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Let's Just Build It

It’s March! The month of Saint Patrick’s Day, the NCAA tournaments, Holy Week, Spring Break and… South by Southwest.


The South by Southwest Conference & Festivals (also known as SXSW, or simply “South by” to the locals and crusty conference veterans), is a celebration and convergence of the interactive, film and music industries that takes place in Austin, Texas for two weeks in March.


SXSW began in 1987, and quickly became the premiere showcase festival where unsigned musical artists would perform in hopes of getting signed by a record or music publishing company to invest in their content.  Music was the number one attraction at SXSW as late as the 2013; but with the collapse and eventual reboot of the music industry due to technological advances in music distribution and marketing, the SXSW owners found that the big, gatekeeping music companies no longer had the money to invest in the festival, nor in the artists to attend the festival (as artists are not paid to perform).  So SXSW started shifting the conference’s focus towards technology and film. Nonetheless, SXSW still remains a place for music discovery, but now it is also a place to discover films and interactive technologies.


Austin used to be a sleepy college town full of alternative country singers, slackers (as immortalized in the Richard Linklater film of the same name) and the occasional college rock band. Now, it’s a town with over 60,000 twenty and thirty-somethings who work in tech and start up fields. To keep up with the times (and the money), SXSW has changed it’s focus slightly to cater to the interest of those in the technology sector. There are still panels on how to generate income from  music, copyright legal issues, and other things, but the question the music content owners continued to ask at the conference  was how technology can serve the creative content, instead of the content serving the technology.


Without content, technology really has nothing.   Without users posting videos on YouTube, what else is there? If you don’t give Facebook your life narrative in posts , would anyone even visit the site?  Technology needs content to survive. 


One of the takeaways of the music panels was: do not let technology control your creative output.  Sure, the techies can develop a new program that can deliver music to the user, but have they taken all the necessary steps to insure the owner’s content is properly compensated for and have they not created any additional problems for the content owner.

The techies took the position of: “it’s a race to see who can build it first ; so let’s just build it, and then let the content owners deal with the issues that we didn’t take into consideration when building it. We really don’t know what to do with many of the issues we created (regarding copyright ownership, royalties, etc.), but let's not let that hold us back ” .

Should unknown issues about the content halt the development of new technology just because the developers hadn’t considered the potential problems the technology could create to the content owners? Or, should the techies develop the technology in consultation with the content owners and wait to launch the technology when everything is settled. 

We want things fast and we want it now, but at what cost to the content owner? 

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