March 9, 2014
Grumbles growing that SXSW festival is going nowhere
The South by Southwest festival has lost its compass, say veteran festival-goers.
The event — which kicked off this weekend in Austin, Texas — used to be a celebration of counterculture indie musicians, filmmakers and startup tech ventures.
Now attendees say the festival has gotten too big for its britches and is trying to be all things to all people. The interactive portion of the festival alone has 30,000 people registered to attend.
The keynote speakers this year include Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who will speak remotely.
Chelsea Clinton is also slated to talk, as is Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Google big Sergey Brin, who split with him last August.
Lady Gaga is performing, along with Pitbull, Imagine Dragons and Coldplay. “Tonight” host Jimmy Fallon and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel are separately headed South.
Mike Myers and Jason Bateman are expected at the film festival to discuss their new projects, while HBO will preview “Silicon Valley,” a show about the tech gold rush.
Political news outlet Roll Call reports that six members of Congress, including Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), are headed down to Austin to speak about local tech economies.
Michael Fernandez, founder of New York experiential marketing firm Factory 360, told The Post: “Traffic is at a standstill. You can’t even get into keynotes. There are overflow rooms for overflow rooms. The frustration level is high.”
Fernandez is fed up with how SXSW has annexed topics like education to extend the conference even further, adding to the crowds and confusion.
Meanwhile, the hotels are having Sochi-type issues. High-powered tech PR executive Brooke Hammerling of Brew Media Relations was given the keys to her room and found a half-dressed man on the phone there when she checked in on Friday.
Hammerling opted to stay elsewhere. While she continues to be a big supporter of SXSW and brings clients there, the executive admitted, “The technology has got away from itself. It used to be the heart of technology and the heart of music; it’s sort of what’s lost with the number of marketers that are here.”
Her clients are doing fewer promotions there this year, Hammerling added.
Article appeared in The New York Post