Whether Twitter, blogs, or the Main Stream Media, the topic this week has been the SXSW festival. Many in attendance feel the Conference and its presenters just don’t get it. Is it the promoters’ fault, or the audience’s? Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
In this corner, the Returning Heavy Weight Champion: The Organizers
I grew up in Texas and have attended my fair share of SXSWs. As an indie/alterna-kid In junior high and high school, I always followed SXSW. After graduating high school, I moved to Austin for college.
Originally, SXSW started out as something that was a celebration of independence and musical innovation. As it increased in size, it seemed, to me, to lose its edge. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great place to see some of your favorite bands, but if they play there, they’ve probably already made it big in the underground. The real music is out on the streets, in garages and in hole in the wall bars.
The traditional conference model was, at one time, a great way for professionals to get together and talk about what’s going on. The SXSW organizers have assembled a good line-up of industry relevant speakers, but the way people exchange ideas has changed. Social media tools like blogging, Twitter, YouTube and streaming video have changed the way people communicate. That’s why, for me, looking to SXSW for innovation is like reading news from 2006; it’s great if you want to track progress, but it’s not going to tell you what’s on the cutting edge.
For interactive media, the truly innovative strategies and tools are being discussed in the blogosphere and, more rapidly, on Twitter. You don’t need to pay money to go to a conference; you can suck it all up here for free. But for the people who don’t have time to scan feeds or follow 500 Twitter friends, the traditional conference model still works.
And in this corner, we have the Underdog: The Audience
In the music realm, the majority of the attendees are usually suits and big wigs who want to get wasted and feel like they are a part of the underground again; anyone truly punk or indie can’t afford the price tag or goes to the unofficial events. The majority of attendees want to find out the next big thing to market and consume. And you’ll never be able to please anyone that wants instant enlightenment but doesn’t want to fall in the mud. Because they’ve built up this event and these speakers as having all the answers, when the audience sees the man behind the curtain is human, they throw tomatoes in revolt. In terms of social media, they want the tools and secrets, without taking the time required to learn and process the philosophy.
If you are a regular reader of this blog–or follow me or Marie on Twitter–you are probably more like one of the indie-kids. Remember: You don’t go to SXSW to see cutting edge, you go to see bands that have already had hits in the alterna-scene. Be realistic with the event, and you’ll have fun.
Aren’t happy with the conference? Next year plan your own rebel panel. Punk kids organize unofficial shows to protest the commercialism SXSW has become. Also, part of being indie is supporting your local scene. When was the last time you attended or organized a tweet-up, social media breakfast or event? Do you blog, share good links, tweet your ideas?
Who’s to blame? Let us know in the comments. Also, what suggestions do you have for organizers to help them embrace the hard-core fans? What can you do to increase understanding of social media?