I went to South by Southwest to network, and I did. I made contact with the National Association of Black Journalist’s president and the Social Media Director for the LA Times. A black woman who writes for Medium followed me back on Twitter, I got to chat with a few people who work for Pandora, and I’m looking into job opportunities in Austin after graduation.
The conference was also great. I got to see Nile Rodgers and Zane Lowe keynotes, and got scared out of music journalism from Pitchfork and Noisey’s editors in chief for a quick second, but their panel was constructive at least.
In this way it was great. But there’s a whole half of South by Southwest though that didn’t meet expectations.
The thing about SXSW that’s absolute not lit is how much money and affluence rules the conference and festival. At the Vince Staples show on the second day, I stood at the front and from my view, the crowd was hype to see him. But from my friends’ view in the back, the crowd was pretty unresponsive.
Because many of the shows associated with major companies like YouTube, Apple Music, and Pandora, these venues give priority access to badge holders. This means if you pay the $800 to be able to wear a badge during the festival, you often get in first. SXSW volunteers are given these badges complimentary, with remaining badge holders being rich white people, to put it simply. And rich white people were far too represented at a Vince Staples show.
On top of drawing the wrong crowd, many of the shows I hoped of getting into had too much of a crowd. 6th Street was crazy all day and night from Thursday to Sunday morning, and lines were long everywhere, from bathrooms to panel discussions and by far the shows.
However I did catch some really great performances. Faarrow, a Somali-Canadian sister duo, were great. I had first heard their music a few years ago when they were getting looks on the blogs, but was reintroduced to them during this refugee-themed showcase. They covered the Fugees song “Refuge Camp,” dressed like Afrocentric Rihannas, and came with the ultimate #hairgoals.
I also caught Smino and Saba at one off shows, and KAMAU and A.Chal at a Pigeons and Planes’ No Ceilings showcase. There I was introduced to Kodie Shan and AJ Tracey. The best way I can describe Kodie Shan is as the female Lil Uzi Vert. AJ Tracey is a British grime artist, and I’m personally not particularly a fan of that movement.
I’m extremely lucky to be able to attend the South by Southwest conference and festival. Not many people, let alone college students, are afforded the opportunity. But as much money I saved for the experience, I felt pretty disappointed. The experience was oversold, and if I had to recommend it to others I would say don’t waste your money.