Each year at SXSW (say it “South by South West” out loud), a tremendous arts, tech, film and music festival explodes out of Austin, Texas. It’s famous for musicians, film makers and tech thinkers going to showcase their talents before they also explode and become big, making it an exciting stomping ground for emerging and established artistic talent to percolate.
Because RB devours cultural furore like this for breakfast, a small team of RB staff were there in the massive crowds, adjusting our fragile systems to jet lag and booze to soak up SXSW 2014.
Here we have scouted out the RB crew’s takeaway moments from SXSW. You can check out and imagine what team RB have been up to (and get jealous, fast) over here at the official SXSW schedule. The schedule is often broken down into 15 and 30 minute increments, and with over 2,000 music acts alone, it’s a mighty beast-like cultural event. We anticipate everyone from RB who went to SXSW might have to call in dead to work tomorrow.
"The big takeaway was to keep true to the original ideal and hold it with passion. As RB grows (as has Burning Man) there will be and are many forces that try to distract us. The heart of the organisation – of standing for independent artists – can so easily be lost along the way."
RB’s boss (Pilgrim) trooped off to a workshop on remaining authentic to the core ideals as a community grows. This was led by the good people of Burning Man who have had to try and scale an ideal from a few hundred people to the over 60,000 who now descend on the Nevada desert in an orgy of gifting, love, art and creativity. The big takeaway was to keep true to the original ideal and hold it with passion. As RB grows (as has Burning Man) there will be and are many forces that try to distract us. The heart of the organisation – of standing for independent artists – can so easily be lost along the way. How we recruit, train, market, build our values and build our community all needs to hold true to this core ideal. We are lucky that our core purpose is so resonant and transformative
Pilgrim also participated in a panel on “Rejecting Mandated Fashion Trends” with founders of MadeJacksonHole and Scoutmob. Like RB these sites aim to bring meaning back into the products we buy through real connections to the artists behind them. The three speakers shared their perspective on why “fast fashion” in general is so bad for the environment, the producers/workers who manufacture and ultimately for consumer themselves. Authentic products with real meaning and creativity are the delightful alternative.
One of my SXSW highlights was Austin Kleon, author of Show Your Work and Steal Like An Artist, and prolific doodler, who delivered Monday’s keynote speech. Kleon started off with some advice for SXSW schmoozers – wise words we should all keep in mind when meeting people and talking about our work. The author spoke about what he referred to as ‘human spam’ and encouraged the audience to do much more listening than talking during their time at SXSW.
"Follow me back?' Is the saddest question on the Internet."
He also reminded us of the importance of accreditation, acknowledgement and kudos when people inspire us. “Creativity is a social activity, it’s a reflection of your culture and surroundings, it cannot exist in a vacuum,” he reminded the SXSW audience. But he went on to explain that accreditation is more than acknowledging the source of your inspiration. Proper accreditation should send the reader on their own journey and inspire further curiosity.
Share your work, the process, your struggles and lessons learnt, he advised. Everyone benefits if we’re prepared to be generous with our ideas and creativity.
Building a website isn’t something you do locked away in a box, especially when you’re lucky enough to have a large, active community. Feature Assassins were a highlight for me: Jeremy Tunnell (Stack Exchange), Malcolm Ong (Skillshare), Mat Mullen (Disqus) and Matas Petrikas (Soundcloud) spoke about the ways in which they determine which features are the most valuable for their customers. They discussed the importance of not just talking with your customers, but also analysing the data on what they actually do. As Tunnel said, “People don’t do what they say they do”.
"The hardest part of keeping a product simple isn’t just saying “No”, it’s explaining why."
Dave Asprey, Maneesh Sethi, Stephanie Burns & Veronica Belmont delivered a surprising event from left field, giving us some insight into the crazy world of Life Automation. Life Automation is having someone else make your travel arrangements, or someone reading your email to you while you’re walking to work, or perhaps having a service that automatically generates ‘random date nights’ with your better half. The extremes in which some people will go to in order to make more time to work or play are quite amusing. Places like Fancy Hands, TaskRabbit and ScheduleOnce exist at the lower cost spectrum for these types of things and are a good place to start.
Martin Hosking says:
If you are having problems dealing with social media and trying to promote yourself (a series of recent RB Blog posts suggests this is pretty common) then help may be at hand. Grace Helbig, Tyler Oakley, and Ze Frank shared their experiences of building fan bases online. Big take aways were pretty simple: be authentic, keep at it every day, learn to collaborate with other people, share your stuff openly and use as many tools as you sanely can (i.e. not just Facebook). Obviously Grace, Tyler and Ze are “personalities” but we think the lessons are relevant for artists and if you simply can’t bring yourself to be this active, then simply enjoy the work of these very talented folks with huge online fan bases.
SF artists, George Zisiadis and Hillary Andugar told us about creating “Bubbleverse” a cosmic portal into your childhood imagination. We loved it, them and the insights they gave us into their work and inspirations. They are dedicated to transforming lives through powerful interactive and creative experiences. In the vein of working for free, they often simply work for free, for all of us – what a gift. Some of their work is now sponsored – like Bubbleverse by Nesquik – but remains true to their passion and free for the participants. As they are in San Francisco and we are in San Francisco, stay tuned we hope we can make some art together.
Thanks to Natalie, Russell and Martin for sharing their recent SXSW favorite moments. Do you have any highlights from SXSW as they unfold? Please let us know in the comments below, and let us know your schedule favourites. You can stay up to date with Redbubble News over here.
Header image: Sunday Afternoon in Chinatown by Aaron.