The “Other” SXSW

For the past seven years, one of my best friends in the world has gone to Austin in March for SXSW. But, he’s unlike most of those who may read this as they’re packing their bags. He is part of the music scene and has been working for a well-known indie music booking agency in Marin. The owner hired him years ago because he identified my friend as good at finding new music, signing bands, and networking with other industry peers. His business depends on the following cycle: Identifying new music (“the product”), connecting with the people that make that music, testing out the music in environments that provide decent litmus tests, and then signing and booking that music to a tour where my friend and his colleagues help promote and position the artists (“the business”). This is the cycle that fuels the music discovery side of SXSW. He gets bombarded with thousands of emails to VIP parties and after-parties and exclusives with this band and that band. After a while, he doesn’t even check his email. He doesn’t care. He just shows up and does his own thing. No plans. No Plancast. No checking-in on Foursquare. He doesn’t Tweet about what he’s seen because he doesn’t want others to know. He goes to bed late and wakes up late. His only plan is to catch certain bands. Everything revolves around that mission. He doesn’t check his email unless it’s related to a show. He doesn’t sit down and have planned out conversations with people there. At the same time, he doesn’t “follow-up.” He basically meets people at the shows he’s at and talks about business right there and then. The conversations happen live, in the moment. They are usually yelling because of the music, or outside having a smoke to get a breather. He doesn’t eat on a schedule and drinks too much, mixing beers with waters. He gets up close to the stage and ends up sweating through his ratty t-shirts. He leaves most of his t-shirts there in the hotel room. He is there to hunt and to be inspired in the hunt, and to find a product and a business in its early stages. He tunes out all the gimmicks and the marketing and the emails. Instead, he relies entirely on his intuition, his taste, and serendipity. He experiences SXSW in the moment.


About Semil Shah

Official contributor to @TechCrunch (since Jan 2011); from July 1, will begin EIR with @JavelinVP

8 responses to “The “Other” SXSW”

  1. Spencer Schoeben says :
  2. Spencer Schoeben says :

    Very interesting post! People in the technology side of SXSW, or for that matter, people living a technology filled life in general, seem to have trouble living in the moment.Personally, I try to live like your friend. There is so much to learn in the moment, from your surroundings. Planning ahead, always being absorbed by your connectivity (phone), etc., all take away from the experience.

  3. Semil Shah says :

    Spencer, I am also learning, and you are wise beyond your years!

  4. George Dy says :
  5. George Dy says :

    Great post, I like hearing about other side of the SxSW and other interactions outside of interactive. There are far too many times that I’ve heard of the unfruitful SXSW experiences purely based on the noise. I might be OK for SxSWm, but I’d think that interactive is a little harder to make connections and make them in real-time.

  6. Daniel Brusilovsky says :
  7. Jarod Reyes says :

    I just got back from the Tech side of SXSW and I must say, after doing my necessary hob-nobbing, I simply floated from party to party, and I met important people, awesome bouncers and a celebrity or two. It wasn’t until I got home, and after checking the foursquare/groupme feeds that I realized how fortunate I was to not have been tied down to “where the party was” or “who was where”. It was a truly wonderful experience.

  8. Semil Shah says :

    Smart man, I’ll have to go next year — and we’ll party!

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