a unique, customized light show, free drinks and fine food, it was a happy night for all.
Day Three: 03/12 – Sunday
My best day yet–I somehow managed to wait in line for only 20 minutes and got a pass to see former VP Joe Biden’s keynote. I hurried into the cold for some free breakfast at the Tech Breakfast across the street from the Convention Center and somehow ended up getting my hair and makeup done by one of Kanye West’s Life of Pablo tour makeup artists. Then, I crossed a few other things off of my bucket list:
- Run into Craig Robinson from The Office
- See Joe and Jill Biden for their talk up close
- Shake hands with Mark Cuban
If you think that’s enough excitement for one day–you’re wrong. After Cuban’s session, I ended up on the east side at the COLLiDE x Snickers dinner popup. Free three-course meal including fancy clamshell ceviche and a whole stuffed Cornish hen. Then back to Dirty to catch CAPYAC play Smart House at Waller Ballroom. An eclectic performance as always, jampacked with verbal advertisements for the Smart car and a smashing dance party for all in the room.
I was disappointed in myself–I forgot to bring along an extra battery pack or charger. Amateur hour.
Day Four: 03/13 – Monday
Unlike the day before, the fickle Austin weather turns a page and the sun escapes from beneath the clouds. Wondrous. And hot. But awesome regardless. I find myself bouncing between Pandora house and Rainey. I can feel myself faltering already- I’m getting tired and off guard. The best remedy is always the free food and drinks during SXSW and Casa Argentina accommodated us well with wine. Right down the street at the Rainey food trucks, you could also download the Gro app for a free food token, which if you were wise, you would choose Ms Ps Electric Cock like I did and get some free chicken tenders. And as someone had pointed out to me later in the week, Austinites never miss an opportunity for a free taco that would usually cost $2.50 even if it means waiting in an hour-and-a-half long line for it.
Day Five: 03/14 – Tuesday
I love SXSW for the music but I love it even more for the networking circles and panel sessions. The best ones I hit that day? “Modernizing Music Licensing” at Old School Bar and the Music Tech Meetup at the JW Marriott.
After that, I was all about Wu Tang Clan & Erykah Badu at Moody Theater. Our local favorites, Ruby and the Reckless, had the opportunity to share the stage with these legends, but I had the misfortune of having to rescue my Drunk Best Friend (everyone has a DBF at SXSW, c’mon) from being trapped in one of the emergency exit stairways.
Day Six: 03/15 – Wednesday
We made it past the halfway mark! I hit up “The 7 Hottest Topics of Music Tech in 2017” and was disappointed to not have heard blockchain as one of the topics. In fact, it was so sparingly mentioned that I grew concerned that no one was paying attention.
Another good one: “The Definitive Music Fundraising Style Guide: Winning the VC Beauty Contest” where I met some of the strongest personalities in the VC world speak about investing in music technology. If it is a repeated session next year, I would highly recommend this session to any music tech startup as a basic 101 crash course in how investments in music tech are very different than how investments in other industries are treated.
The highlight of the day, however, was the Music Startup Spotlight at the Hilton. 20 of some of the most innovative music tech companies set up shop for a couple of hours as I buzzed right through and visited each of them. My favorites: Disco, NPREX, and Perdiem. Disco is a music management platform for music publishers and artists to transfer large amounts of files similar to a Box system for music. Perdiem is an investment and crowdfund for musicians. NPREX handles direct licensing of performing rights between music stakeholders.
6:40p PM hit us. My friends and I hurry into Youtube at Coppertank so some lemonade and snacks, again on the hunt for some free bites. Not only did we find food, we stumbled into an Amine show. Double win.
Later that night, we experienced the cool world inside the SONY Stage at 800 Congress, a venue so new that it doesn’t yet have a name. Inside, the walls were made of light panels all around. The entire inside of the venue lit up with moving pictures and flashing lights. There, we saw Tinashe and A$AP Ferg back-to-back. One of the best shows thus far.
Day 7: 03/16 – Thursday
I check my pulse- yes, I’m still alive! Four more days until my body and mind are relieved of this music and tech boot camp. Yet, I don’t want it to end. Like last year, I head over to the Hilton to hear some Music Tech Elevator Pitches and back to the Convention Center to hear a panel titled “Compulsory License Today, Direct License Tomorrow?” An interesting panel, but shockingly, I heard a man from SOCAN say that he did not believe it was a viable solution to adding transparency in music licensing–I must say I disagree strongly but at the same time, I respect the diverse opinions in the music world.
Onward, I rushed over to Container Bar to catch Missio, another Austin-based band, open for El Paso R&B kid Khalid. An accidental Texas music showcase, it was packed with people who have been following the FADER news on Khalid. The 19-year-old was making it big and beginning to return respect for El Paso in music. Definitely worth a listen here.
The night ended with a quick bar hop on Sixth Street from the MAD Decent Party to Easy Tiger and to the other side at bars on West Sixth.
Perfect 3:00 AM return home.
FINAL STRETCH: Day 8 & 9: 03/17-03/18 – Friday/SATURDAY
Friday–I spent the day at home watching Twin Peaks after having ran into Kyle MacLachlan the day before. I felt like I owed him (and myself) some couch time watching his show. But I did manage to make it back downtown later that night, swinging by Barracuda’s music showcase for Big Thief.
Saturday–the highlight of tonight was the Burning Ear + Fancy PR + Vinyl Moon showcase at Sidewinder. I don’t think I had it in me to stand in another line for a stressfully long amount of time, so this worked out quite well. Inside of Sidewinder, I caught three acts: Giungla, Linying, and Dyan, and officially concluded my SXSW happily.