Another South By Southwest here and gone.
And while it's the second year that the number of registrants for Interactive exceeded those for Music, the insurgence of music fans into Austin reached record highs.
To those unfamiliar, every March this great city is overtaken by some sort of twisted family reunion colored with amazing music, food and an exorbitant amount of free booze. Having been in attendance at least a half dozen times now I can assure you its an absolute blast, however there's been a growing conversation amongst peers to have something more substantive take place during the festival to balance out the week-long party.
As it was hard to ignore the elephant in the room that was the Japan Tsunami, 2011 became the year that these talks manifested into something more tangible than ever before.
Spawned during Interactive and then carried into Music by activist and musician Peter Griesar and the group Hanson, SXSW4Japan.org was launched. With less than 24 hours of planning, musicians ranging from Michael Stipe of R.E.M. to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Jr. rallied and put together a 12-hour live stream of performances. Combined, this equated to over $106,000 to support relief efforts in Japan and will continue to raise money as the tracks become available for digital download. Yes, it's that easy.
Additionally, Causecast once again had the opportunity to team up with The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus in support of Music For Relief's DownloadtoDonate.org.
We've had a lot of love for the Lennon Bus crew ever since we first met at Bonnaroo during Langhorne Slim's performance, crossing paths again at Warped Tour and numerous other stops on their year-round mission.
In Austin, Matt Nathanson, Laura Jansen and Kitten stopped by the bus located at the Gibson Showroom to record tracks in this studio-on-wheels which will soon be made available to donors supporting Haiti relief efforts on Download to Donate.
Last, but not least, was the "Help! I Need Somebody: Musicians with a Cause" panel that I was honored to participate in alongside Patty Schemel (formerly of Hole), Kathy Valentine (The Go-Go's), Peter Griesar (ONE.org) and Jason Gordan (St. Jude's Children's Hospital). We all had the opportunity to share our stories of how music lead us to begin working with nonprofits, answer questions from the audience and DownloadtoDonate.org was presented as a successful use of social media case study. Special thanks to Rynda Laurel for organizing such a great discussion.
All this being said, I don't want to downplay all the great cause-related panels of previous years and work by group's like Air Traffic Control who have been using SXSW for years as an opportunity to listen to and help inform the industry of ways to more successfully integrate social good into their day to day operations.
I think this year opened a lot of eyes to what is possible, and hope that next year we start to see a lot more brands and bands make giving back at least a fraction of their South by curriculum.
See you next year.