“We are in a position to shine the spotlight on all of the exciting things currently going on here to a worldwide audience.”Every year in the month of March, Austin ups the ante as one of the leading hubs for innovation and entertainment in the country with the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences & Festivals.
Renowned for providing both priceless exposure for creators and hosting compelling entertainment for enthusiasts hungry for fresh meat, the festival offers the ultimate buzz-generating, entertainment triple whammy: music showcases, film screenings and new media presentations.
Although Oklahoma has had a significant presence at SXSW since 2005, this year will mark the first for the Sooner State to have an all-encompassing, multi-day endeavor representing all three industries of music, film and interactive media.
After realizing that several Oklahoma entities were interested in being at SXSW this year to promote their activities in one of the individual festival sectors, the Oklahoma Music and Film Office recognized an opportunity to bring them all together to make an even larger combined impact in Austin.
Jill Simpson, director for the Oklahoma Music and Film Office, says that by connecting leading professionals in the business sectors of all three areas, the state is in a prime position to present a fresh, updated snapshot of life in Oklahoma.
“Oklahoma has the opportunity to network and connect our companies and talent with film production and distribution brass, music label executives, heads of established and emerging interactive companies and the media,” she says.
“Exposure at SXSW is not only beneficial for our companies and talent, but for the state as well. We are in a position to shine the spotlight on all of the exciting things currently going on here to a worldwide audience. The ultimate goal is to provide networking opportunities for our participants that will be beneficial for years to come.”
Having established a healthy presence and good working relationship with the festival over the years, an exciting new addition for Oklahoma this year is the first-ever official Oklahoma SXSW Showcase, a four-day event hosted by the Oklahoma Music and Film Office that maximizes the state’s presence.
Taking over the venue Friends, this year’s showcase presents a film party, an interactive party and three music parties, versus the single official music party of previous years.
Deemed the Buffalo Lounge, the transformed venue has a modern, colorful and, most importantly, very Oklahoman appeal that reflects the positive, thriving progress going on throughout the state.
“It is no accident that I get at least five calls a month from native Oklahomans working in our industries outside the state who are hearing good things about what’s going on here and are interested in coming home. This was not happening five years ago,” Simpson notes.
“The buffalo is an intrinsically Oklahoman image and a source of pride. In a nutshell, that is the image we want to promote: What we’ve got here is great and you will want to be a part of it. We are not trying to be anybody else.”
Indeed, the Oklahoma music showcase has proven successful in spotlighting the state’s unique talent.
Artists play in front of new audiences and garner media attention and buzz – two valuable goals that up-and-coming musicians strive to achieve.
For first-time participating musicians who have attended the festival as concert-goers in the past, simply the opportunity to perform at the festival is a huge honor.
Oklahoma pop musician and 2011 SXSW participant Jacob Abello believes that Oklahoma is currently one of independent music’s best kept secrets, but that it won’t be a secret that much longer.
“It’s a scene that has so much talent to offer, but hardly any of the pretension,” he says. “I’m sure any band playing for the first time this year was a humble attendee at one point, so we’ve all seen bands we love and respect play at this festival. You meet so many other people doing the same thing you’re doing, yet I don’t think that there is much of a competitive atmosphere. Honestly, most bands are playing too many shows to even worry about competing with anyone else.”
Although the networking opportunities and professional possibilities are abundant, SXSW also inadvertently works as a tool to help artists connect with other artists and hone their crafts to evolve creatively.
“You have to step up your game – re-evaluate your performance and focus on strengths and work out your weaknesses to be better. I see it all as a positive thing, whether anything comes out of it business-wise or not,” says Oklahoma musician and SXSW participant Sherree Chamberlain.
“We can show out-of-staters the kind of great music we have to offer here. I think a lot of times people are pretty surprised when they really get to see what kind of talent comes out of Oklahoma.”