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Tomorrow Happens Here

SXSW Interactive Film Music

That’s the tagline for SXSW. And it couldn’t be more true.

In 2007, which was my sixth time covering SXSW, I finally went for the gold, or should I say, the Platinum. This meant that I was part of Interactive discussions, announcements, panels and parties, along with Film and Music.

Interactive was an eye-opener for me. That was the year Twitter made its big debut, and look at where we are now. The arguments on whether social media is a fad have waned as user numbers reach the hundreds of millions. As social media replaces 20 million dollar Super Bowl commercial budgets. It’s real. It’s changing every day. And it’s pretty damn exciting.

So what’s going to happen at SXSW Interactive THIS year?

First, Twitter CEO Evan Williams will be back to participate in a keynote interview on Monday, March 15. More than likely, everyone is going to be waiting to see if they announce plans for actually making money off of this micro-blogging thingy.

I think my friends and I will get a drinking game going when someone says “monetize.”

On Tuesday, Spotify’s Daniel Ek will have his turn at the Keynote arena on Tuesday, March 16. What makes Mr. Ek’s timing and appearance so interesting because it involves the Music and the Interactive side of the conference.

Spotify, the online music service that is widely used in Europe, is planning to make their way across the pond to offer their service to music hungry North Americans. A few weeks ago, Warner Music Group announced that they would stop allowing the streaming of music within their catalog on websites such as Spotify, We7 and This caused bands such as Muse and R.E.M. to take notice. Then WMG came back and said that this restriction would only affect future deals, but who’s to say what will really happen.

Further evidence of line-drawn-in-the-sand between records labels, technology and the artist came last week, when Damian Kulash Jr. from the band Spoon wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times titled, “Who’sTube?”

“MY band is famous for music videos,” he writes. Notice the emphasis on “MY.”

Yes, Spoon is famous for their videos, most notably, the treadmill trickery for “Here It Goes Again.” This low-budget videography brilliance took them from under the radar to the Grammy stage accepting an award. So it worked. It sold albums. It made money for EMI.

Kulash explains his dismay at the fact that for whatever reason, EMI stopped the embedding of videos from YouTube. Maybe it’s the monetization strategy rearing its ugly head. Either way, this is the result. “The numbers are shocking: When EMI disabled the embedding feature, views of our treadmill video dropped 90 percent, from about 10,000 per day to just over 1,000. Our last royalty statement from the label, which covered six months of streams, shows a whopping $27.77 credit to our account.”

That’s not enough to buy the band one round of beers at the Mondrian!

It’s still amazing to me that after almost 15 years since the MP3 caused music execs to freak out, major labels such as EMI still don’t get how the Internet works. Maybe some of their peeps should attend some Interactive panels and learn a thing or two about the power of this thing called the World Wide Web.

Speaking of panels, when I look at my.sxsw, a scheduling tool that resides on the website (for registered badge holders), I’ve got 15 panels from 2pm to 5:30pm, ranging from “Beauty in Web Design” and “Content Strategy: What’s in it for You?” to “Do Cool Kids Leave When the Suits Arrive?” and “DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Ed.”

Yeah, I’m not going to make them all. This is the typical dilemma for anyone going to any part of SXSW. And that’s just the first day. I’m here for the duration, learning, meeting and greeting, watching and listening, and yes, throwing a few back at the many parties scheduled over the course of my 10 days in Austin.

I just hope it doesn’t snow.

Stay tuned for more from the SXSW road. If you want to take a peek at SXSW Interactive 2009, here are my experiences from last year (via my music and culture website, Kaffeine Buzz):


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