SXSW: Music and Tech, Together at Last

Austin’s streets are so crowded during the 48 hours when SxSW Interactive is ending and SxSW Music is beginning that it’s easy to imagine the budding love affair between music and tech began as a romcom collision.

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J. Dennis Thomas / Corbis

13 Mar 2012, Austin, Texas, USA --- Flux Pavillion performs at the Warner Group Nikon event during 2012 SXSW festival in Austin, Texas on March 13, 2012

It’s true that many of the innovators in the startup world have what Griggs calls a “purest level” passion for music. Andy Weissman, partner at the New York capital fund Union Square Ventures, quotes Fugazi on his blog; his colleague Fred Wilson was on Twitter promoting a Kickstarter campaign to fly the Jane Doze, a NYC Mashup/DJ duo, to Austin for SxSW.

At this year’s SxSW, Sonic Notify built the app for the Twitter FEED house, a highly branded interactive art space co-sponsored by everyone from Samsung to the City of Hamburg — plenty of electronica shows and huge interactive displays that leverage both music and mobile tech.

(MORE: Inside the Kurzweil SXSW Keynote: On Infinite Mind Power, Robotic Overlords and Immortality)

Cantora is not alone in its push to mashup music and tech. Ghostly International records has created its own in-house Ghostly Discovery app. Red Light Management, home to bands like the Decemberists and Gomez, has recently partnered with a tech startup called Loudie (disclosure: I’m related by marriage to the Decemberists’ manager at Red Light). Downtown Records recently launch the MP3 service RCRD LBL.

And with the latest tech bubble in full hype, it seems likely the ties between music and tech — particularly mobile tech — will continue to grow. Cantora is bringing Sonic Notify to a number of summer music festivals, and this year’s CMJ in New York will also heavily feature tech. “There’s no ‘CMJ Interactive’ a la SxSW, but it’s there de facto,” says CMJ’s CEO Robert Haber. “This past year 30-50% of our daytime content was focused on tech startups.”

Will music and tech continue to get along? Justin Bolognino, head of Learned Evolution, the Brooklyn-based marketing agency that created the Twitter FEED house, rejects the premise of the question. “I just can’t even answer that,” he says. “We’re in 2012 and the lines have long since blurred. Take Radiohead. Are they musicians? Marketers? Visual artists? You can’t be a musician today without some form of interactivity.”

MORE: SXSW: Instagram Teases Android App

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