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Going Platinum – Surviving Two Weeks of SXSW 2007

I’ve been going to SXSW for over 10 years now, off and on…more on than off. When it comes to the music portion of the conference, I’m a pro. This year I made the decision to go trifecta and do all three this year: interactive, film and music.

So I ran track every day, did the Rambo run up the steps and drank daily shakes that involved cracking a raw egg.

Okay, that’s all a lie. Who has time for that when you’re preparing to leave town for two weeks? It was almost a relief to just be here already and not worry about whether I had RSVP’d to all the right parties, brought all the press kits with me, and arranged my schedule perfectly so I wouldn’t miss a thing. That was the neophyte speaking. Because experienced people know that you will miss a lot of things, so just deal with it.

So now that I’ve gotten through it all, here’s my list of ups and downs for what worked and didn’t for 2007.


green light   red light
Platinum Lounge – free water, tables to sit down, seeing John Cameron Mitchell working on his computer   Platinum Lounge – having random Interactive attendees handing me their business cards when I’m trying to work. NO WIRELESS INTERNET WHAAA??
Having a badge to get priority to showcases   Getting denied,even with a badge, a lot more shows this year than in year’s past
Making it into the The Gits film, seeing Eagle vs. Shark and Skills Like This   Missing Mike Mills’ world premiere of his IFC Original Documentary feature Does Your Soul Have a Cold?
The Skills Like This after party at the $$ house of one of their investors   Having infamous SXSW shindigs like the Factory People party, the iheartcomix party, and the VICE party broken up before they really got started
Attending the Mayor’s breakfast, complete with good food and even better Bloody Marys   Wondering if the Mayor’s office played any part in the surprise fire marshall inspections at said parties
The Alternative Press rooftop party   Having someone steal my Guitar Hero at the Alternative Press rooftop party
Staying healthy the entire two weeks   Getting sick when I got home

There are two points I want to go back to, and that’s the unofficial parties and the lack of Internet access.

For those of us who have been attending SXSW for some time, there’s no denying that this annual cacophony of people, music and parties has grown substantially in just the last few years. More bands than ever are vying for those coveted official showcase spots, and they can’t all be accepted. The rise in unofficial parties has offered the bands and solo artists an opportunity to play, which is also great for the attendee who would not have a chance to see them otherwise.

We’re not sure why Franki Chan’s iheartcomix official parties went off without a hitch, but his unofficial events were shut down rather quickly, and all because of the lack of a permit that was never brought to light until the fire marshall was demanding it at the unofficial events. This is not good for anyone – the sponsors, the event organizers, the bands and fans, or for the city of Austin. Something is amiss here, and I’m sure we’re going to find out more about this mystery before SXSW 2008. Or, some who lost money and a lot more will choose not to return next year. I guess time will tell.

We all rely on the Internet more than ever, and I had heard that the city of Austin’s city wide free Internet access was supposed to be in place by now. Honestly, I think all cities should implement this type of policy, but for a capital that hosts an event of this size every year, it should have been up and running a few years ago. At a minimum, the convention center should make it available. This is also on the wish list for last year.

To end on an up note, I have to commend the SXSW organizers for doing a fine job of creating the panel program for each segment, especially the film and interactive. The topics and speakers were right in line with where we are, business wise and creatively, in each of our given roles. The music panels presented updated versions of programs that help musicians or those starting off in the music business, a jumpstart in knowledge and the opportunity to learn from the pros.

For many, this is the adult version of Disneyland, where every day is filled with music and an open bar. For the rest of us, yes, we definitely take part in party, but it’s a great opportunity to make a ton of contacts and even learn some things along the way in a much shorter amount of time. But I guess, that’s the whole point of these things, right?


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