Tuesday, March 11, 2014

South by south why?

For once I'm not really angry with SXSW.* The Tech segment went by with barely a burp in any of my social media feeds, leading me to believe that while the place might be packed, its no longer making immediate ripples. From what I can tell not much of lasting value happened, and many companies seem to be sending less lower level people, leading to the senior level folks left to backslap each other. This is mainly conjecture, but I do have to admit my surprise at how quiet it's been. Even the things that annoyed me, like the vapid "XXX I used to/currently work with giving such a great panel on YYY. SO PROUD" tweets and Instagrams only caused me mild annoyance that swiftly passed.

I still find the Music segment more perplexing, and that's primarily because while I can see some value in some infinitesimal segment of the Tech peeps connecting with each other in a way that perhaps has value to their bottom line, I can't figure out who benefits from SXSW Music outside of the economy of Austin.**

For instance, every publicist claiming to be happy because big shows at SXSW like Kanye West and Jay-Z, Lady GaGa, Soundgarden—and a bunch of other arena sized acts performing because some brand wants their stardom and cultural cache to build their social currency—are going to draw the inattentive crowds away allowing musical tastemakers to attend their uncrowded showcases and allow their bands to shine and further their careers are lying. They are not happy about this. Because musical tastemakers, what few actually attend the conference any longer, want to be where the action is and that equates to party when you're in Austin in mid-March. And let's not even pretend most of those tastemakers actually influence any tastes any longer.

So in the end, I'm not angry, but I am honestly trying to figure out why I or anyone else would even go to SXSW for any reason other than an adult Spring Break? Even in the last five years the fading excuse that it might have some positive effect on a band's career seems to have seems to have been completely obliterated by the current state of affairs, unless of course you're a band that already routinely sells upward of 500,000 albums or more with every release. Then SXSW might be worth your time.

*To be fair, I've been annoyed by SXSW and questioned it's relevance in the past, but was never really angry AT the fest. This year I'm just less annoyed, if by result more confused, by SXSW 2014.

**Which, whatever, good for them.

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