SXSW panels: Growing an online community

This weekend at SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, I caught a couple of cool panel discussions and presentations about how to grow on-line communities and how to leverage the strength and creativity of crowds. I wanted to share these learnings here on the Savvant Music blogs because it’s so important in what we’re trying to build here.

My vision is that Savvant Music will be influenced and really guided by the people who have always told their friends and neighbors about new cool, awesomely hip music. You know, the guy who always seems to have heard of the best groups or the chick who has tickets for the hottest concert because she knew they were great before anybody else did… A lot of these people are writing blogs now, and others are out there in chat rooms and fanzines still telling their buddies about great music via word of mouth. Some are disk jockeys playing late at night or early in the morning when the corporate monoliths aren’t mandating pop playlists from hell.

Well, these are the people we need to nurture and grow into a community which helps us find, support and promote great music of all kinds. And here’s what I learned at SXSW yesterday will help us to do just that.

The panel “Knowing the Audience: Improving Communication Between Artists and Fans” was made up of Steven Sesar, VP marketing and business development at WooMe, Ron Bloom of PodShow and WooMe, Slava Rubin, founder of Indiegogo, Raymond McGlamery, managing partner of Zen Mediagroup/Buddylube (trying really hard not to guess what that means), Vinvin, a french filmmaker and Steven Stokols, CEO and Co-Founder of WooMe.

During this session, McGlamery was waxing eloquently about the information overload coming from social networks and commented, “After awhile you get so much crap you just start deleting it all. You don’t even care if there’s a good band in it… Myspace is no longer a reliable source.” And I have to wonder… was MySpace ever a reliable source for good music? I don’t think so! Maybe at first you could at least get a feel for bands with a good “buzz”, but what does that tell you about whether the music is good? Not much, I’d say!

Ron Bloom commented that there are millions of internet-based programs including blogs, podcasts and internet radio, and there is a layer of people within those programs who are passionate about playing the music you love. Some may have 1000 listeners, may have a million. Once you get past 1000 listeners, you are talking about a show or program the size of an average radio station. Bloom recommends that we cross promote our music between these programs. Find the people who are promoting great music. There are some incredible broadcasts out there. Wow, Ron! That’s exactly what I’m thinking, and exactly why we started Savvant Music. Let me add that there are so many broadcasts, pod casts, video blogs, etc about music, that it becomes rather difficult to find the good amongst the ever increasing pile of, well, not-so-good. That’s where we at Savvant Music are looking for help from the savvy music community! What are the best programs out there? Who has the best ears, and who always recommends the best artists, no matter what the genre? If you are one, or if you know who they are, please share you knowledge here! Leave a comment! I’ll be on those sites tomorrow checking them out.

In fact, while I’ve diverged to this topic… If you know of any really incredible artists we should check out at SXSW 2008, please let us know asap!We check back on comments all day long and are dying for input on what artists to go see this week!

Back to the panel… Steven Sesar reminds artists to also remember to engage with your fan base. And Vinvin told us what we all should know — today, if you’re not on the internet, you’re dead. Vinvin recommends video blogging for artists. This enables fans to feel that they really get to know the artist — meet his cat, watch him play guitar. As an example, he mentioned Deepak Chopra – Chopra doesn’t need to talk to his fans, but he does, because it makes a difference to existing fans, and enables him to reach new people.

Steven Stokols pointed out that it’s the internet users who really want to engage with the artists. For example using Meebo where the artist is actually talking to you. And of course, he then plugged his company WooMe as being even better. I’ll have to look at WooMe more closely. The only thing it really asked me when I signed up was if I was interested in Girls or Boys or both. Does this mean it’s a dating site? I told it girls and boys, because I’m looking for people who care about music and I don’t care what gender they are!

McGlamery pointed out that in the mainstream music industry today, the record labels often force bands to do fan interaction work and that makes artists unhappy and resentful, especially when they don’t really see the value. Artists need to be sure the labels are using your site in a way that the you and your fans real benefit and appreciate. He claims that most artists really don’t search out and understand the fan interaction technologies, especially the bigger they get!

Ron Bloom pointed out that in the old days music was packaged in albums, and the album told a story from the music, to the artwork on the cover, to the liner notes on the inside. Now the technology online enables us to deliver these stories in a different way to our fans, if we but chose to do so! You can provide fans with a short, unplugged version of a song you’re working on – let your fans see what you’re working on; let them contribute to the second verse!

With today’s tools, independent artists have a real advantage — Blooms says “If you want to make a living as an artists, there’s no better time in history to do it.” Bet we could have some interesting discussions around that comment! But, in general, I think Bloom is right on!

McGlamery wrapped up by reminding artists not to underestimate your power to participate in that dialog between you and your fans.

Well, there was also a really cool panel called The Weird Turn Pro: Crowdsourcing For Creatives from Derek Powazek, CEO of Pixish and Fray, but I’m already late for today’s sessions so I have to run! I’ll be back with more soon!

Cheers! from Anny

5 Responses to “ SXSW panels: Growing an online community ”

  1. Hi Anny,

    Just read your comments on Growing An On-line Community.

    I’m sitting here with Eric Clapton “Bell Bottom Blues” and a glass of wine so all of these issues seem just a bit trivial at the moment; words like “leverage” and phrases like “information overload coming from social networks.” Only to be trumped by “engage with your fan base” and “understand the fan interaction technologies.”

