A small team from Cisco spent time in Austin for the sxsw Festival and returned Sunday night with new connections, new perspective, an idea of how to engage more comprehensively next year, and of course, with slightly dulled hearing from all the intensely loud live music.
While music and film have been the main focus of the festival since its inception in 1987, the Interactive festival is gaining a lot of steam, too. In fact, there’s so much good networking and content during Interactive that the general consensus is that when Evan Williams’ keynote interview couldn’t hold folks’ attention long enough, it was because there was so much other awesome stuff to check out.
In fact, the Interactive Festival turned out to be a 5-day crash course in technology trends in the world of media. The convention center was hopping with a who’s who roster of technocrats, bloggers, start-ups and content creators, all engaged in spirited discussions on everything from how brands can (ironically) use technology to combat unconsumption (a phenomenon of consumers reducing their footprint; one greatly aided by the advent of the www) to how independent content providers can monetize their content in a way that doesn’t dilute its indie spirit.
One of the more memorable panels was called “Devo, the Internet and You”.
The first half was a quirky presentation in which the band asked, “Why can’t you market a band the way you market Miller Lite, or Charmin Tissues”? And then answered its own question by saying they had “hired mother LA” (there’s actually a media agency called Mother Los Angeles) to figure out how to market them in a way that will grow and more deeply engage their fanbase. Shortly thereafter, Jeremy Welt, SVP of New Media from Warner Brothers Records, announced that the hub for this new marketing approach will be a focus on the band’s .com and that Devo’s new site will be built on Cisco Eos®. While WB won’t actually be marketing the band like a box of tissues, they do intend to use Eos as a toolkit that can glean critical customer insights to drive a rich marketing campaign to grow and monetize the fan experience. I’ll be sure to post any interesting upshots from this relationship as news becomes available.
Devo was one of the last panels during Interactive, which was a good segue into the Music portion of the festival. Cisco Eos was a sponsor of the Spin/MySpace Music Loft on 6th Street: an invite-only hospitality zone for bands and industry people to grab a Wahoo’s fish taco, mingle, and listen to unplugged sets from up-and-coming bands. To give you a sense for what it looked like and the type of talent that was walking through, Spin used Flip Video cameras to film b-roll of activity in the Loft. And here’s a link to view the acoustic performances of some of the bands. Cisco Eos sponsored the sets by Steel Train, Soft Pack and Metric.
One of the bands that stopped by our space, Circa Survive, recently relaunched their site on Cisco Eos. Chuck Fishman, from the Cisco Media Solutions Group, grabbed their bassist, Nick, to talk about how they’re using their site to interact with fans in new ways. A great sound bite:
Chuck: what is the most important thing about using your site to try to connect with fans when you’re on the road?
Nick: we’re all big fans of being able to constantly update what’s going on, mostly through video, and we never really had a Web site that was able to do that before now.
Outside of the Loft, the façade of the city during the Music festival looked like a set from MTV Spring Break. But behind the scenes were several other industry oases just like ours, where major labels were hosting talent, talking to new talent, and meeting with partners and customers. I leveraged my time in town to meet with a few Cisco Eos customers and catch up in between my afternoons spent at the Loft. And outside of all of my work-related obligations, I made sure to make the most out of my conference badge by attending as many shows as possible. My favorite gigs were Metric (who I was fortunate enough to see three times), Bear in Heaven, an electronically driven rock band from Brooklyn, and JJ, a lush pop group from Sweden.
At all of these incredible shows, I wondered if we can pull together a showcase of our own next year. I already can’t wait for sxsw 2011.