Music + Technology + Random Nonsense from the Music Industry by Ethan Kaplan, VP Product, Live Nation

SXSW Post Mortem

SXSW is over. I completed 90% of the 10 day mission I was supposed to undertake in Austin, my last day cut short by a health situation back at home.

I have never stayed for music before, nor had I ever been to SXSW where I didn’t have “artist” responsibility.

I had an amazing time, which surprised me given all the “SXSW is over” rhetoric from last year. And I get that rhetoric. One of the most common phrases you over-hear at SXSW (in both music and interactive) is “shit show.”

Were there shit-shows this year? For sure there were. But the key to shit shows in Austin was to learn how to avoid them. Thankfully, due to a few developments in technology, software and my own application thereof, I made the best attempt to minimize the shit show and enjoy myself.

Here are some tips:

  1. Stay downtown – For the first week, I stayed downtown at the Hampton. After that, I had to move to the Doubletree. I figured this would be OK since SXSW was running shuttles. However they don’t tell you clearly that this SXSW shuttle costs $20 bucks each way. And that cabs are hard to find. I walked the 2 miles back to my hotel a few times at 3:30 AM
  2. Make your own SXSW – This was key for me. Last year I was turned off by all the social media marketing type people around. This year, I chose to ignore them. I didn’t go to any marketing panels. I didn’t go to any marketing parties. I kept my SXSW to a curated list of followed people on Path, Foursquare and Twitter.
  3. Don’t schedule anything – I only broke this rule twice, but as a practice I didn’t make any set “meetings.” I told people to follow me on Foursquare or Twitter and we’ll meet up when and where ever. IN general, considering how many people were in Austin, this worked a lot better than I expected. I don’t think there was any person that I didn’t get to see during both Interactive and Music.
  4. SXSW is chaotic, just roll with it – I realized this year that I wouldn’t see everyone I wanted to, go to every party I wanted to, go to every panel and keynote I wanted to. It wasn’t humanly possible. Once I surrendered to this though, the experience became almost zen like. I wandered in and out of panels, parties, shows, etc. I managed to see more than I thought I would, and miss less than I suspected, but with half the anxiety as last year.
  5. Batteries – The worst thing about SXSW every year was that our sci-fi tricorders would die throughout the day. It made us pavlovian in our search for anything to plug a charger into. Sure, there were battery packs that you could attach to the phone to juice it up, but these small battery units didn’t lessen battery anxiety. You were still acutely conscious that power was running out. I brought with me a HyperJuice 100 watt hour battery in my backpack. It weighs about as much as a Mac Book Air, and can power one for a day. It can also charge an iPhone about 23 times. I had a black iPod cable hanging out of the backpack and could juice up the iPhone whenever I felt like it. I became very popular at around 2:00AM
  6. Tolerate No Lines – There is always something to do without one, and the line you are waiting in likely won’t be there by the time you come back.
  7. Hold office hours in places with good beer – So, Ginger Man. I spent five hours there on Saturday and it worked out very well.
  8. Take a moment to get away – After the weather cleared up this year, I decided to take an afternoon run on the Lady Bird Trail. It was perfect: only locals, none of the crowds, badges, or lines. Just a ton of locals, some nice scenery and an eight mile run.
  9. Dont’ wear dress socks – I ended up hobbling around for three days because I made this mistake after doing #8

Over all I think this year to me was the most fun SXSW yet because I just let myself go into it without expectations, and I came out with a bit of liver damage and a lot of fun had.

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