    I thought Texas was supposed to be flat but it certainly sounds like there are mountains high enough for pontiffs (not artists) to be professing what art and artists should be and how it should “channel” (I know a few marketing terms myself) to the “consumer.”

    So here we go again. Nothing changes. Business people set the culture.

    New technology. New opportunities and we’re going to f*$& it up by letting the language be driven by billionaire CEOs and marketing VPs. We will all get excited because…they must be right…look at the assets they’ve created. It’s the same old deal.

    As an artist it just makes me tingle (not in a good way).

    I would like to see Savvant Music “grow into a community which helps us find, support and promote great music of all kinds.” I fear however that too much exposure to CEOs, VPs and Managing Partners will keep that from happening.

    How many practicing musicians are on the SxSW panels?

    I apologize for being so outspoken but I lived through all of this in the 60′s when business took advantage of art during the transition into for-the-masses rock & roll by proclaiming “we know what’s best.” They did…they knew what was best for them. Ask John Fogerty and hundreds of others.

    Something’s never change. The human species. It’s sad. It’s pathetic.

    Oh well…have fun in Texas! Seriously…I might be negative about the industry but you can’t kill art. So artists always survive…Everyone remembers Bach. Only historians remember the organization behind him (and that’s only because they had to come up with something for their thesis). Same with Beethoven. It will also be true in the future with Benny Goodman, Elvis, The Beatles, Zepplin and others.

    If you see Jimmy LaFave tell him I say “Hi.” He won’t remember me. We shot pool at Mark Shumate’s house back in the 90s after a Michael Fracasso gig at the Bluebird in Denver. I’ve always loved Jimmy’s version of Renee.

    Well…I think we’re about to Layla so I’ll wrap it up.

    If you want Savvant to be something legendary, take a look at the Windham Hill business model. You’ll be selling product out of the back of your station wagon simply because you believe in the message and the artists ability to communicate it. It’s got nothing to do with “hip” or “cool.” You’re committed because the artist and the message is just that important.


  2. Hey Kevin! Thanks for the great comments! God I love Clapton… Wish I were listening to Clapton instead of these Internet nerds argue. Last night we saw Pine Top Perkins jamming at Nuno’s, now THAT was some blues.

    Anyway, to explain why I’m sitting in on these panels and interviews with CEOs and Internet nerds, it’s this…

    Nowadays, SXSW has three separate but adjacent/overlapping conferences: Interactive, Film and Music. I’m here for the Music (primarily), but also the Interactive which is largely attended by and targeted to bloggers, Internet application developers, Internet gamers, and other well meaning nerds.

    This is interesting to me (and should be to artists such as yourself) because finding, promoting and performing music is more and more in the purview of the Internet! Lucky for you, I’m here so you don’t have to be! :-)

    The reason to listen to music here at SXSW is less to see what’s hip or cool (I actually don’t hit the high “buzz” sites — no altered state references really intended), but rather to find those artists where I believe in their music and their ability to communicate it. Sometimes, I might like music without liking the message by the way…

    By the way, the interesting thing about Zuckerberg as a “CEO and billionaire” is that he’s really a brilliant kid with a vision who was able to get people excited about his message and it turned into possibly more than his dream. Another thing artists like you and I can learn from him — think BIG! It might happen.

    I am very concerned, however, that “business people” may be taking over SXSW Interactive from the plethora of geeks I saw here last year. I’ve seen much less pink hair and fishnet stockings and many more dockers and button downs (no gender implication intended, even though it sounds that way). I hope the geeks won’t let go of interactive to the big businesses, but we do need the big business to build platforms on the Internet from which to launch our communication, playing and learning about artists. I’m with you, however, in that I don’t want to BECOME one of those big companies.

    Keep checking back here for a picture of me and Pine Top! And thanks for your Clapton-induced comments! As always, I love these discussions!!!! Keep playing! Anny

    P.S. What are you thinking putting up a posting without a link to your web site!? Folks, you can hear about Kevin at (yeah, really :-) or at

  3. Hi Rashmi, I attended the panel session and really enjoyed it, especially your presentation! It’s too bad you only had 10 minutes. I liked how you related tagging to natural cognition and argued that the user burden should be as low as possible and making sense out of the metadata universe should happen at the search stage, within the context of the kind of search being performed. Capture everything, sort it out later definitely makes sense for both user adoption and purity of metadata to fully realize collective crowd wisdom as well as let search methods decide how to best use the data, rather than imposing an artificial structure on the front-end. Thanks for posting the slides. I’ll be subscribing to this site’s RSS to keep up with your work. Cheers!

  4. Thanks for the link, Mark. I keep thinking about Fried’s talk, and I’ve brouhgt it up in many conversations since I saw it.Most organizations, I think, would benefit by using the questions on this one slide as a sieve for all their current projects priorities.

  5. Heck no I don’t mind about the google ads, just as long as they are off to the side somrhweee I won’t really see them especially if it means you will keep on posting here! I actually added an ad to my own site recently for GuitarTricks but only because I actually use their product myself and recommend it to people who want to learn guitar online. I wanted to do the same with ChinesePOD but their affiliate program is very outdated and clunky.. Couldn’t get it to work with my blog and now I can’t even log in to the affiliate site..So as long as the ads themselves don’t become distracting, or more importantly irrelevant , I don’t have a problem with it..

Leave a Reply

You can use these XHTML tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <strong>